Hellfest in paradise: Metallica electrified the metal festival on the night of Sunday to Monday June 27, this flagship group dubbing the French event among the major international meetings of the genre. “You made us good”greeted the leader of the Californian quartet James Hetfield by addressing the public (60,000 people on Sunday evening, the majority of whom came for Metallica).
After a grand finale with Master of Puppetsone of the essentials, the singer and guitarist came on stage, all smiles, to watch the fireworks punctuating the show and an exceptional 15th edition of Hellfest in more ways than one.
Firstly because the Clisson festival – a small town in the middle of the vineyards in the west of France, not far from Nantes – took place this year over two extended weekends.
That is seven days in total, 350 scheduled groups, 420,000 spectators in all, to make people forget two white seasons due to the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. A new format that will not be renewed, assures the boss of the event Ben Barbaud.
Then, because it’s the first time that the Metallica juggernaut has performed at Hellfest. And that the group – more than forty years of existence, members almost sixties – showed that it was still above the fray. The show by veterans Guns N’Roses, who played the day before at Hellfest, seemed disjointed by comparison.
Contrary to Axl Rose, leader of Guns N’Roses, stingy with words with the public, Hetfield, charismatic, maintains the link with the audience. So after the third song, Enter Sandmanjewel of Black Album from 1991 passed into posterity, the singer launches amused: “Okay, we’ve played all our best known songs, what are we going to do?”
But Metallica then rolls out other classics, like the ballad Nothing Else Matters, taken up in chorus by the public, the only quiet piece, occurring halfway through a two-hour show. And Hetfield to ask: “Who sees Metallica for the first time?”. Faced with the clamor in response, he bounces: “So welcome to the family, I hope you have done your homework and know the old albums”.
The chorus sung by the public on Seek & Destroyfrom the first album kill’em all (1983), proves that Metallica songs stand the test of time. “So this is hell?”, still wonders at the microphone Hetfield, in reference to the name of the festival (“Hellfest”, “Festival of hell” in English). And to add: “Nothing to do with hell in there”, pointing his index finger at his temple. The artist has never hidden his inner torments nor the sessions on the couch of the shrink.
The show of the Americans turns out to be intense but with a welcome scenic sobriety with regard to the group which preceded them: the Swedes of Sabaton had for decoration a tank surrounded by bags of sand. Metallica does not sink into one-upmanship and remains on its basics: the art of the solo and the black nails of guitarist Kirk Hammett, the crouching playing of bassist Robert Trujillo or Lars Ulrich, drummer who gets up after a hit, like a boxer after a KO inflicted with his heavy strike.
And, before the musicians arrive on stage, the show always begins with images from the film. The good, the bad and the ugly on the background of its original soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone. In the documentary Ennio (released in cinemas on July 6), signed Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) and devoted to this genius Italian composer, Hetfield also explains that Morricone is a source of inspiration. Proof that Metallica has always seen beyond metal.
This soundtrack excerpt is preceded by an AC/DC track, chosen and released by the band: It’s a Long Way to the Top. “It’s a long way to the top”: But Metallica is well established there.