Déjà vu? Was Olivia Rodrigo's 'scary' MTV Video Music Awards production malfunction inspired by a Metallica tour stunt, or was that a SHEER COINCIDENCE? You decide

Olivia Rodrigo / James Hetfield
(Image credit: MTV / Elektra Entertainment)

Something went terribly wrong during Olivia Rodrigo's MTV VMAs performance on September 12. The 20-year-old Californian singer/songwriter was performing vampire, the lead-off single from her brand new album GUTS, before a star-studded audience at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey when a lighting rig collapsed, and sparks, explosions and flames lit up the stage. As the set began falling around the singer and her band, an MTV crew member hurriedly ushered Rodrigo off-stage into the wings for safety, and the show's producer cut to Selena Gomez looking shocked and confused. Disaster!

Fortunately, after some moments of confusion, Rodrigo reappeared onstage with a gaggle of lookalike dancers, seemingly unscarred by the potentially terrifying production malfunction, and proceeded to deliver a banging version of her latest single, get him back, like the professional she is. Almost as if... she knew...

To quote the title of one of the hit singles from Rodrigo's hugely successful debut album SOUR, the performance may have triggered a sense of déjà vu for Metallica fans of a certain vintage.

Rewind to Earl’s Court, London, on the evening October 12, 1996. Towards the end of their Poor Touring Me set-list, the men in black are playing Enter Sandman to a 20,000-strong audience when things start to go spectacularly wrong. A lighting rig collapses, and a roadie falls from the gantry on the end of a rope, seemingly electrocuted. Another crew member goes up in flames, screaming in pain as he runs across the stage. Within seconds, Metallica's entire stage set begins to collapse around them, and they’re hastily evacuated.

Confusion reigns. 

But the show must go on. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted eventually return to the stage, and upon discovering that a few small amps and bare light bulbs are working, they huddle close together to play a ferocious version of Am I Evil? like the troopers they are. Huzzah!

Weirdly, the exact same thing will happen the following night in Cardiff, and the next night in Manchester, and the night after that in Sheffield, and on every remaining date on their European and North American tour, right through to the end of May 1997. Hmmmm...

Earlier this week, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Olivia Rodrigo expressed her love for '90s alt. rock, specifically Babes In Toyland and Rage Against The Machine. It seems like someone may also have an affinity for mid '90s Metallica too. 

You can watch things start to be wrong for Rodrigo in the clip below from around 1 minute, 20 seconds in, and then watch a not entirely dissimilar scenario unfold for Metallica in Forth Worth, Texas in May '97, as documented on their Cunning Stunts VHS/DVD.

I mean, it could be just a coincidence, obviously. Ahem.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.