Metallica cancels 2 festivals to focus on James Hetfield’s ‘recovery’

James Hetfield of Metallica performs onstage during the band's 'WorldWired' concert tour in Hämeenlinna, Finland, on July 16, 2019. Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

It’s a bittersweet time for Metallica fans as frontman James Hetfield has broken his unexpected silence, which began in September, with some bad news.

On Feb. 24, the 56-year-old announced that he will be unable to make it to two of Metallica’s scheduled festival performances later this year: Sonic Temple in Columbus, Ohio, and Louder Than Life in Louisville, Ky. — meaning the band has been forced to cancel its appearances altogether.

The news was confirmed in an official statement posted to the band’s website and comes nearly five months after Hetfield entered rehab.

He accredited the cancellation to conflicting “critical recovery events” on the weekends of the American rock festivals, adding that they “cannot be moved” and that they are “part of [his] continuing efforts to get and stay healthy.”
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Since being admitted, Hetfield had remained silent on all of Metallica’s social media platforms, with no updates from his longtime bandmates either — making this the first official update on his lengthy recovery progress.

The Fuel rocker proceeded with a candid apology to his fans and supporters. He began: “My intent with this statement is saying ‘I apologize’ to each one of you… I apologize to all of our fans who have bought tickets for these festivals…

“The reality,” he said, “is that I have not prioritized my health in the past year of touring and I now know that my mental health comes first.”

Hetfield continued: “That might sound like a no-brainer for most of you, but I didn’t want to let the Metallica team/family down and, I alone, completely compromised myself.”

The California-born guitarist opted to look on the bright side, promising Metallica fans that his “therapy is going well,” adding, “It was absolutely necessary for me to look after my mental, physical, and spiritual health.”

Metallica’s James Hetfield performing live at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on July 16, 2017. Mike Fowler / Corus Entertainment

On what the remainder of 2020 looks like for the thrash metal titans, Hetfield “stressed” that the band will play all of its scheduled shows, including all other festivals.

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Metallica’s first show of 2020 — the first since September 2019 — will take place in Santiago, Chile, on April 15, before the four-piece completes the short South American leg of the critically acclaimed WorldWired tour.

“I am looking forward to getting back to playing and seeing all our great South American fans in April,” said the singer on Monday.

Since going back to rehab, Hetfield has made only a handful of public appearances, including one at his own museum exhibitReclaimed Rust: The James Hetfield Collection — at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Calif., as well as at a tribute concert for the late-Baby Hold On singer, Eddie Money.

In the newly-issued statement, Hetfield added: “Beyond 2020, I am optimistic about the blessings I have been given and what the future brings. I appreciate all the great prayers and support from everyone since I went into rehab last September.

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“Like the moth into the flame, being human in this career has its huge challenges and can be difficult. Your understanding helps the healing,” he concluded.

The Master of Puppets headbanger has dealt with a number of substance abuse issues in the past.

In 2001, during the filming of Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster (2004) documentary, Hetfield’s battle with addiction was documented heavily. He was admitted into a rehabilitation program for six months to help treat issues with “alcoholism and other addictions.”

His recovery put a hold on the writing and recording process of the band’s then-upcoming album, St. Anger (2003), which ended up being their first album in nearly six years.

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As of this writing, Tool and Red Hot Chili Peppers have offered to step in for the Ride The Lightning rockers at Sonic Temple, but the Louder Than Life festival currently has no replacement acts.

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Metallica was scheduled to headline two out of three nights at both festivals. Refunds have since been offered to ticketholders of the latter who have decided not to go to attend in wake of Metallica’s announcement.

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