Metallica – Jim Marshall Stage (Main Stage) – Saturday 20:45 – 22:45

A huge roar erupts from the crowd as the video screens kick into life and the first few notes of Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ ring out, signalling the imminent arrival of Metallica.

By this point, everyone already knew the band was playing their 1991 self-titled breakthrough album in its entirety backwards, although quite what else we were going to hear was anyone’s guess, so there was genuine excitement to see them open with ‘Hit the Lights’ from their debut album “Kill ‘Em All”. Those lucky enough to have obtained passes to be in The Snakepit (essentially a hole in the middle of the stage for a small number of fan club members to watch the band from) went crazy as the band worked the stage (well, those not behind a drum kit), smiling at the crowd and encouraging them to sing along as loud as possible.

Metallica appeared to be on a mission to play a set that would leave the audience with a very sore neck in the morning, as they followed up with ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘The Four Horsemen.’ Then the kick drum intro of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ started off the familiar chants of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” through the audience, Rob Trujillo rocking out with a whole lot of wah on his bass from atop the huge platform at the back of the stage.

Once Lars Ulrich had finished bashing out the outro, it was time for the UK premier of Metallica performing a song from the “Beyond Magnetic” EP, released just after the bands’ 30th anniversary celebrations. Whilst ‘To Hell and Back’ is not my favourite track on that release, it is still a worthy track and resulted in much more headbanging.

Finally, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for…

A short video played made up of clips from “A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica” (the 2 part documentary the band released in the early 90’s showing the recording of the “Black” album and the subsequent touring of it), none of which featured former bassist Jason Newsted, before the band were back on stage to play ‘The Struggle Within’ as the excitement of the crowd hit fever pitch.

After this, the band worked through the album track by track (albeit backwards). James Hetfield perhaps took his audience participation a bit too far during the middle 8 of ‘Enter Sandman,’ as everyone who’s there can attest to – many people now wander around simply shouting “METALLEEECURR… FAMEHLEE…”, which if you don’t speak Hetfield is the new impression sweeping the UK metal community of James encouraging the crowd to repeat the words “Metallica – Donington– Metallica – Family” over and over, however, it was a nice touch to have the call and response of the “Now I lay me down to sleep” section of the song, instead of the usual backing tape.

The main section of the set over, Metallica returned for an encore of ‘Battery’ and ‘One,’ complete with new laser light show, before deciding to completely ignore the curfew (“We’ve got one more, so we’re going to play it!”) and ending the night with ‘Seek and Destroy,’ dropping Metallica beach balls from the top of the stage.

There is no doubt that Metallica are having some sort of second wind, having played at the top of their game in the first half of the 90’s, but then seeming to wane until around the time “Death Magnetic” came out and they once again became a live force to be reckoned with.

However, can we stop letting Lars do drum solos?

Metallica Download 2012 setlist:

Hit The Lights
Master Of Puppets
The Four Horsemen
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Hell and Back
The Struggle Within
My Friend Of Misery
The God That Failed
Of Wolf and Man
Nothing Else Matters
Through The Never
Don’t Tread On Me
Wherever I May Roam
The Unforgiven
Holier Than Thou
Sad But True
Enter Sandman
Battery
One
Seek & Destroy

Photograph by Mark Latham Photography