Metallica - Live in Muskegon (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live in Muskegon (2020)


The convergence of two events made this review possible. The first was the absolute shutdown of all shows, gigs, concerts, tours, sports, plays, movies and anything else mildly entertaining. In other words, the circus part of “bread and circus”. I really love reviewing live shows. It’s pretty much my favorite thing. I miss the loud fellowship more than I can express.

The Second event was a result of the first. Because of their inability to play live, Metallica launched a weekly streaming series on their Youtube channel where they air various shows from the vault. It was un-originally dubbed Metallica Mondays and started off kind of slowly. The performances were mostly from the last five years or so, and showed an aging but still competent band playing songs from across their 35 plus year history. I tried watching, but couldn’t really get into it. Then shit got real.

On April 27th, 2020, they broadcast an old VHS recording from November 1st, 1991. It was recorded live at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, MI, and was attended by a young, long-haired, fresh faced, just out of high school Tom Trauma. Some of the details are fuzzy, but many others still feel fresh. It was definitely one of those shows that helped set the hooks of live music deep in me.

The show was on Friday night, and was only the 4th American date of the Wherever We May Roam Tour, which closely followed the release of The Black Album. Metallica was arguably at the peak of their powers, at least for the Jason Newsted era. Newsted was truly a contributing and accepted member of the band at this point. The general admission ticket cost $18.75, and the Ticketmaster fee was three bucks!

I went with a friend, who amazingly, I still go to most shows with today. I remember exactly where we sat. It was stage left, about half way up and about a third of the way back, in the grandstands of the small hockey rink. It was an “Evening With Metallica” show, so there was no opening act. The opener was essentially a 20 minute hype video, then the band would go live from backstage for a minute before storming the stage.

The excitement in the air was undeniable. (We were only 18 and completely sober, so it wasn’t the booze talking!) We knew we were experiencing something special. Metallica finally hit the stage like a bomb, opening with “Enter Sandman”. (Before we were all sick of it from excessive radio airplay.) They followed that up with “Creeping Death”. The extended “Die! Die! Die! Die!” chant had the crowd at a fever pitch less than 15 minutes into the show. It was sublime.

They followed that up with my favorite track from ...And Justice For All, “Harvester of Sorrow”. Next was “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. Even watching it as a middle aged man, it still gives me chills. The underrated “Sad But True” was next. Then came Newsted’s bass solo. It definitely took the energy level down a bit, but no band could have maintained that level of intensity forever. He started with the intro to “My Friend of Misery”, did some tapping and call and response stuff, and eventually the rest of the band joined him for “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”.

Another underrated Black song, “Holier Than Thou”, was next, followed by the better of the two ballads from the same album, “The Unforgiven”. James Hetfield complained about the length of the songs on the Justice album before the band launched into “Justice Medley”. This 10 plus minute progressive thrash masterwork combined good chunks of “Eye of the Beholder”, “The Frayed Ends of Sanity”, “...And Justice For All” and “Blackened”.

I remember the next part of the show being my least favorite in 1991, and seeing that nearly 29 year old video confirmed it. I don’t like drum solos. I really don’t like solos in general, but drum solos are the worst. And let’s face it - Lars Ulrich is no Neil Peart. (That being said, Like Tommy Ramone, the band might never have been as good without his distinctive style.) Anyway, it went on way too long. They should have skipped it and played “Damage Inc.” instead.

Kirk Hanmmett’s guitar solo was next. It was still not my favorite, but it bothered me less. The next four songs more than made up for any slight annoyance. “The Four Horsemen”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Fade to Black” and “Whiplash” closed the main set. The nonstop headbanging put my young neck to the test.

The first encore started with about a minute of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”, after which Hetfield deadpanned, “He ain’t here, is he?” Then came the fan favorite “Master of Puppets”. “Seek and Destroy” lasted for well over 10 minutes as Hetfield put down his guitar and took the mic into the crowd for a sing along. I remembered it well, but seeing it on tape gave me a better perspective. Hetfield has always had an effortless, light-hearted rapport with the audience. After that the stage went dark again.

The second encore started with an extended intro of flashing lights and gunfire leading into Metallica’s first true hit, “One”. It’s a powerful track, even after all these years. Then came the Misfits’ classic “Last Caress”. (Without “Green Hell”, which it was combined with on the recorded version.) Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any better, they pulled out Diamondhead’s “Am I Evil?”. Finishing with “Battery” was just more icing on the cake. After two and a half hours, it was over.

I don’t know that I have the words to describe ecstasy. I’ve been going to shows for over 30 years, and have seen nearly 1000, and it still stands out as a favorite. (My very favorite Metallica show was in Kalamazoo two years later.) Metallica was such a good live band in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I saw them 5 times in that era and every show was excellent. You probably had to be there to appreciate it. Even after success, the band’s work ethic at their live shows didn’t diminish. (Although there would be far less of them.) What would diminish is the setlist. It would never be as good as this era again.

I had fun taking this stroll down memory lane. While it certainly wasn’t the same as being there, I guess it will have to do for now. I wonder how many other shows I attended were videotaped and are floating around somewhere out there? (I spent a bit of time down a youtube rabbit hole to find one of the Ramones shows I attended. No luck so far, but if I do, you’ll be the first to know.) Until shows return, stay tuned for more retro live reviews from your Uncle Tom!

Metallica setlist:

Enter Sandman

Creeping Death

Harvester of Sorrow

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Sad But True

Bass Solo

Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)

Holier Than Thou


Justice Medley (Eye of the Beholder, The Frayed Ends of Sanity, ...And Justice For All, Blackened)

Drum Solo

Guitar Solo

The Four Horsemen

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Fade to Black


First encore:

Master of Puppets

Seek and Destroy

Second encore:


Last Caress

Am I Evil?