Bonnaroo: Metallica Are Awesome At Ther Instruments, Being Photographed

Every festival has that band that becomes small talk fodder fest wide, the easy ice breaker, the default conversational touchstone. Last year’s Lolla it was Pearl Jam. Last year’s Bonnaroo it was the Police. And last night, it was Metallica. I was talking to Whitney before James, Lars, Kirk, and the Living Action Figure Bassist Guy hit the stage about how “Master Of Puppets” was the soundtrack to every one of her old darts league matches (not the album, the song — on a loop). Aziz told me he used to download Ride The Lightning tablature to figure his way around the fretboard. I went through a deep crush as a budding guitarist too — I bought the guitar book to every album up ’til the Black Album stuff. Riff city. James and Kirk taught me how not to strum chords. Last night’s set was for all of us, the ones that couldn’t name a song off of St. Elsewhere’s Anger or whatever, but the ones that owned the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP and still get sad about Cliff Burton pulling the shortest straw. For those people, Metallica crushed it last night. Also they give good photo.

&otChris Rock came out to introduce the band (returning the favor Lars and Kirk paid him for his set a few hours earlier on the same stage — that post TK), announcing them as “the baddest motherfucking band on the planet.”

It didn’t even look like Chris really bought it when he said it, but yes they are legend, a well-oiled juggernaut with a killer catalog and chops as sharp as ever. Each note of each passage of “…And Justice For All,” nailed. The energy up front was scary, kids flown in from Argentina to yell for 2 hours straight. But once I was led away from the pit and towards some TV screens, that palpable stage energy was sublimated somehow, and the band’s crack camera crew, whose on-the-fly editing was so precise as to essentially make the live feed a slickly composed concert DVD, managed to make them seem less like a breathing band and more like a glossy metal machine, almost a cartoon of what a World Famous Metal Band should be. That can be a good thing, I guess. I preferred the stage version. Can’t blame the editing crew though … they look pretty great.

No surprise to anyone that’s been on Stereogum the past few weeks, they desperately want you old fans to love them again. This set was one big overture to the diehards: The first three songs were from RTL. They played Kill ‘Em All’s “No Remorse” and “Seek And Destroy.” They played their cover of the Misfits’ “Last Caress” from the Garage Days EP. “I’ve got something to say, I raped your mother today” … right, not exactly radio singles. Those were the moments I loved. The performances were ferocious. James’s overreaching crowd coddling banter, not so much. “Metallica loves you!” with a grandfatherly twinkle in his eye (subtext: “please don’t hate us for Napster and making bloggers pull those advance reviews. Forget that stuff, remember the old albums when things were OK? We were a good team, right?”). It’s entirely possible I’m just being a cynical asshole here, except that I’m not. It’s the Metallica Regeneration Love Initiative. Welcome. But if that upset you, lemme make it up with more photos than you need.

First the setlist:
01 “Creeping Death”
02 “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
03 “Ride The Lightning”
04 “Harvester Of Sorrow”
05 “The Unforgiven”
06 “…And Justice For All”
07 “No Remorse”
08 “The Memory Remains”
09 “Fade To Black”
10 “Master Of Puppets”
11 “Whiplash”
12 “Nothing Else Matters”
13 “Sad But True”
14 “One”
15 “Enter Sandman”
16 “Last Caress”
17 “So What”
18 “Seek and Destroy”

Dave, you would have loved it. Now here’s like a hundred photos. Happy scrolling.