This week marks the 40th anniversary of Metallica’s classic 1983 debut album, Kill ‘Em All. I can’t say I’ve been down since “day one” — I wasn’t aware of Metallica in 1983, sadly. But I do remember exactly where I was when I first heard them: in my bedroom, listening to a syndicated radio show called “Metalshop.” It was in 1984, and they played “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” from the upcoming album, Ride The Lightning. I was hooked. I got my copy of the album, and became a massive fan. Metallica became my new band. They hit a bit differently than the other bands that I loved. They were heavier than Iron Maiden (who I thought was the heaviest band ever before I’d heard Metallica). Metallica’s memebers were younger than the guys in my other favorite band, Rush, who’d been around for ten years by that point. And when I heard “Fade To Black,” it stopped me in my tracks. It  just seemed to cut deeper than nearly anything else I’d listened to at that point.

Interestingly, I’d soon learn that some metalheads didn’t like “Fade To Black”: the slower pace and the acoustic guitars meant that they were “selling out.” No matter that Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rush, and all the other best bands occasionally had mellow jams. Even Iron Maiden had some laid-back tunes (“Strange World” and “Prodigal Son”). This would become a pattern that repeated itself for decades. Anytime Metallica tried anything different or veered from the path of metal orthodoxy, it was seen by some as a “sell-out.”

Enter Master Of Puppets

Cut to 1986. By the time Master of Puppets was released on March 3, I was ready. Ride The Lightning had been out for a few weeks when I’d heard “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” But this time, I was going to buy the new Metallica tape (my preferred format at the time) as soon it came out, like a real fan. I don’t even think that I’d heard any of the songs before buying it – radio didn’t play them back then. And at this point, they were still against doing music videos (if you can imagine that), so MTV wasn’t playing them either.

I remember listening to Master Of Puppets with a crew of leather, denim, and t-shirted friends on a boombox in a field. It was cold, but we might have been warmed by beverages we were too young to legally obtain. I remember being blown away by the album, from the first seconds of “Battery” (which began on a — gasp! — acoustic guitar!) to the end of “Damage, Inc.” In the parlance of our times, there were no “skips.” To be fair, “skips” were a lot more difficult on cassette. (IYKYK – and that may have led to more patience when listening to music.) At this point, I was all-in, and ready to see them live. My friend and I decided to get tickets to see them the next time they came through the area, and that turned out to be just a few weeks away.

  • April 21, 1986 - Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey (Opening for Ozzy Osbourne)

    Ozzy Osbourne / Metallica ticket stub April 21, 1986

    Brian Ives

    They were the most furious and powerful band I’d ever seen. I love Ozzy Osbourne, but they blew him away. It was almost embarrassing. This was The Ultimate Sin tour. He had big hair, was dressed like the glam metal bands, and his band was using more keyboards than before. Most of all, he just really wasn’t at his best as a performer.

    Meanwhile, Metallica was young, hungry and played with a fury that Ozzy couldn’t come close to. I’d never seen an opening act destroy the headliner like that. I couldn’t wait to see their next show. And yes, some naysayers claimed that opening for Ozzy in an arena constituted a “sellout” move. The tickets were $14.50 each.

  • November 29, 1986 - Capitol Theatre, Passiac, New Jersey

    Metallica ticket stub: November 12, 1986

    Brian Ives

    I slept outside the Capitol when tickets went on sale because that’s how we bought our tickets back then! I couldn’t wait to see them headline their own show. The show was delayed a few weeks (that’s why the ticket stub says November 12 and not November 29) due to the tragic death of bass player Cliff Burton. I think this was their tenth show with new bassist Jason Newstead. It seemed like they didn’t take much time to mourn Cliff’s death, and the band has since admitted that. They were incredible. I remember thinking that, while they were one of the heaviest bands around, they wouldn’t be playing theaters for too much longer. And the ticket price was $15.50.

  • March 8, 1989 - Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

    Metallica 1989 ticket stub

    Brian Ives

    Metallica’s first arena headlining tour! Queensryche, flying high on 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime album, opened the show, which annoyed some metal die-hards. Personally, I loved them and thought it was a great pairing. (I first saw them open for Iron Maiden at Radio City Music Hall in 1985.) Metallica had one of the biggest stage productions I’d seen at that point, but it never took away from how powerful they were. I’ve since heard the band members say that the long and complex songs didn’t work live, but that was definitely not my experience. In fact, I hated when they did that “Justice medley” on subsequent tours. I preferred hearing the entire songs, or nothing at all. Ticket price: $18.50.

  • December 19, 1991 - Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island

    Metallica 1991 ticket stub

    Brian Ives

    Metallica, or “The Black Album,” put Metallica into a different league – as anyone reading this knows. This time around, they had a completely different production. An in-the-round stage, so everyone could have a good view for part of the show. And, as the ticket announced, “NO OPENING ACT,” so the band had a longer set time. Yeah, there were a lot of people who looked like they hadn’t been to a metal show before, but as their b-side at the time stated, “SO WHAT.” And yeah, a lot of the old-school fans hated the mass appeal of “Enter Sandman” and “The Unforgiven.” They didn’t even play “Nothing Else Matters!” But the new songs held their own next to the older stuff live. Tickets were $22.50 with an outrageous $4.50 surcharge.

  • July 18 and July 29, 1992 - Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey with Guns N’ Roses

    Metallica/Guns N Roses ticket stubs, summer 1992

    Brian Ives

    Yes, I had to go both nights. These shows happened at around the same time that Bruce Springsteen was playing across the highway at the Meadowlands Arena, which had a huge “WELCOME HOME BRUCE” sign. It seemed like a sign of the times: just a few years earlier it would have been hard to imagine New Jersey’s biggest artist playing the smaller venue while Metallica co-headlined the larger one. I remember opening act Faith No More mocking that sign, and I think Hetfield might have laughed, “Welcome home, Bruce” as well. But I remember noting that Faith No More’s frontman Mike Patton had also dunked on Metallica’s new album in the press, a reminder that no band remains on the cutting edge for too long. But Metallica had a few years on Guns N Roses – and yet Metallica blew Axl and company away. This wasn’t too long before Slash, Duff, Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke quit the band. I have never gone to a Guns N Roses show since, but — as you’ll see — I’ve seen Metallica many more times. Tickets were a steep-seeming $27.50 with a $4.50 surcharge.

  • August 13, 1994 - Woodstock ‘94, Saugerties, New York

    Woodstock '94 album cover

    A&M Records

    Unfortunately, I don’t have my ticket stub from this one. As you may have heard, it rained a lot and was a bit of a muddy mess! But what a day Saturday was. I went from the south stage where Primus played an amazing set, to the north stage to see Nine Inch Nails’ legendary performance. I don’t care that people don’t talk about the rest of the night: if you were there, you knew it was awesome. Metallica was just as intense. And to top things off was Aerosmith, reminding us that rock is also supposed to be fun. A three-day pass was $135, the most I’d spent on a concert ticket at that point, and it was worth every cent.

  • July 10, 1996 - Lollapalooza, Randall’s Island, New York

    Lollapalooza 1996 ticket stub

    Brian Ives

    “They’re going alternative!” The whining about Metallica cutting their hair, hiring photographer Anton Corbijn to shoot them, and – above all – deciding to headline alternative music festival Lollapalooza was pretty ridiculous in retrospect. Most great bands who have been around for a decades (and who aren’t AC/DC) go through sonic and stylistic evolutions. And while their then new-’Load’ album was indeed a stylistic change, it certainly didn’t sound like anything that past Lolla headliners – Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus or Smashing Pumpkins – had ever done. Sure, they were definitely listening to Alice In Chains, but who wasn’t? Their show was incredible. Soundgarden played before them, but they clearly didn’t want to be there. Other main-stagers Rancid and the Ramones (on their farewell tour) were great, but Metallica was the best band of the day. Tickets were $39 for about 15 bands.

  • November 24, 1998 - Roseland Ballroom, New York

    Metallica Garage Inc.

    Blackened Recordings

    This was incredible. Metallica did a brief club tour to promote their Garage Inc. collection, which included all of their previously released covers and a full disc of new covers. Their set consisted of all covers. But knowing that fans probably would want to hear Metallica songs, they took out “Battery” – a Metallica tribute band – as their opening act. I can’t believe I lost this ticket stub. I’m pretty sure it cost $35 which seemed hefty at the time, but totally worth it.

  • July 24, 1999- Woodstock ‘99, Rome, New York

    Woodstock '99 album cover

    Epic Records

    We got there late in the day and saw incredible sets by Rage Against the Machine and Metalllica. Apparently, Limp Bizkit played that day too? And yep, lost my ticket stub for this one too. Tickets cost $150. We got out Sunday night before things got crazy, so it was worth it.

  • November 23, 1999 - Madison Square Garden, New York

    Metallica S&M album cover

    Blackened Recordings

    Another rare – and mindlblowing – show. This was one of just two concerts they did to promote their ‘S&M’ album; they played with full symphony orchestra. It was truly epic. And yeah, another lost ticket stub. Tickets were $33 plus a $6 surcharge. This was getting out of hand! But the show was unbelievable.

  • July 8, 2003 - Summer Sanitarium, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

    Metallica 2003 ticket stub

    Brian Ives

    Metallica aligned themselves with the popular nu-metal of the day: Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, deftones and Mudvayne were also on the bill. Metallica blew them all away, although Linkin Park was good. deftones definitely had an attitude about playing a stadium; it felt similar to when Faith No More opened the Metallica/GNR shows at that stadium 21 summers prior. The ticket price of $77 seemed nuts, but again, no one leaves a Metallica show feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth.

  • September 27, 2016 - Webster Hall, New York City

    Metallica 2016 ticket stub

    Brian Ives

    I never thought that I’d see Metallica in a more intimate venue than Roseland. Webster Hall is even smaller. I got there early, spent the beginning of the show leaning against the railing by the stage… it was amazing. It was the Metallica show I’d always dreamed of, and it happened. It was the second time I’d seen them that week: the first was in Central Park at the Global Citizen’s festival, but they only played five songs. Webster Hall still felt short – they played 15 songs – but it felt like a real show. Some arena and stadium bands seem uncomfortable on a club stage, but Metallica fell right back into it and I’d venture to guess that no other band rocked that stage as hard as they did in 2016. They played a bunch of classics, as well as two songs from Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. If it had been my final Metallica show, I would have been happy. On the other hand, I saw them at the 2022 Global Citizen Festival (they played eight songs this time, including an incredible “Nothing Else Matters” with country singer Mickey Guyton). And I’m going to see them in a few weeks on August 4 and 6, once again at Giants Stadium (now known as Metlife). Long may they run, I’ll be going to their shows as long as they’re playing. Oh, and the price tag for this ticket: $25… if you can get it. And I’ll always feel so fortunate that I did.

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