Their booking for the Saturday night headliner slot wasn't universally welcomed and they were dogged by a bear hunting controversy, but Metallica soon showed the Glastonbury Festival what it should have known all along; the metal foursome know how to put on a good show.
In a nod to their critics they started with an odd video of a fox hunt. It was set to a musical mash-up of 'What Does the Fox Say' and 'Fox on the Run' and was slightly baffling at first. Then all became clear; the band, dressed as bears (naturally) slaughtered the fox hunters with sniper rifles.
Then came the aforementioned “metal” with the massed drums and slash guitar of “Creeping Death” and a 90 minute set that included “One”, “Cyanide” and the eight-minute epic “Master of Puppets”.
The band are the first metal band ever to headline at Worthy Farm, so it was easy to see why they spoke about being “honoured” at the privilege. Front man James Hetfield made a point of telling the crowd that it was “about time” a heavy metal band played the festival, before dedicating the set “to all the British metal bands who are dreaming of playing this stage.”
As the Pixies came off the other stage (to be replaced by Jake Bugg), there was a noticeable swell in the crowd, showing that for once at least Britain’s biggest music festival would embrace metal. And embrace metal it certainly did with smoke billowing across the stage, flares fired skywards and few doubted that this was a band of accomplished musicians, who knew exactly how to put on a good show.
That’s not to say the entire audience knew the words or that Hetfield was successful in orchestrating a mass sing-along. Nonetheless, there was a steady stream of festival goers, popping in to check out the metal act. It wasn’t as busy as a Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen set, but for many this was about getting a taste of something new.
The stage, which was bathed with red and blue light, was ringed by fans and supporters the band had invited along. And as the set progressed the band asked for the “house lights” to see “beautiful Glastonbury”, before coming to a close of their set with “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman”.
It’s good these tracks came when they did, as some elements of the crowd start to flag after an hour of the band’s trademark thrashing fits and fully loaded vocals. This was a band that was serious about fulfilling its promise to bring “heavy metal” to Glastonbury and confound its critics at the same time.
Then came the encore of “Whisky in the Jar" and "Seek and Destroy" and the release of dozens of Metallica-branded balloons. These triggered the biggest mosh-pit of the night as the audience battled it out in the mud to gain possession of one; the winners paid a price in mud.
Hetfield finished with a emotional scream that “Metallica loves you Glastonbury.” Glastonbury, or Glasto as he called it repeatedly, might not have known all the words or even recognised all the songs, but it certainly enjoyed the experience.
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