With Limp Bizkit having pulled out of Download2003, rumours abound were a major metal act would step in. But who? Thepenultimate week leading to the festival NME announced Metallicawould be appearing on the smaller Scuzz Stage. The festival promotersplaintively denied this the next day. End of story. Or was it?
Was it coincidence the Bay Area metal veterans hadflown into the UK merely days before Download? Was it coincidence that theband announced to perform, ‘Apocalyptica,’ had a mid afternoon 45minute set – a stage length rivaled only by headliners NOFX. Surelyit HAD to be Metallica. Things were twisted when Apocalyptica, a real bandwho plays metal on string instruments, announced via their website theywould be appearing.
Believe the hype or raise a stiff upper lip. That wasthe question for the 40,000 or so punters on Sunday. I along with about12,000 others leaked our way into a tent made for 8,000. Excusing myselfthrough the tide of skin and sweat I could finally see the stage.
Well I’ll be! The biggest motherfuckin’ speaker stacksyou ever gonna fuckin’ see! From top to bottom, left to right, each andevery speaker emblazoned with the Metallica logo. The Lars Ulrichcustomized Tama drumkit anchored at the centre of a welcomingly intimidatingstage setup. Intimidating because the god dam speakers and amps were sodangerously large and close. It was going to be fast and loud, that much weknew. We just had to wait…
After a good fifteen minutes of teasing soundchecking,a demented looking Lars Ulrich bobbled onstage behind his kit. One by onethe rest followed – guitar king Kirk Hammett, new bassist RobTrujilo and beaming frontman James Hetfield. Their welcome wasstaggering – a genuine call to gods for mercy. Blissful fans werecomplementarily treated to an oldies set. Opening with Blackened beforepummeling through No Remorse, Harvester of Sorrow, and the awesome WelcomeHome (Sanitarium).
Metallica were clearly enjoying the occasion, JamesHetfield constantly grinning cheekily. Kirk Hammett baiting the crowd andRob Trujilo humping across the stage with a wide faced grimace-cum-smile.Lars Ulrich looking older and thinner appeared ‘in the zone,’ his tonguehissed at intervals while he lashed at his kit, his eyes blood curdled andvein poppingly strained. Being so close was a surreal feeling. Thesurroundings were relatively intimate for Metallica but despite being an8,000 capacity tent, it felt like an 800 capacity one, in a strange way.
The PA markedly pissed on the Main Stage, whereEvanescence were courting thousands of oblivious ‘would be here’fans.
The final half of this brief hour-long set was evenbetter. High-octane newies Frantic and St Anger was smattered with goldenoldies Sad But True and a violent Master of Puppets. An encore of theclassics Creeping Death and Damage Inc wrapped things up. The set lasted aneternal hour while you watched it in awe, but was over before one knew howto make sense of it all.
When one stopped to it all made sense. No ballads, acurious loophole in songs not played: Enter Sandman…One…Nothing ElseMatters…Fuel…Seek and Destroy…where art thou? But that wasn’t thepoint. Metallica sweetened those lucky enough to be there, and let the restof their UK fans know that they’re back, and that there is still life in theold battery.