Ash cloud grounds Metallica tour but show goes on

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Heavy-metal masters Metallica braved long bus and boat rides — and bitter memories of a band member's death — to dodge the fallout of an Icelandic volcano and stick to its rigorous European tour schedule.

Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett told reporters in Vilnius, where the band was giving its second concert Wednesday, that Metallica traveled 28 hours to get from Oslo to the Latvian capital of Riga — a trip that normally takes just over two hours by plane.

"I just could not relax, thinking, 'Wow, those buses have changed a lot since we traveled.' They are so much more comfortable. You see, we did not use this means of transportation for more than two decades since the tragedy," Hammett told reporters.

In September 1986, during a European tour, bassist Cliff Burton was killed when the band's bus skidded out of control and flipped several times near Dorarp, Sweden.

"When we boarded the bus again this week and had to travel overnight, I realized that those bad memories are still here. I still haven't overcome the fear of buses. But the show must go on," Hammett said.

After a bus ride from Oslo to Stockholm, the band on Friday boarded a Tallink cruise ship and sailed to Riga, where it performed a day later.

On board the ship were many astonished Metallica fans who — grounded by the closed airports — grabbed last-minute tickets to make the Riga show.

"It was kind of exciting, like a big party," said Liga Viskinte, 23, a Latvian who works in Stockholm but traveled home to see the concert.

She said Metallica singer James Hetfield and bassist Robert Trujillo drank beer in the ship's crowded karaoke bar, where they watched a passenger do a rendition of "Whiskey in the Jar."

"The singing was awful, but no one seemed to mind," said Viskinte.

Metallica is scheduled to leave Lithuania for Moscow on Thursday — and Hammett said they'll be taking the train, an approximate 13-hour journey, unless airspace restrictions are lifted.

"It would take a really great force to stop us," Hammett said, adding that he had no idea how the band and its road crew would get back to the U.S. from Russia. "But we'll figure it out somehow."


Associated Press Writer Gary Peach in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.