Heavy rock veterans Metallica began an eight-date run of concerts in Mexico City last night, held at the city’s Palacia de los Deportes, unveiling a brand new stage set up which commemorates the band’s thirty year history, as well as a whole new bag of onstage props, technical wizadry and a wealth of pyrotechnics. Oh, and just a casual immolation… wait, what!?

Loudwire reports that it was the latter that caused a stir during the performance, when during ‘Enter Sandman’, one of the band’s many onstage flame geysers and flare launchers seemingly malfunctioned, prompting two technicians to rush onstage to fix them.

In some footage that’s surfaced online, one stage hand inspecting the faulty pyro effect gets engulfed in a huge flame before running across the stage, chased by two other crew members who arrive with fire extinguishers to douse the flames. Then carrying their associate out on a stretcher, shortly thereafter frontman James Hetfield was seen urging for the show to come to a halt.

Simultaneously, the stage began to seemingly collapse, with pillars falling around explosions as the performance slowly ground to a halt as the lights (if you’ll excuse the pun) faded to black. As the Tour Diary from the band’s official website has it: Loud bangs, random fireworks, falling towers, falling spot light guy, falling scaffolding, guy was caught on fire…. then a complete black out.”

Then, “after a few mins, some things were still working, so the crew brought up some work lights, amps and speakers, and the band played on with ‘Die, Die My Darling’.”

Despite the onstage drama, a representative from Ocesa, the promoter for Metallica’s Mexico City run, has told Blabbermouth “It’s all part of the show.”

The spokesperson indicated that apparently the metal group were recreating the accident that was initially stage for the band’s 1998 video release, Cunning Stunts which feature a similar event where the stage collapsed and a stage tech was ignited in the resulting blaze.

A bizarre tip of the hat to diehard fans? Or a strange way to cover up a horrific accident?

It’s in poor taste considering the series of major stage accidents in the last year, including Cheap Trick’s Ottawa Blues Festival disaster and a collapse in Indiana last August that killed five; and not to forget the most recent tragedy involving a Radiohead show in Canada that killed their drum tech and injured several others.

No matter your opinion, the epic new stage setup of Metallica’s show – featuring the construction and destruction of the cover statue of 1988’s And Justice For All…, lighted crosses during ‘Master Of Puppets’ and a giant toilet for ‘Metal Up Your Ass’ – is expected to appear as part of the live footage for Metallica’s upcoming 3D movie.

Once shooting on the new IMAX film wraps, along with their touring commitments, drummer Lars Ulrich has said that September will see Metallica getting back in the studio to begin work on a studio album.

In the meantime you can watch some (shaky) fan footage of the supposedly staged accident below, keep your eye to the bottom-left for the stagehand that catches on fire: