Lars Ulrich Recalls Doubt Over First Metallica Arena Tour
But the Damaged Justice road trip was an overwhelming success and set the band on the road to achieving a scale like no other metal act before them.
“No band as extreme as ours had ever done a full arena tour,” Ulrich told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “So it was definitely a crapshoot, and it paid off. ... There was nothing about those years [before the tour] that was instant. Everything felt like this slow build. We put out the first record, the second record was bigger, the third record was bigger – everything was gradual … it was like a glacier. It just moved and moved.”
He was surprised when manager Cliff Burnstein suggested the next step: “Cliff was like, ‘We’re gonna be doing an arena tour,’ and I was like, ‘Seriously, are you sure about that? A band like Metallica? … We could do L.A., New York, San Francisco, but are we gonna penetrate the American heartland? That’s probably not a great idea.’ He was like, ‘No, trust me on this. I’m feeling it.’”
Ulrich said they used their appearance in Indianapolis as a “temperature gauge” as the U.S. leg of the tour began. “Indianapolis was, like, fifth or something in the schedule," he recalled. "The tickets went on sale in Indianapolis, and I can’t remember if we sold it out, but we ended up doing 13 or 14,000 people, which for a band of our kind in 1988 was an insane victory. If we were cool in Indianapolis, we were cool almost anywhere.”
When Metallica released their first-ever music video, for “One,” in January 1989, they secured the position the tour had made possible. “MTV was the center of the universe at that time, and I remember we were in San Antonio, Texas, when the ‘One ‘ video came out,” Ulrich said. “It hit Dial MTV at No. 1, like fucking just completely out of nowhere. It was the most requested video the first day it came out. And we were like, ‘Holy fuck, this is real.’”