We went behind the scenes on 'Tallica's giant world tour, and found some astonishing statistics...
What does it take to keep the biggest metal band in the world on the road? Ahead of their UK shows, we went backstage, on stage, side of stage and even under the stage at their Stade de France gig in Paris, to chat to their crew about the staggering logistics involved in bringing the WorldWired tour to the Metallica family, across the globe.
230 - Crew. On stage every night, Metallica fans see the 4 horsemen, James, Lars, Kirk and Rob thundering through their favourite songs in a blistering display of riffs. But, behind the scenes, Production Manager John “Lug” Zajonc coordinates a veritable army of 230 to keep the entire show on the road. They range from sound and light technicians to mechanics, drivers and even a chef.
3 - Stages. When Metallica are rampaging across a continent there are 3 giant metal scaffolding systems that make up the backdrop to their show, leapfrogging each other from city to city. As one stage is being played on, the next gig’s stage is being built, and the previous show's is being trucked to the venue after that. Each system is built and then de-rigged by its own crew of 30 people.
Just one of Metallica's three stages, ready to go at the Stade de France. ⓒ Planet Rock
10 - Hertz. The lowest notes the subwoofers can hit. That’s 10Hz below the range that humans can actually hear. Take it from us, when they play the opening battle audio to ‘One’, you don’t hear the cannon fire, you feel it.
206 - Feet. The width of the stage. Comfortably wider than the entire Hammersmith Apollo building.
48 - Hours. How long it takes to setup each night’s show. 2 whole days. It takes 36 hours for the stage crew to build the steel stage, and then another 12 hours for the 95 “universal” crew to rig the lights, sound, video screens and cameras around it. And setup the band’s gear. That bit’s quite important apparently.
The view from the main stage, looking out at The Snake Pit. ⓒ Planet Rock
4 - Hours. How long it takes to pack down everything except the steel frame after the show. Lesson here: it’s easier to unplug stuff than it is to painstakingly set it up and dial it in.
1 - Industrial grinder. Lars' drum tech Jimmy Clark uses it for polishing the spit off Lars' cymbals. And if you've seen Lars play live, you'll know that's a heck of a lot of polishing...
Lars' drum tech Jimmy, polishing one of his cymbals. ⓒ Planet Rock
75 - Lorries. That’s right, it takes seventy five trucks in total to carry everything for the tour. Thankfully for the sake of the city’s traffic, they’re never all together at once, due to the 3 leapfrogging stage systems. But there’s still a whopping 45 rocking up to each city, with 15 carrying the stage and 30 bringing the light, sound, video, instruments, Snake Pit enclosure, barricade, and more, to every show.
6 - Flamethrowers. Known to the crew as the “big guns” they shoot flames 65ft into the air from the very top of the scaffold towers. Add to that a flame trough across the width of the stage, and a battery of pyro launchpads behind, and you’ve got quite a lot of firepower. Regulations in France prevented the band from turning the pyro up to 11, but they assured us they'll be using the full arsenal in their UK shows.
5 - Screens. No matter where you are in the stadium, you’ll be able to see what’s happening on stage. That’s because the backdrop is made of 5 absolutely enormous LED screens. Each one is 52ft tall and 35ft wide - taller than 3 double decker buses stacked on top of each other.
All that comes in at a whopping area of 1,820 sq ft per screen, and 9,100 sq ft of visuals in total. Sticking with the bus analogy, if you stacked up 18 double decker buses along the back of the stage, they wouldn't be as big as the screens. And they'd be useless at displaying a metal concert.
Je m'appelle James Hetfield... ⓒ Planet Rock
700 - Lights. Funnily enough, it turns out no-one’s ever sat down and counted every single light on the tour (they’ve got more important things to do). But Production Manager Lug’s educated guess is there’s somewhere around 700, all fittings included. That’s part of the reason they need...
6 - Generators. Even 80,000 seater national stadiums don’t have enough power to feed the Metallica show, so they bring 6 generators with them. They can kick out 2400 kw in total - enough to power 185 houses for a day.
Aside from providing sheer power, the other reason they bring their own generators with them is to make everything is straightforward to setup night after night. As Lug explains, when moving from country to country, "It's all about consistency. It's as important as everything else, so we use the same video screens, same power, the same sound system." A generator technician and mechanic travel with the tour to make sure they don’t suddenly cut out mid-way through Battery...
Some of Metallica's 700 lights, in action at Stade de France. ⓒ Brett Murray
2 - Drum kits. As well as a kit set up in the conventional position, at the back of the stage, there's also a "hidden" kit, under the Snake Pit ramps at the front of the stage. Mid way through the set, this kit rises up from beneath its covers, so that the whole band can play some 50ft out into the crowd. The band wanted the Snake Pit ramp to be as low in height as possible, so that they can be right in amongst the crowd and reach out to their fans.
Metallica playing at the front of the Snake Pit ⓒ Planet Rock
2 - Inflatables. To the left of the stage, a monolithic M. To the right, an awesome A. The iconic Metallica font bookends are over 50ft tall, and 30ft wide, and look like solid white megaliths, but are actually giant inflatables.
5 - Wahs. Kirk has 5 of his signature Dunlop KH95 Cry Baby pedals dotted around the stage. They feed into a rack dedicated just to them, so that his guitar tech Justin Crew can reset them from backstage. Always handy to be able to hit the ‘Wherever I May Roam’ solo anywhere you may roam...
One of Kirk's 5 wah pedals. ⓒ Planet Rock
0 - Percent. Chance you’ll ever hear Metallica perform the same setlist in the same city. The band keep copious amounts of records as to what songs they played in every venue - in fact there’s a guy on tour specifically tasked with pulling the information together. It’s very important to Metallica that fans get to hear their favourite tunes, but also get a few surprises along the way. The show that we saw at the Stade De France on 12th May 2019 was, according to the dedicated page on Metallica's website, their 24th appearance in Paris and featured the first ever performance of ‘Spit Out The Bone’ in the city, as well as the first time in 16 years that they’d performed ‘Ride The Lightning’ in the French capital.
1 - Museum. When you’ve been going as long as Metallica have (38 years as of 2019), then you’re going to collect some memorabilia. On the WorldWired tour, they’ve decided to collect a whole bunch of stuff in the ‘Memory Remains’ exhibit - clothes, handwritten lyrics, original album art sketches plus actual instruments that fans can look at and even play (you'll need an 'All Nightmare Long' enhanced experience ticket to gain access to this).
And when we say “a whole bunch of stuff”, we mean it - it takes an entire lorry to carry the exhibit from show to show.
Display cases inside Metallica's travelling museum. Original Cliff Burton bass on the left. ⓒ Planet Rock
0 - Pedal boards on stage. Aside from Kirk’s wahs, there are no pedal boards on stage. That’s so James and Kirk don’t have to be tied to one position, and are free to run about the acres of stage, including out onto the Snake Pit ramps.
Instead, their pedal boards are setup at their guitar techs' stations, just behind the central screens. James and Kirk's techs (Chad Zaemisch and Justin Crew respectively) operate them second by second, changing effects and amp sounds at exactly the right moment, as the boys do their thing.
Kirk Hammett's pedal board, located at his guitar tech's station. (Bells Solo!!) ⓒ Planet Rock
20 - Cameras. When you have screens bigger than a town hall, you need to get some good footage on them. That’s why Metallica have 2 spider cams, gliding over the stage and crowd on steel cables hundreds of feet long, 12 robot cameras on stage, operated remotely, and 6 conventional cameras tracking Het, Kirk, Rob and Lars. Watch their fine work below.