Last night in Los Angeles, Metallica performed a rare acoustic set in honor of Ozzy Osbourne at the 10th anniversary MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert for addiction treatment. “Music does care,” singer-guitarist James Hetfield said to the crowd of donors and fans. “It saves my life daily. I’m grateful to music.”
Metallica’s four-song appearance at Club Nokia began with Hetfield stumbling playfully through the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven,” but the band soon dove into the Rare Earth’s 1971 hit “I Just Want to Celebrate,” Hetfield and Kirk Hammett plucking furiously at their acoustic guitars.
“We’re here to celebrate life, man. Are you alive?” asked Hetfield. “It feels good most of the time. Sometimes not as much, but when we get together like this it feels a lot better.”
The MapFund program that has already devoted $10 million to addiction services designed to help musicians get sober, talent manager and MusiCares chair Bill Silva said from stage, joking “and most of them are in this room.” The program includes sober living and safe harbor rooms backstage at concerts.
For Metallica, the performance was also a chance to honor Osbourne, a key influence and friend as he was being celebrated with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award. On the red carpet before the dinner, Hammett told Rolling Stone, “MusicCares is a great organization and they’ve helped out a lot of our friends. And Ozzy Osbourne has done so much for us. This is one small way we can say thank you to him.”
Standing beside him, bassist Robert Trujillo added, “I don’t know if we’d be doing what we do if there wasn’t an Ozzy and a Black Sabbath. Both of us grew up playing those songs and the first time I picked up the bass and started getting into it, I was playing ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Sweet Leaf.’ He’s our brother and this organization has really helped save his life and keep him with us and more powerful than ever.”
Inside, Metallica’s set also included Deep Purple’s forlorn “When a Blind Man Cries,” with a searing Spanish-style solo from Hammett, and a tough but jangly run through the Beatles’ “In My Life.” They closed with a dramatic reading of Osbourne’s “Diary of a Madman,” which came off like a Bertold Brecht song, with overlapping guitars and Hetfield cackling between lyrics.
The night was also in honor of Jeff Greenberg, owner of the Village studios in Los Angeles, who bluesman Keb Mo called “a pioneer in knowing how to put a studio together and making it vibey and cool.”
The benefit’s music began with a set by Beth Hart, joined on drums by Chili Pepper Chad Smith. Before turning up the gospel on Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” Hart said she was deeply moved the first time hearing the song, before realizing it was Osbourne singing.
Osbourne himself closed the event, after being given the award by Joe Walsh. “Are you going to be sitting on your ass all night or are we going to do some rockin’?” Osbourne demanded of the donors. Osbourne’s band began with “I Don’t Know,” with guitarist Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction at his left. The song closed with the singer throwing a full bucket of water into the front rows, hitting some of his own friends and family.
During “Suicide Solution,” Osbourne hopped behind the mic and yelled at the donors to stand and clap above their heads, before turning his attention to the excited fans in the balcony. After Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” Navarro went full Randy Rhoads during his solo on “Crazy Train,” tapping out a speedy flurry of notes up and down the neck.
Slash came to the stage for “Paranoid,” but even then Osbourne glared in disbelief at the crowd in the most expensive seats: “Don’t get too crazy. You might enjoy yourselves.”