Metallica at 2014 Grammy Awards


There is just an hour to go before Metallica are due to go on stage at the 2014 Grammy Awards. In their private backstage room. Kirk is watching a surfing vid on his iPad, James is reading a book on hotrods and Rob is warming his fingers up on his Bass. 

The plan is to play the crowd favourite One, as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of their first performance of the heavy track back in 1989. Back then, it was a masterpeice of heavy fresh off the back of their And Justice of All album, that night it was nominated the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.

Anyway, I digress.. all of a sudden an excited Lars Ulrich burst into the room, frothing at the mouth and talking like an ADHD kid who just took a line of coke; ‘Hey guys, like, I’ve just been hanging outside and, wow, Lang Lang was there and we were talking about his piano and he said he loves metal and he’s totally up to jam in with us on stage tonight! It’s gonna be SO cool. Like, totally how we always should have done it.’ 

Kirk nervously puts down his iPad. ‘Oh man, I dunno Lars..  we did that whole orchestra thing and then the Lou Reed thing recently.. and people didn’t really like our movie.. I think we should just smash it out like we used to, that’s what the fans want. What do you think Rob?’

Rob glances around silently, he kind of nods.. it’s obvious what he’s thinking. Like, Kirk, he desperately wants to smash it out but he can’t stick his neck out too far... the thought of ending up a nobody like Jason Newsted, he keeps his opinions to himself. Rob and Kirk both look to James..

If there was ever one person on earth who could keep Lars in check, it’s James Hetfield. Once he held the Metallica reins tightly in one angry fist, the other always close to Lar’s neck to shut him up. He could hold Lars up in one hand, whiskey fumes from his grizzly face would dampen even the worst ideas from Planet Ulrich. 

But, those days are long past. The older, sober albeit happier Hetfield just doesn’t have the anger to counter Lar’s crazy. He looks up over his reading glasses, realizing that a band ‘discussion’ may have taken place and he should take part. ‘Sure Lars, that’s cool.’ He returns to where his finger marked the word on his page. Kirk hangs his head. Lars bounds out of the room gibbering excitedly. 

On stage, it kicks off. Machine guns, check. War images, barbed wire, check. Crowd going wild at the classic guitar intro, check. But wait.. oh no..what’s this? A piano?. oh no.. it not going to even play with the song at all.. no, it plays it’s own plink-plonk tune. It’s like watching a band busking on the street and some Asian kid sets up a keyboard within earshot and starts practicing piano scales.  It sounds like when you drive between regions and get cross play of two radio channels at once.. It’s awful. 

The new breed of non-metal Metallica fans, the type who own a copy of ‘S&M (Metallica & San Francisco Symphony Orchestra)’ but not Master of Puppets - they yell excitedly. Others cringe, realizing it’s another Metallica surprise. They hope it holds together.. but as the song progresses things turn into a mess of random, over-amplified piano keys bouncing out of time with double kicks and symbol crashes. Kirk’s solos start.. he keeps to the shadows as much as possible to hide his own personal embarrassment.

People will say it’s another notch out on the bands expanding belt of extraordinary. Lars will claim it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done and he actually planned the piano to be part of it back in 1989. But for the rest of us, the ones who are finding it harder and harder to be a Metallica fan.. it’s another fail in a long list of fails. 

I wish the ghost of Cliff was there to give Lars a ghost smack in the chops since James can’t do it anymore. 


Jon. Tarr is the creative director at activate design


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