The bell tolls for Glastonbury 2014

Why Metallica are perfect for Worthy Farm

The bell tolls for Glastonbury 2014

Photographer: Sara BowreyKai Jones on 10 May 2014

After months of rumour and counter rumour, Michael Eavis has confirmed the incredulous news; Metallica will headline the Saturday night of Glastonbury. In doing this he brings the world’s most successful metal band to the world’s most successful music festival, and instantly crushing the dreams of Prince, Oasis and Kate Bush fans. So is this sad but true for Glastonbury, or will Metallica end up being masters of Worthy Farm?

It’s certainly true that Michael and Emily Eavis have taken a risk in picking a metal act to head the Pyramid Stage’s prestigious Saturday night slot. But it’s a risk that is partly down to Glastonbury’s own booking policy – while Michael Eavis points to previous performances from Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine, the festival hardly has strong form in this area. We flagged this up at last year’s festival while witnessing Enter Shakari – “an intense set that filled a mighty, conspicuous hole in the weekend”.

So just as Glastonbury’s ignorance of hip hop resulted in a furious barrage of criticism (and an undercurrent of racism) when they announced Jay Z as one of their headliners back in 2008, has Metallica’s booking provoked a similar reaction? Intriguingly, the answer is no. So far the reaction has been largely positive, and Glastonbury can thank Jay Z’s triumphant performance for this. Michael Eavis’ bold experiment in 2008 and his subsequent faith in Jay Z revitalised the festival, recreating the belief in diversity that sets Glastonbury apart from any other festival in the world.

This in no way means that Metallica will be greeted with a favourable response come June 28th. The Pyramid field is a notoriously difficult crowd, and due to the festival’s age-old tradition of not unveiling the line-up until tickets have sold out, Metallica have little idea of how many friends they will have in the crowd, and no guarantee of success.

Yet this is a band that has forged a career based on stubborn challenges, continually circumnavigating expectation, while holding up two middle fingers to any detractors. Forming in Los Angeles in 1981, they ignored the hair metal scene emerging around them, instead taking a DIY approach and taking inspiration from hard-to-find imports of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Diamond Head and Iron Maiden, before moving to San Francisco and kickstarting the city’s famed Bay Area thrash metal scene.

Three seminal albums followed – ‘Kill ‘Em All’, ‘Ride the Lightening’, and ‘Master of Puppets’ (the last continually voted the best metal album in history) – before bassist Cliff Burton, whose distinct, distorted and Bach-inspired style heavily defined the band, was tragically killed when the group’s bus crashed while on tour in Sweden in September 1986.

Though distraught, Metallica carried on, releasing the acclaimed ‘…And Justice For All’, and 1991’s record-with-no-name (but known as ‘the black album’), the album that rocketed them into the mainstream - heralded by the single ‘Enter Sandman' - it has sold over 30 million copies to date.

While some say that their output since pales in comparison to those first five records, Metallica continue to steer themselves as the biggest band in metal. Recent collaborations with Lou Reed and Lang Lang have proved their long-held belief in challenging themselves and their musical boundaries, while they remain one of the most vital live bands on the planet - a nonstop touring behemoth, with a deep affection for pyrotechnics and a Springsteen-like stamina for adrenalin-fuelled shows.

And it’s this last point that makes Metallica ideal for Worthy Farm. When they are playing on home turf, to their own ‘Metallica family’, the Metallica live show is an unrelenting force to be reckoned with. At Glastonbury, out of their comfort zone, and with 80,000 people demanding to be impressed, they will be unmissable.

Kai Jones takes his best guess at Metallica’s Glastonbury set list:

(Ennio Morricone intro: The Ecstasy of Gold)
Master of Puppets
For Whom the Bell Tolls
...And Justice for All
Sad But True
Shortest Straw
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Whiskey in the Jar
The Memory Remains (with Marianne Faithful)
Wherever We May Roam
Orion (with Rodriga y Gabriela)
Hit the Lights
Seek and Destroy
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Creeping Death

Do you agree? Will Metallica be the One band to see on Worthy Farm next month or does their inclusion in the headliner hall of fame represent something of a Creeping Death for the festival?


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