So, after months upon months of speculation, controversy, debate and a petition or two, it all comes down to this.
As AC/DC blasting over The Pyramid Stage’s speakers gives way to that intro video, only one question truly remains: can metal’s biggest band silence their critics and bring the heavy to the UK’s biggest festival, or is this curious endeavour to be forever confined to the somewhat overflowing cabinet at the back of the office that is Metallica’s career marked ‘Iffy Decisions’? At first glance, it is certainly a sparser turnout than Glastonbury’s headliners are used to greeting - maddening, given that this is plainly the biggest band on this year’s bill - and there is an air of bemused curiosity suffocating the tangible anticipation that usually rises before a Metallica show.
All queries about Metallica easing Glasto in gently are abandoned with the one-two gut punch of an absurdly over the top and delightfully knowing bonus intro clip titled “Glastallica” (seriously, nothing can do this video justice in words, but it climaxes with all four members in bear suits. You read that exactly right) and a battering opening triumvirate of Creeping Death, For Whom The Bell Tolls and Wherever I May Roam. While it’s an impressive opening round, it instantly exposes the biggest flaw in tonight’s show - the crowd. Though it’s evident that the Glasto faithful in attendance are (rather politely) enjoying themselves, it’s no unfair gambit to suggest that about of a tenth of the audience know a single word to any song - and the majority of those have, oddly, been placed at the back of the stage itself (a Metclub special?).
Unsurprisingly, the band themselves are clearly having the time of their fucking lives, with James Hetfield’s “HELLO GLASTO!” as earnest and beaming a greeting as you’re ever likely to hear on this stage. The set itself is a solid barrage of hits, peppered with lush visuals and lasers (though a notable lack of pyro) and a couple of surprises in the form of a returning Cyanide and a rollicking Whisky In The Jar. “This is a festival of open-mindedness, so why can’t hard rock and heavy metal be a part of that too?” opines Papa Het to one of the biggest cheers of the evening, and while his declaration that “many” iconic metal bands want to play this festival is a bit off the mark, the point raised is a valid one and, in truth, symptomatic of the gaping hole in Glasto’s otherwise credible claim as a festival for all comers.
Enter Sandman does, of course, get the one definite singalong of the evening, and by the time Seek And Destroy brings this hugely enjoyable but, ultimately, less than iconic Metallica show to a close, The Big Question remains somewhat unanswered. Have the biggest metal band on the planet just pulled off slaying Glastonbury Festival? Undoubtedly. Will it change the course of Glastonburys to come? That is not so certain. What this most definitely was, though, was yet another exercise in Metallica doing what they always have: whatever the hell they want. If, in five years’ time, we’ll see Slipknot headline this very same stage, then perhaps it was all worth it.