Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe explains tour cancellation: ‘Better safe than on CNN’

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RICHMOND, Va. — The front man of the award-winning heavy metal band Lamb of God is speaking out about the group’s decision to cancel its European tour in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Randy Blythe wrote in a blog post Saturday that he was speaking out about the decision to nix the tour “at the request of management.”

I wouldn’t have bothered to do this on my own, since a rather self-explanatory general statement has already been made explaining our reasons for leaving and that seems more than sufficient to me- the basic gist of the post was that something specific occurred that made some of us in the band feel that it was unwise to continue on with the tour, potentially putting ourselves, our crew, and large numbers of defenseless people in harm’s way. Simple enough. And I won’t elaborate on the details of that occurrence here, since I have no wish to add to the atmosphere of speculation and fear that currently surrounds terrorist activities in Europe- there are way too many ill-informed running mouths across the globe making an already tense, highly complex, and extremely fluid situation on that continent even worse. I feel pretty ridiculous even writing this (who knew deciding to cancel a tour after venues you have played start getting blown up would require any sort of explanation to anyone?), but since I have been asked nicely to do so by the people I employ to manage my band, I will.

The post goes on to say that he understands the decision may be saddened some fans, but better to be “safe than on CNN.”

My band and I aren’t even strangers to touring in an environment of terror- just over a month after September 11, 2001 we played in Times Square, downtown Manhattan, New York City (a lot of bands, especially European bands, cancelled tours of the States around that time, and I didn’t blame them- it was a seriously heavy time to be in America). But such is the life of a touring musician, so something really, really serious has to occur to make us cancel.

And something really, really serious (and utterly heartbreaking) did occur in Paris, prompting several bands to go home early or cancel upcoming tours- I couldn’t blame them. But my band didn’t leave- we paid attention to what was going on, evaluated the situation the best we could, and decided to continue on with the tour. Despite some obvious concerns, it felt like the right thing to do.

Sitting in a hotel room in London, as I followed along in real-time during the tragic massacre in Paris at Bataclan I could see the layout of the club in my mind, and I thought “That is a terrible spot to be trapped in like that (which of course is exactly why the gunmen chose it)- God help those people inside.” It was sickening to me that people were dying just because they wanted to see a rock show, and what made it worse was that I could clearly envision it happening as it went down- I’d played that club several times before. 89 people died in Bataclan that night, including one individual known to several crew members of our tour. The next day the mood was serious before the gig, but all the bands got up and played their hearts out- it felt like the right thing to do, to try and raise people’s spirits. From the stage, I told the audience to try not to be consumed by hatred or to live in fear- after all, we were still onstage, people had come out, and no one wants to sit around and be overwhelmed by anger, anxiety, and sadness over something they have no control over. It was an emotional show for everyone involved.

Additionally, the post explains what happened in the wake of the Paris terror attacks when the band made alternative travel arrangements  headed from a gig in Dover, England to Calais, France.

…but after the bombings and shootings in Paris the French government shut the borders, and we figured either the ferry wouldn’t be available or it would just be a complete security nightmare, so we spent money on flights. Imagine my surprise when I talked to our bus driver the day of our gig in Stuttgart, asking him how crowded and hectic the ferry ride was- “Oh, no, it was almost empty,” he said “And when we got to France, we were just waved in- there were no cops there at the border or anywhere in sight.” Umm… ok. That seemed just a little loose to me, given that just three days previously men who had traveled from a nearby different country had blown themselves up in Paris after massacring over 100 human beings, but I’m no security expert, so what do I know, right? Right before I walked onstage in Stuttgart, I saw on the news that they evacuated a soccer stadium north of us in Hannover, Germany due to threat of explosives. I didn’t exactly feel relaxed going onstage that night, but it turned out to be a great gig, despite once again me having to stop the show so another injured crowd member could get wheeled out to an ambulance (two gigs in a row of people getting badly hurt was a real bummer for sure though- it really throws things off when you know an audience member is injured). And so we continued on through mainland Europe to Tilburg, Netherlands- once again, it felt like the right thing to do.

I woke up in a great mood around 1 or 2 pm on the day of the Tilburg show (I like Holland, and always enjoy my time there), went into the venue, ate lunch and began looking online to see if there was a camera store nearby. Sometime later that afternoon, soon before the band was scheduled to soundcheck, our tour manager called us together, closed the dressing room door, and said “I’ve got some news, and it’s not good.” He then informed us of a specific occurrence that made me immediately say “$#@! this, I’m not going on that stage tonight.”

Blythe said that is when he realized he he could no longer go on stage and tell people “Don’t worry about it- come on in and enjoy yourselves. There’s no need for concern.”

As I mentioned earlier, I do not wish to add more rumors or speculation to an already tense and constantly shifting situation in Europe, so I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say, this new specific piece of information (not some nebulous news story about the generally pensive atmosphere pervading Europe at the time) gave me enough to pause to think “I am not going to chance endangering the lives of myself, my crew, and the 1,800 or so fans expected to show up this evening by going on with this show. I can’t tell these people they are safe in here. It does not feel right, screw this, I’m out of here.” Furthermore, what I had just been told made me think “Even if it’s nothing tonight, I’m not going to go through this every day. Our job is done here for now- it’s time to go home. It doesn’t feel safe enough to cram ourselves and hundreds of people into venues anymore.”

I hope that the situation in Europe and everywhere else calms down, posthaste (and yes, I know that an attack could occur in America- obviously, I’d feel better about being at home to help deal with it the best I could, or at the very least die on my native soil). I hope no one else dies anywhere on the planet (and this is a global problem) because some misguided maniacs with suicide vests and Kalashnikovs decide to martyr themselves over their twisted interpretation of divine will. But yesterday at least 21 people died in Mali during a hostage situation at the hands of terrorists, and as I write this, Milan, Italy (where we were booked in three days) is on high alert. And the city of Brussels (where we were scheduled to play next week) has been placed on the highest possible alert, with governmental officials telling people to avoid high concentration areas like sporting events, train depots, airports, and… concerts. Downtown is basically shut down, and I’m more than happy we won’t be filling a concert venue there (or any other place at the moment) for something to potentially go terribly, terribly wrong. The way I feel, to do so at this particular time seems not only risky to myself, but irresponsible to our crew and fans- enormously, cosmically, irresponsible. And as of this second, the venue we were supposed to play in Brussels is closed anyway. I guess they don’t feel safe remaining open at this time, what with their government basically telling everyone to expect something really bad to happen at any moment. Not the best environment for a rock show.

While we were still on tour, when other bands canceled their tours immediately after the attacks in Paris, one typical and very widespread online reaction I saw (and was completely baffled by) was “ISIS wins! By not playing, they are letting ISIS win!”

“By not playing, they are letting ISIS win”? People, do you have any idea of how colossally stupid this sounds?

Right now, several of my friends remain in Europe on tour. I hope they have good gigs, I hope they stay safe over there, and I hope (most importantly) that they return home safely to their loved ones. It is their decision to stay, and I respect that. When you join a touring band, you aren’t issued some sort of rock-n-roll handbook that reads “Section C: In case the country you are touring in falls under threat of attack by homicidal Jihadists, viable options are: A) play only secret basement shows until the threat passes, B) appeal to the local armed forces for a loan of assault rifles, C) issue body armor to all band, crew, and concert attendees D) roll the dice and hope for the best or E) catch the next thing smoking home.” There is no textbook answer for a situation like this, so I can’t even pretend to say what other people should or shouldn’t do. I can only do what I think is the right thing to do for me and mine, and so I did. I stayed on tour in Europe until something concrete, not a general sense of dread, made me decide to go home. And I don’t regret going home in the slightest- not one tiny shred.

None of this makes me happy- not cancelling a tour, not losing money, not bumming out fans, not people having to worry about being blown up, and especially not people dying. It sucks on a very, very deep level. And I hope nothing else happens. I honestly hope we cancelled a tour for absolutely nothing, so that people can point their fat little fingers at this later and laugh their heads off at my unwarranted concerns. I would rather be ridiculed by the entire online virtual peanut gallery of pinheads than take chances on myself or anyone else getting hurt or killed (and yes, I include even the dummies who are mad and still can’t understand why we cancelled) because I ignored what I felt was the smartest move given our circumstances. I can deal with people disagreeing with me and my actions, no problem. I could not deal with a news story that reads “Hundreds die at lamb of god concert; authorities say potential warning signs were ignored by band.”

“Y’all stay safe, and let’s hope this mess gets sorted out soon,” Blythe concludes the post.