Pay a visit to the official merchandise stand at this year’s Glastonbury festival and you’ll find this T-shirt:
The front-side reads Glastallica – and the date. The back features the numerous jibes directed at the band as a result of their contentious booking. It’s a sign that the Californian metal monoliths are determined to make this an event. Or at least have a good laugh as they try to do it. More than three decades into a career – one that’s featured every accolade, every sales landmark – the opportunity to grasp any unchartered challenges must be appealing. After all, there’s only so many times a band can headline Reading, Sonisphere or Download without repeating themselves. That’s why you’ve got to create your own kicks. So it is then. The news that ‘metal’ would be topping the bill at Glastonbury has been met with some cynicism. Would it work in the “hippie nucleus” questioned Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner? Jarvis Cocker meanwhile thought it may be “too abrasive”.
And at 9.55pm Metallica went about singeing the fingers of the critics paused to pen their sarcastic tweets. In the run-up to the show, a Facebook campaign had called for a boycott of the show because keen-shooter James Hetfield has narrated a documentary about bear hunting. They started by sending that up with a 10 minute intro video which featured a traditional British fox hunt, before a group of bears emerged from some bushes and shot the hunting horse riders. Off come the bears’ heads to reveal the members of Metallica smiling underneath.
It was obvious, Metallica were taking the whole experience – and bluster – in their stride. Right from the first note (‘Creeping Death’) the crowd were figuratively and literally on their side. The band were backed on stage with a collection of fans waving Glastonbury-style flags throughout the whole set. The message? Metal may not be a regular visitor to Worthy Farm, but we’re all in this together.
Let’s face it, Metallica have nothing to lose. They don’t need the booking fee. They don’t need the album sales boost (remember, their self-titled 1991 album has sold over 16m copies) and they don’t need a legion of new fans. Put in those terms, they could just have fun, and maybe kick a few ideological doors down as they go.
It was only ever going to be a greatest hits set. And so it was. The crunching riffs and wild guitar solos of ‘Wherever I May Roam’, ‘Fade To Black’, ‘One’, ‘Master Of Puppets’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ all featured. There was only one vaguely new track, ‘Cyanide’, from their most recent album, 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’. They’re not in a hurry with the new stuff.
Initially a sparse crowd, by the time ‘Enter Sandman’ hit like a meteorite with a few minutes of the set remaining, Glastonbury was fully converted. By that point, it barely mattered that earlier in the set the frontman picked up the mic stand to invite the crowd sing along, only to be met with a few awkward mumbles. It mattered not.
“Metallica and Glastonbury at last,” said Hetfield speaking between songs, as the set reached it’s crescendo. “You really like this stuff? Are you sure?” he asked as hundreds of black balloons and beach balls were released into the crowd for final number ‘Seek And Destroy’. “There is no place on earth like this beautiful Glastonbury,” said Lars Ulrich grabbing the mic as the foursome took a collective bow. With a heavy dose of humour and a steely determination, one big tick has been made on Metallica’s shrinking bucket list. Turns out Glastonbury can do metal after all.