Glastonbury Saturday: Metallica

Still got doubts?

Sure. Lee. Not.

Metallica headlined Glastonbury and did exactly what they had to do – pulled it off with a festival-friendly yet thrash-infected set drawing heavily on the Ride/Black albums, and at least one cut from every record bar Load (surprisingly) and St Anger (not at all surprisingly).

So we got Fade, Nothing, One, Sad But True, Roam, Cyanide, Master, Nothing Else Mutters, Unforgotten and tonnes more biggies. Highlights included Memory Remains, its croaking Marianne steamrollered by mass na-na-nana, and Whisky in the Jar … ‘COZ IT’S WHISKY IN THE JAR-O, innit? Those tunes don’t get as much of a look-in these days, now that Metallica have plumped for the Metal more than the Rock in their live outings, and this was the place to revive a couple of those looser jams. Even the too-familiar Enter Sandbags sounded fresh again – every fecker in the field knows it so when that choked intro finally frees the monster hook that broke the band and sold a million (or 30) black albums, the release was huge.

Seek and Destroy brings the show to an end and it’s a show which, for all of its faux controversial (but undeniably fun) talking points, entertained. Striding that stage with total confidence, Metallica grabbed the moment, worked it hard and got a win-win out of it, or so it seemed from the TV. And while there won’t be a metal slot every time – maybe a hard-rock flourish for a year or two? – the time was right and Metallica were definitely the right band to do it. AC/DC next year?

Robert Plant

Ahead of the night’s novelty-value shake-up, however, the man who brought the class and the Glastonbury spirit to Saturday’s Pyramid stage was – as ever – the peerless Robert Plant.

Mining a seam of west African swirl ‘n trance mixed with those deep-set rock and roll sensibilities, Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters put on a show beyond reproach. Dreamland and Mighty Rearranger tracks get aired, as do a couple of newies (check the Perry Farrell-meets-Afro Celt Sound System air of Little Maggie), as do Zep classics – reworked, of course. Black Dog, now in its third incarnation following Plant-Krauss’s spooky two-step swing, is a beguiling prospect as its dusty psychedelia morphs into desert rave. Fresh as the first time you heard it. So is Funny in My Mind, its street-tough rockabilly makeover far removed from Dreamland’s take on it. Superlative stuff.

And this is what sets Plant and his band(s) apart. The explorer, the music fan as music maker, it’s these reworkings that keep the songs not just alive but LIVING – they’re timeless and increasingly formless, shapeshifting their way into whichever space and spirit is called for. Jimmy Page might be the curator of Zeppelin’s material, but Plant’s the one giving it new life in a global sense. In his hands, Zeppelin music becomes the trad arr of the modern day, ready for reinterpretation by whomever.

Which I guess is where Zep and Plant started anyway. Bring on the new Space Shifters record, it’s surely gonna be a bit special.

Metallica v Glastonbury

We’re 48 hours from Metallica’s Glastonbury headliner slot. CANNOT WAIT. It’s like those good old bad old days when you’d scrabble around for hard rock morsels on TOTP or the Chart Show and feel joyously stuffed by even the tiniest scrap of six-string riff action. Glastonbury has a big-time metal headliner for the first time and that has thrust a playful, us-versus-them underdog thing into the festival hype.

How are they gonna play it, though? I reckon they should cast off the speedier stuff they’ve been playing the past few years and show some Glasto-sized balls by turning out a kick-arse crowd-pleasing setlist. Be a festival band. Play the hits, pull a few groovers out of the Load/Reload bag, nail some Battery-like blitz to the masts and do a couple of classic home-crowd covers.

Yep, covers. How could that not work on Saturday night? Play the heritage card and win / kill ‘em all – Sabbath, Motorhead, Queen, Thin Lizzy, they’ve all made it onto Metallica records and any one of them would go down like cold scrumpy in a hundred-degree hell-hole.

As would Free Speech for the Dumb, come to think of it. What an opener THAT would be (thanks to Garage Inc., on the stereo right now, for the reminder). And for a wildcard cover idea, how about a sneaky quid on Smoke on the Water? Not only has it got mass singalong potential for any number of drunks and wasteds in Worthy Farm, but it’s a well-placed nod to Deep Purple’s influence on Metallica’s earliest roots too. Just a thought. What’s your wildcard bet?

Anyway, it’s nearly show time and, whatever happens, Metallica’s appointment has brought a bit of extra fizz to the top-slot debate (though if you want to read a less enthusiastic view, from a metalhead no less, check Dom Lawson’s bummer-mood piece ‘Another half-baked vanity project’ from the Guardian the other week – an astonishingly churlish, self-regarding glob of journalism. Have a look here).

I hope Metallica storm it on Saturday. And if they don’t … well, so fckn WHAT.