Metallica at Glastonbury Festival 2014 review

'An unmitigated triumph'

Photographer: Shirlaine ForrestChris Eustace on 29 June 2020

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the question does need to be asked: how did anyone ever think Metallica would have any trouble headlining Glastonbury? Would they get a hostile crowd? No crowd at all (cue the kind of tedious talk about “suitable Glastonbury headliners” we thought Jay-Z’s 2008 triumph had squashed forever)? Or would The Park stage get laid to waste after a misunderstanding involving James Hetfield and The 2 Bears?

As a crowd carrying flags takes to the stage, mirroring the massed ranks of the Pyramid Stage in front of them, a video begins to play of a fox hunt – are the band deliberately setting out to antagonise the Glasto-goers? Nope, in a clever reference to Hetfield’s recent controversial documentary, a squadron of bears take out the hunters with shotguns, before the big reveal: the bears are unmasked as a certain seminal Bay Area thrash group. As the caption onscreen says: Are you ready for Glastallica?

A blood flecks the video screens, it clear the band certainly are. ‘Creeping Death’ is a frenetic opener, but it’s clear it’s not their usual crowd: Hetfield’s request to help him sing it is met with a muted response - not everyone is word perfect here, but the driving riffs of ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and ‘Wherever I May Roam’ get an enthusiastic reception all the same, which the band are delighted with. Drummer Lars Ulrich, reportedly the one who most pushed for this, looks especially like he’s loving it.

It seems that they’re on a mission tonight, and talking to the crowd, Hetfield confirms it: “We’re delighted to be here and represent the heavier side of music. I know it's all represented here so why not heavy? This is dedicated not only to the crowd but to the all the British heavy metal bands that have been dreaming and still dream of playing this stage here and uttering the words: ‘Do you want heavy?’ Metallica gives you heavy!"

With one set, Metallica may well have reversed Glastonbury’s reticence in booking those heavier acts, and if the speech isn’t persuasive enough, the following ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Fade To Black’ should probably do the trick.

It’s fascinating watching an act who usually have nothing to prove have to come out and win a crowd over – something Metallica probably haven’t had to do for decades - but they rise to the challenge, and having a audience not as familiar with your work as usual throws up intriguing moments, such as ‘The Memory Remains’ going down the best of any song up until the big guns arrive.

When they do, they hit way harder than Friday’s electrical storm could ever do, a coruscating ‘Master Of Puppets’ sees Robert Trujillo decamp to play under the left-hand video screen, while, of course, normal Metallica crowd service is resumed for ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and a seismic ‘Enter Sandman’ which inspires impressively mud-defying mosh action.

Playing up to the uproar their booking caused as they return for the encore, Hetfield asks:”You really like this stuff?” Glastonbury hollers in the affirmative before a cover of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, before the band take it back to their first album with a brutal ‘Seek And Destroy’, as a shedload of giant black inflatable Metallica beach balls are unleashed into the crowd to add one more surreal note to the evening.

“You’re beautiful, Glasto!” Hetfield smiles, as the band depart. It’s an unmitigated triumph, which no-one (bar possibly Sonisphere and Download) could possibly begrudge them tonight. So did Metallica conquer Glastonbury? Do bears shoot in the woods?   


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