“Hopefully, everything will go back to normal”: How Korn, Kid Rock and System Of A Down helped Metallica through the three weirdest gigs of their career

Photos of Metallica, Korn and Kid Rock in 2000
(Image credit: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images | Paul Bergen/Redferns | Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Poor old James Hetfield. The Metallica frontman has faced more than his fair share of tour-fluctuating injuries over the years, from a skateboarding accident that derailed some Master Of Puppets dates to when he famously went up in flames in 1992. However, one accident that’s seldom talked about is when he hurt his back jet-skiing in 2000, and thus his band were forced to play their three strangest-ever concerts in his absence.

The injury occurred on the first Independence Day weekend of the new millennium. Metallica were midway through their Summer Sanitarium tour and, between a July 4 gig in Baltimore and the next show in Atlanta three days later, had a modicum of downtime. Details of what actually happened are thin on the ground, but Metallica’s management told MTV that their singer spent some of the inter-gig break “on a lake outside of Atlanta”; there he “suffer[ed] from herniated and bulging discs in his back following a jet-ski accident”. Papa Het would sit out the trek’s next three concerts – July 7 in Atlanta; July 8 in Sparta, Kentucky; and July 9 in Irving, Texas – but was projected to return to the stage as normal afterwards.

“As far as we know, the tour is going to continue in Denver on [July 12] as scheduled, and James is expected to participate,” an unnamed spokesperson told MTV. “Hopefully, he’s going to make a quick recovery and everything will go back to normal. He is one tough motherfucker. He is all about getting a gig done.”

Although the loss of their ferocious leader would be temporary, Metallica were still in a bind. Luckily, their supports during the Summer Sanitarium run included three of the most popular nu metal acts of the day: Korn, System Of A Down and Kid Rock. Hence, the plans were laid for the three remaining horsemen’s headline slots to become impromptu jam sessions: bassist Jason Newsted would tackle lead vocals, while other bands’ members came and went from song to song.

With there being no time for the supports to learn Metallica’s catalogue, though, the setlist became incredibly oddball. A cover of Earache My Eye by stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong made the cut on all three nights and, even weirder, there weren’t any members of Metallica onstage during the first one. Instead, Korn took full charge, as they also did for a performance of their own deep cut, Counting, right after. Korn, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett played Blind together later in the mini tour-within-a-tour, where the drummer absolutely demolished his snare.

Reinterpretations of Kid Rock’s American Bad Ass were done with the man himself. It likely wasn’t too arduous, given that the song samples the riff of Metallica’s own Sad But True for much of its runtime. Yet, during all three nights, it appeared on the setlist straight after a playthrough of the actual Sad But True, so we can imagine those 10 minutes were somewhat repetitive for the audiences.

As for System Of A Down’s contributions… Serj Tankian, bless him, did his best. There’s video of the vocalist joining Metallica for Mastertarium (a mash-up of Master Of Puppets and Welcome Home (Sanitarium)) clearly without knowing what to do. While he had the lyrics sheet in hand, he often screamed his words into the microphone, even during the quiet bits.

Needless to say, these three stops on the Summer Sanitarium sprint were among the oddest moements in Metallica’s entire history. For veteran metalheads that were hooked in by Ride The Lightning and The Black Album, jams of Cheech & Chong probably weren’t the most thrilling prospect on the planet. But, to their credit, not only did the band plough on without their frontman leading the way; they returned to every venue he’d missed a month later, ensuring the Metallica family were rewarded for their patience.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.