Twenty-five years ago, Metallica played “One” at their very first Grammy Awards. But despite an impassioned performance, they lost the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance trophy to a band whose frontman played a classical music instrument, flute-mongers Jethro Tull. At tonight’s Grammys, they embraced metal’s classicism on that very same song in a unique collaboration with classical pianist Lang Lang.
As fames mounted around the stage, the pianist, dressed in baby blue, opened the song with flurries of discordant notes. In the shadows, guitarist Kirk Hammett skulked in a Lou Reed Transformer shirt waiting to jump in and eventually it all congealed. Frontman James Hetfield played the song’s iconic intro and Lang Lang played some expressive runs. Then, as the frontman sang about feeling disabled in war, Lang Lang stuck to his guns and played emotively along with the melody – then things got heavy. Just before the group was to launch into the track’s jackhammer thrash riff, Lang Lang played classical tills and worked his way down to the lower notes on his piano, readying himself for the death rattle to come. It reached its apex when Hammett played his regular solo and Lang Lang banged out discordant, modern classical motifs. Both Hetfield and Hammett gathered around him, and – with Pharrell Williams’ approval in the audience – the “One” came full circle.
When Rolling Stone spoke to guitarist Kirk Hammett prior to the Grammys, he said he was excited Metallica was able to keep the integrity of the song. “We’re keeping all the heavy parts,” he said. “And it’s going to be really cool and it’s really dynamic.”
Prior to tonight, Metallica have won nine Grammys, but the last time they played the show was in 1992. Lang Lang last played the Grammys in 2008, when he joined Herbie Hancock in a rendition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” That same year, he played the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics and, in 2009, he played the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for President Barack Obama.
The metal band was nominated today for Best Recording Package for the soundtrack release to their movie Metallica: Through the Never, but did not win. Art directors Bruce Duckworth, Sarah Moffat and David Turner of the design company Turner Duckworth created an elaborate Digipak for the release. It featured an outer case with the group’s lightning-like “M” logo die cut on the outside. The inside of the packaging unfolded into a cross, like the ones that rise from the band’s stage in the movie during “Master of Puppets.” Turner Duckworth won the Best Recording Package Grammy in 2009 for Metallica’s Death Magnetic album.
The group is putting out the film in a variety of video formats, including Blu-ray 3-D and a digital release, among others, on Tuesday. A limited edition of the movie comes with an actual piece of “Doris,” the statue of Lady Justice the group detonates in the movie.