Metallica Played to a Crowd of 1.6 Million in Moscow

If a band is lucky, they might play to 1.6 million people across a whole tour. In 1991, Metallica hit that number in a single show.
The metal icons proved they were worthy of that descriptor at a free concert in Moscow, Russia, for an annual series dubbed Monsters of Rock. Despite Russia being in discord at the time–there had recently been a Soviet coup attempt–many citizens escaped the upheaval for a while and rocked out to Metallica’s indelible catalog.

A crowd of that size moving together is an intimidating thing. Though guards tried to keep the crowd at bay, their energy was undeniably powerful. The band followed the crowd’s example (or perhaps vice versa) and delivered an anthemic rendition of “Enter Sandman.” Revisit the moment below.

In an interview with Conan O’Brien, Lars Ulrich commented on the historic concert. “It was negotiated between the students–or the people doing the demonstrations–and the government,” he said. “Part of what they wanted was a rock ‘n’ roll show.

“It was just a few years after Reagan,” he continued. “It was still very much an ‘evil Russian” [mindset]. So going to Russia was like, ‘Holy shit, here we are in the red square.’ We weren’t really prepared for what that was going to be. It’s among some of the most surreal footage of Metallica.”

Ulrich went on to describe Russian soldiers getting just as into the music as the kids who negotiated for the concert. He recalled helicopters hovering over the crowd and more “mind fuck” inducing footage.

Though it isn’t the biggest free show ever played–that record is held by Rod Stewart, who played to a whopping 3.5 million people on Copacabana Beach in 1994–it’s still a staggering achievement made by one of the most enduring rock groups of all time.

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