A landmark moment for the world’s biggest heavy metal band and rock culture as a whole. Regardless of your opinion (and let’s face it, nobody has been lukewarm about the matter), Metallica’s headline set at Glastonbury is not only the biggest rock event of 2014, it’s a landmark moment in the history of rock music.
Like many of you, I sat glued to my television and suffering through some bearded bloke who made Seasick Steve look like David Beckham (that was John Grant, btw - Ed’s note) and being patronised within an inch of our lives by the BBC’s shonky coverage (they have the magnificent Daniel P Carter on their books, there was no excuse for the ‘yeah, isn’t heavy metal a lark’ vomit they were serving us) awaiting Metallica’s arrival. After a decent ‘beginners guide’ package for the prawn sandwich brigade, Lars’s interview trying to laugh off the months of controversy by saying “we’re just a rock and roll band coming to play a festival” was a real ‘pull the other one’ moment for a man who really does enjoy winding up those who probably deserve to be bent out of shape by the band’s policy of doing whatever the fuck they want to and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it. More than any other band you will read about on this site, you can always truly expect the unexpected from Metallica. Through the Anton Corjbin Load photographs, the S&M show with the late, great Michael Kamen, a movie that showed the world’s most impenetrable band in their most painful (and occasionally comical) states, a 3D movie and booking Arctic Monkeys for their own festival, the moment of their latest and perhaps greatest gamble was here and I was hooked. If you have a pulse, you were hooked too. The adrenaline before they’d even hit a note was wonderful. “How does it feel to be alive?” indeed. I had all the money in the world on them opening with their cover of So What, their go to song of choice when it comes to fuck it all and fucking no regrets as previously unleashed at the 1996 MTV Europe Music Awards when the station wouldn’t let them have the pyro they wanted. As it was, they ripped into a full throttle Creeping Death that set the tone for the whole show. They’re not the band they once were in the live environment in terms of their actual ability (no big disrespect for the band that will always be the best live act I’ve ever seen) but what they lack in cadence and craft, they were making up for with enough attitude to tear the snot from your face. To sat hunched over your keyboard mocking Lars or Kirk’s occasional bum note was to miss the point entirely. This was as exciting as watching a show on your sofa could ever wish to be. Following a whole bunch of turgid nonsense over the weekend’s coverage (did you see Arcade Fire? What the FUCK is that about?!), this was a pure punk rock statement of intent. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Master Of Puppets, Sad but True…fuck, even Cyanide felt like an explosion Vesuvius would be proud of. I had my doubts about whether or not the Mr and Mrs Ford Mondeo types at Glastonbury would “get it”. The argument that I think was just up to the point of them hitting the stage wasn’t that Metallica would repel the middle-classes who take up the vast majority of that field in Worthy, it was that nobody would care that they were there. We sometimes overthink just how big our world is (in the same year Black Sabbath played the O2, so did Peter Andre but that’s a debate for another day) and the average person on the street in the UK doesn’t even know Enter Sandman due to our culture being shunned by mainstream media since the dawn of time, so it wasn’t a stretch to think Metallica would be met by a see of people shrugging their shoulders before walking away but I gladly stand corrected. The “Die! Die! Die!” refrain of Creeping Death, the Marianne Faithful part at the climax of a titanic The Memory Remains, all clear to hear on the telly and loud as fuck. I still hate you all but well done. As the set reached it’s zenith with a monstrous Enter Sandman, a well-thought out stomp through Whiskey In The Jar and traditional set closer Seek And Destroy (the romantic in me chooses to believe that the short blast of Frayed Ends Of Sanity at the end of that song was a nod to the die-hards), Metallica gave us something that not any old band can create. That, my friends, was an event. Twitter and Facebook timelines were dominated by heavy metal (from us lot being excited to one of my old school friends tagging me on FB post saying ‘people who like heavy metal think Dungeons & Dragons is real and touch themselves to Game Of Thrones, do you still like this shit, Tel?’), Metallica were on the front cover of The Observer yesterday and, while we’re never looking for their acceptance because fuck them, it can’t help but to fill me with pride to know that the greatest metal band of all time took on everyone (including sections of their own fanbase) and won. Eat that.
For more of Beez’s thoughts on Metallica at Glastonbury, check out the video below.