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METALLICA singer James Hetfield suffers emotional breakdown at Brazilian concert

Photo credit: Edgarttmcc Photograpy (Edgar Barradas)

16-05-2022

METALLICA‘s James Hetfield got emotional during the band’s concert Thursday night in Brazil, admitting to the audience that he was “feeling a little bit insecure” prior to taking the stage.

Before launching into the classic METALLICA song “Sad But True” at Estádio do Mineirão in Belo Horizonte on May 12, the 58-year-old guitarist/vocalist thanked the 60,000-plus people in attendance, saying how he and his bandmates are “so blessed” to have the support of such a loyal fanbase. But then he added: “I’ve gotta tell you I wasn’t feeling very good before I came out here. I was feeling a little bit insecure, like I’m an old guy, I can’t play anymore — all this bullshit that I tell myself in my head. So I talked to these guys, and they helped me — as simple as that. They gave me a hug and said, ‘Hey, if you’re struggling on stage, we’ve got your back.’ And I tell you, it means the world to me.” At that point, all three of James’s bandmates approached the singer and once again gave him a heartfelt group hug, with Hetfield visibly touched by the gesture. He then once again addressed the audience, telling them: “And seeing you out there, I… I am not alone. I am not alone, and neither are you.

James has been open about his battles with addiction, anxiety and low self-esteem in the past, most recently last fall while discussing the transformation he had to undergo in order to successfully front METALLICA during the touring cycle for the band’s 1991 self-titled album, which stands as one of the top-selling records of all time.

He told Apple Music‘s Zane Lowe in October 2021: “There was such an expectation already on myself to not let the team down and be the best as possible. But then you add 60,000 people out there… You need to be what they need you to be, ‘cause this is what you’ve evolved to be. And it is a little bit of Oz,” referencing the classic 1900 children’s book “The Wizard Of Oz” by L. Frank Baum which was then adapted into the two-time Oscar-winning film in 1939. “Like, the man behind the curtain, pay no attention, but this guy behind the curtain is just dying and struggling and freaking out and not knowing who he is.”

He continued: “The word ‘unraveling’ is a great word, like unlearning, unlearning all of what happened before. That was a part of me, for sure, but it dominated all of me. And the parts that weren’t happy about me — there’s a huge codependence and insecurity, a lot of that — that… Gosh, I can’t… I’m no good without these guys. Who am I? Off tour, it’s, like, ‘Who am I?’ Like any first responder or football player or even a soldier, you take your uniform off and you’re a civilian again. And you start asking yourself ‘Who am I? I don’t know who I am.’ There was a lot of fear in that.”

Five years ago, Hetfield told the Des Moines, Iowa radio station Lazer 103.3 that he doesn’t read online comments from METALLICA fans. “I’ve got tons of friends that are either musicians or artists or someone who are creative and putting stuff out there. I just tell ‘em, ‘Don’t read the comments. I mean, just don’t. Unless you’re feeling a little more secure in yourself these days,'” he said. “‘Cause most of us artists are pretty fragile, insecure people, and we get up there and the music makes us feel strong and good. But other times when people… you know, someone says something about the lyrics, and it’s just, like, ‘Ouch! That went right in my heart, dude!’ So I tell you, when you read that stuff, you can’t believe it — you just can’t. Most people… It’s really easy just to hit ‘send’ on your phone or computer — I know that. But we also do get a lot of great comments out there that kind of work themselves out. It’s like throwing a couple of pitbulls in a room — they work it out. You don’t have to… Especially on the METALLICA site, they have people… it goes back and forth. And as long as there’s passion, that’s all that matters, really.”

Back in September 2019, Hetfield re-entered a treatment program to work on his recovery from alcohol addiction. He had previously been to rehab nearly two decades earlier for the same problem.

In a 2003 interview with Kerrang! magazine, Hetfield spoke about his battle with the bottle and the much-publicized trip to rehab in 2001 that had seemingly enabled the singer to emerge a much healthier and more positive-thinking person that he was during much of the group’s 40-year career.

“Going away to rehab taught me about priorities,” he said. “I’ve been in METALLICA since I was 19 years old, which can be a very unusual environment, and it’s very easy to find yourself not knowing how to live outside of that environment, which is what happened to me. I didn’t know anything about life. I didn’t know that I could come home and live a family life. I didn’t know that I could live my life in a different way to how it was in the band since I was 19, which was very excessive and very intense. And if you have addictive behavior, then you don’t always make the best choices for yourself. And I definitely didn’t make the best choices for myself.

But rehab is like college for your head,” he continued. “I really learned some things about myself in there. I was able to reframe my life and not look at everything with a negative connotation. That’s how I was raised. It was like a survival technique for me. And getting into METALLICA meant that initially I had to fight to survive, for food, for the towel, for the shower, for everything. And then fighting to be the best band you can be, and putting other bands down. Finding fault with everything was how METALLICA was fueled. And not only did I play a part in that, I was buried in that.”

In rehab I learned that every human being is born perfect. I learned that the flaws in ourselves comes from the things around us, from our backgrounds and influences. But when we’re born, we all have the same-sized soul. There are certain things that are genetic, but that doesn’t mean that I have to act in a certain way, and I didn’t know that. My lifestyle has been very intense, and I didn’t know how to remove myself from that. Rehab taught me how to do that. It basically taught me how to live.

I was afraid of so many things. I’d look at other people’s friendships and think, ‘Man, why can’t I have friendships like that?’ But I didn’t know how to. So I used to try and buy friendships.

Asked whether it was difficult to say to himself, “Look, things have gone too far for me, I need to reach out for help,” James said: “Yes, it definitely was difficult. That was one of the most difficult things of all. I had no humility and I felt that I couldn’t show any weakness. For me, I was James Hetfield of METALLICA rather than just James Hetfield. And I was trying to live that lifestyle at home, I was trying to wear that mask all the time. And it’s amazing how long you can wear a mask for. We’re performers who play music — I mean, this is us. This isn’t an act. But now I’ve learned how to be more congruent with where I am. Admitting that sometimes being on tour really sucks, and that I would rather go home. Or that I’m not in a good mood right now, and not worrying if people turn around and say, ‘Hey, you’re an asshole.’ That can’t hurt me now, whereas I used to be so concerned that people liked me.

There’s a lot of machoism in this world, but I suppose the most manly thing you can do is face up to your weaknesses and expose them. And you’re showing strength by exposing your weaknesses to people. And that opens up a dialogue, it opens up friendships, which is definitely what it has done for me.

During a 2017 interview with “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Hetfield spoke in more detail about checking into rehab 21 years ago and how he almost lost his family in the process.

Fear was a big motivator in that for me,” Hetfield said. “Losing my family, that was the thing that scared me so much. That was the bottom I hit, that my family is going to go away because of my behaviors that I brought home from the road. I got kicked out of my house by my wife; I was living on my own somewhere. I did not want that. Maybe as part of my upbringing, my family kind of disintegrated when I was a kid. Father left, mother passed away, had to live with my brother, and then kind of just, where did my stuff go? It just kind of floated away, and I do not want that happening. No matter what’s going on, we’re going to talk this stuff out and make it work.

He continued: “My wife did the right thing — she kicked my ass right out of the house and that scared the shit out of me. She said, ‘Hey, you’re not just going to the therapist now and talking about this. You’ve got to go somewhere and sort this shit out.’ So that’s what I did… What worked for me was seven weeks someplace — like, basically tearing you down to bones, ripping your life apart. Anything you thought about yourself or what it was, anything you thought you had, your family, your career, anything, gone. Strip you down to just — you’re born. Here’s how you were when you were born — you were okay. You were a good person. Let’s get back to that again. Then they slowly rebuild you.”

Hetfield’s issues with addiction and alcoholism were detailed in the 2004 documentary “Some Kind Of Monster”.

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