It was July 1994. I was 12, the summer between sixth and seventh grade. I was getting into alternative music such as Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. But my first music obsession, the first of many, was Metallica. And they were coming to town. And I was going to see them.
It would be my first concert, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts since, and I thought it would now be fun to take a look back at Metallica’s performance on July 3, 1994, at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois.
With this being more than 25 years ago, I admittedly don’t remember a ton from this day. My friend’s dad drove us to the venue, which was about an hour from Chicago. We bought concert shirts from a guy selling them out of his trunk. Pretty sure all of the words on the shirt were spelled correctly and everything. I wish I still had the shirt, but I lost it along the years.
The World Music Theater has a reserved pavilion section, where we had seats, and a large general admission lawn area sprawling behind the seats. I returned to the venue a handful of times since—it’s not great, but this being my first concert, I didn’t know any better. As far as I was concerned at the time, this was as good as it gets.
Among the many shows I’ve seen over the years, I recall the opening band for very few of them. However, I remember who it was for this concert: Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig. So I guess technically the first band I saw perform live was Suicidal Tendencies. I remember being struck by how extremely loud they were. Were all bands this loud, I wondered. Danzig played “Mother,” which was probably the only song I knew by them at the time.
My most memorable moment of the evening occurred in the anticipation of Metallica taking the stage. The guy sitting next to me was rolling a huge joint, and being only 12, I was curious about what he was doing. I had never seen someone rolling a joint before; what an experience! Without a sense of discretion, I looked on with wonder until the guy stared at me and shouted: “WHAT?” I quickly pretended like I wasn’t watching him, staring straight ahead as crew members loaded gear on stage. Man, this is cool, I thought while simultaneously worrying that the guy would clock me upside the head at any moment.
In terms of the Metallica performance itself, for some reason, the only song I vividly recall them playing was “Disposable Heroes.” Why I remember that song, I have no idea. Perhaps because I’ve always liked that tune but that it wasn’t one of the Master of Puppets songs I expected to hear.
Anyway, here is the setlist from that night:
1. “Breadfan” (cover)
2. “Master of Puppets”
3. “Wherever I May Roam”
4. “Harvester of Sorrow”
5. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
6. “The God That Failed”
7. “Ride the Lightning” / “No Remorse” / “The Four Horsemen” / “Phantom Lord” / “Fight Fire with Fire”
8. “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
9. “Disposable Heroes”
10. “Seek & Destroy”
11. Guitar Solo
12. “Nothing Else Matters”
13. “Creeping Death”
14. Bass Solo
15. “Fade to Black”
17. “Sad But True”
19. “Enter Sandman”
20. “London Dungeon” (cover)
21. “Last Caress” (cover)
22. “Green Hell” (cover)
23. “So What” (cover)
Looking back on the setlist, it seems pretty solid. With the Black album being the most recent one released before this show, it’s no surprise songs from that album are in the majority. And unfortunately, it’s all the songs you would expect to hear.
The rest of Metallica’s albums are represented too (although …And Justice for All got a bit of a shaft). The section of the set from “Harvester” to “Seek & Destroy” is fire. The last portion before the encore—“Creeping Death,” “Fade to Black,” and “Whiplash” is a strong series of songs. And I have to think closing the first encore with “One” had to be pretty incredible. (Wish I remembered it!)
However, if I were to attend this concert today and witness this concert in person, I would be miffed by the number of covers. A well-timed, random cover can turn a good night into a great one. But if a band plays more than one or two covers during a concert, I tend to get impatient. But that’s just me.
In this case, Metallica closed the show with three Misfits songs and an Anti-Nowhere League song. Four of the five covers played at this show did end up being released on the Garage Inc. album in 1998. But I like to see originals when I’m going to see a band live. My preference would have been to replace a few of the covers with a song from Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, or …And Justice for All.
This Metallica concert in 1994 was my first concert, but it wasn’t the first concert that sparked an immense love for going to see live music. (That occurred when I went to see 311 a few years later; perhaps I’ll take a look back at that concert sometime as well.) After this concert in 1994, my musical tastes evolved more exclusively to the alternative side of things.
I never saw Metallica live again, but I’d like to someday. My relationship with the band changed after that concert, but they will always hold a special place in my heart.