Metallica close ‘best yet’ Sonisphere

The two day rock bash which took place at Knebworth Park was branded a 'success' by organisers who have promised to bring it back next year.

Metallica delivered an incendiary finale to the inaugural Sonisphere festival in Knebworth, celebrating frontman James Hetfield's birthday, declaring the event their highlight of the European tour and paying tribute to Queen.

Opening with 'Blackened', minutes after arriving on-site by helicopter, Metallica unleashed a thunderous two hour performance, spanning their entire 28 year career, for this final stop on the first ever Sonisphere tour.

Typically, the no-frills set relied purely on the energy of the band, the music and the crowd with minimal lighting, zero stage decoration and the four band members understated in head-to-toe black. The minimalism enhanced the impact of the rockets and flames that burst out of the stage during 'Fuel' and the dramatic strobe lighting in 'One'.

The set-list blended old classics like 'Creeping Death', 'Master Of Puppets', 'Sad But True' and 'Nothing Else Matters' with newer material such as 'Cyanide' from most recent album 'Death Magnetic'. 'Enter Sandman' drew the most excitable reaction from the crowd.

The band kicked off their encore with a tribute to Queen, who had famously performed their last ever concert at Knebworth back in 1986, in the form of their cover of 'Stone Cold Crazy'.

"Let's make a deal!", proposed frontman James Hetfield straight after, "We would love to have the legacy of being the loudest ever band at Knebworth, but we need your help. If you have any energy left, you have to give it to us for this last one!"

Metallica closed with an immensely powerful 'Seek And Destroy', but the show was not over yet. As Hetfield stepped out to give his final bow, he was intercepted by a mob that included his kids, wife and crew members, who plastered him in cream pies. His three bandmates then huddled around a mic to lead a mass chorus of 'Happy Birthday' in his honour. The band then remained on-stage for a full ten minutes, throwing pies and thanking the crowd, plucking every last plectrum from its mic-stand holder and tossing it outwards.

"Thank you for a great birthday!", beamed Hetfield, "You kicked arse, Sonisphere!"

As usual, Lars Ulrich got the last word in, gushing: "It looks like we saved the best 'till last… We played six of these Sonisphere shows across Europe and Knebworth was the one!"

The band finally left the site in a police motorcade, with a separate limousine for each band member and their family.

The performance had followed Nine Inch Nails' last ever European appearance, a fairly subdued affair.

Earlier in the day, Machine Head had made a bizarre unscheduled appearance (as we speculated they might last week). Despite having pulled out of the festival a few weeks back due to a disagreement over their billing in relation to Limp Bizkit, the unannounced band delighted those amassed at the Apollo main stage for the 'Special Guest' slot with a blisteringly heavy performance, shaking the leaves from the trees with their pounding metal. Frontman Rob Flynn dedicated the set to the fans, bellowing: "Sonisphere this is beautiful and thank you so fucking Much!"

Over in the Bohemia tent, Swedish pop-metallers Dead By April had solidered on without guitarist Johan Olsson who had to pull out of the show due to severe illness. Despite being stripped down to a four-piece, the band played a blinding set, winning all in the marquee with hit single 'Losing You'.

The day had kicked off with Buckcherry lighting up the Apollo stage, waking the masses with a hard rocking sleaze-drenched set of good time party rock. Paradise Lost had changed the atmosphere over on Saturn with their doomy gloomy gothic metal, before pioneering industrial veterans Killing Joke followed with a pounding set to a rapturous welcome back from the assembled throng.

Festival boss Stuart Galbraith declared his happiness with the weekend, stating: "In year one we are over the moon. I have been involved in a variety of roles for different festivals over the years, such as Monsters of Rock, Ozfest, and Download. Sonisphere has in its inaugural year has sold more tickets than any of those events, in their first years. We have had a total attendance of 80,000 over the weekend and we are looking forward to building on our first year and touring Sonisphere into an annual fixture in the rock calendar."

Stuart also further confirmed that the festival will continue and is already planning next year's event, with Iron Maiden rumoured to have already been snapped up as headliners.

Stay posted for our full review and photos from Sonisphere UK 2009.