Glas­ton­bury purists rag­ing against Me­tal­lica should grin and bear it

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

Me­tal­lica will open their head­lin­ing slot at the Glas­ton­bury fes­ti­val in two weeks’ time with a cover of Oa­sis’s Won­der­wall. It’s a neat move, repli­cat­ing Jay-Z’s use of the song as his opener six years ago fol­low­ing crit­i­cism by Noel Gal­lagher that hip-hop mu­sic had no place at Glas­ton­bury.

Just as Jay-Z up­set tra­di­tion­al­ists who – even at a sup­posed coun­ter­cul­tural event – wanted to re­serve the big head­line slots for “nor­mal” rock bands, Me­tal­lica’s book­ing has at­tracted crit­i­cism by fig­ures such as Jarvis Cocker and Arc­tic Mon­key’s Alex Turner. Turner thinks the book­ing “does not add up” and that Glas­ton­bury isn’t the right fes­ti­val venue for them. Cocker fears Me­tal­lica are a “bit too abra­sive” for a Glas­ton­bury au­di­ence.

There’s a good rea­son why mu­si­cians should just shut up and play and never pass com­ment on any­thing in pub­lic. Per­son­ally, I think Me­tal­lica should be horse-whipped live on Sky News for once try­ing to sue their own fans (dur­ing the Nap­ster wars) but that has noth­ing to do with their el­i­gi­bil­ity to play at Glas­ton­bury.

Turner is daft to sug­gest the fes­ti­val is not the right place for them to per­form. I wouldn’t cross the road to see Me­tal­lica play, but they can put on an im­pres­sive and spec­tac­u­lar live show – which is what is re­quired for a peak slot at Glas­ton­bury.

As for Cocker – who sounds more like an Aldi ver­sion of Mor­ris­sey as time goes on – Me­tal­lica have built their ca­reer on be­ing abra­sive. At 10pm on a fes­ti­val Satur­day night people, are not ex­actly look­ing for an acous­tic singer-song­writer.

But odder still than Noel Gal­lagher, Turner and Cocker – who would all view them­selves as cool rock n’roll types – com­ing across as Ukip-style lit­tle Eng­lan­ders with a nasty streak of mu­si­cal fun­da­men­tal­ism is the far big­ger at­tempt to still re­move Me­tal­lica from Glas­ton­bury.

An­i­mal rights cam­paign­ers have gath­ered thou­sands of sig­na­tures call­ing for the band’s re­moval from the bill due to front­man James Het­field nar­rat­ing a TV se­ries about bear hunters. By bear hunters, we’re talk­ing about de­spi­ca­ble people who shoot bears in their nat­u­ral habi­tat for no rea­son other than their own twisted plea­sure in killing an­i­mals. Het­field is also a mem­ber of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion in the US.

What­ever about the mu­sic, Glas­ton­bury has a “peace and love” tra­di­tion and is a char­i­ta­ble af­fair that raises money for en­vi­ron­men­tal causes and aid re­lief in the de­vel­op­ing world. And be­cause the fes­ti­val is now so ven­er­ated, se­ri­ous ques­tions are be­ing asked about the bear-hunt­ing TV show.

It places or­gan­is­ers Michael and Emily Eavis in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion. If Me­tal­lica play, cam­paign­ers have the right to make a pub­lic protest dur­ing their set live on TV; if Me­tal­lica are pulled, then a whole new set of eth­i­cal guide­lines will have to be put into place. And nar­rat­ing a TV show about bear hunt­ing may not be the worst thing any past head­lin­ers of the fes­ti­val could be ac­cused of.

bboyd@irish­times.com

This big: James Het­field

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