When conducting a postmortem on a Metallica set, it’s all about the outliers. It’s a given that they will perform “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Master of Puppets,” “Enter Sandman” and so forth, often in the same sequence. So for a band with such a dedicated fan base that combs over setlists nightly, the attention often goes immediately to the rarities, and Metallica’s headlining set on the final night of Orion Music + More produced a handful.
After delivering a complete Kill ‘Em All set the previous day, dragging out “Phantom Lord” again wouldn’t have seemed quite as special, so the band looked to relatively more recent years for the deep cuts. The most obscure song of the evening was the 1997 track “Carpe Diem Baby,” a slowly creeping track from Reload that had only been performed once before and was likely not at the top of many lists of dream songs, but acquitted itself well enough live, despite the audience’s general unfamiliarity with it. James Hetfield acknowledged the riskiness of the choice by declaring, “Now you’ve had it live, whether you liked it or not.” The Napster feud-initiating “I Disappear” was better received, but it was when the band locked into the careening second half of “The Day that Never Comes” from Death Magnetic that it looked like they were having the most fun.
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Metallica gave a nod to local hero Bob Seger with its cover of “Turn the Page,” which begged the question of what else Bob had to do instead of showing up to sing the song himself. And unlike last year, they actually performed the titular song of the Orion Festival, which was a somewhat ballsy move, inserting a lengthy, two-part instrumental in the middle of a mostly otherwise hits-packed set.
Notably missing from the show-opening “Blackened” was the pyrotechnic overload that typically accompanies the song, and the lack of special effects was nearly jarring in their absence for nearly a dozen songs until abundant fireworks, lasers and plumes of flame finally accompanied “One” and “Battery.” Musically, the band was on point throughout the night, anchored by James Hetfield’s impeccable rhythm guitar playing, particularly on the lengthy and infrequently-performed Master of Puppets cut “Disposable Heroes.”
The second-largest audience was held by the Deftones, who delivered a punishingly loud set that covered the majority of the band’s albums, from its 1995 debut to last year’s Koi No Yokan. Chino Moreno shredded his vocal cords on the Grammy-winning “Elite” from 2000’s White Pony, while also delving into more gentle, melodic territory on one of the new songs, the nearly seven-minute “Rosemary.” Before the Deftones set, Moreno pondered the parallels between his band and Metallica over the last 10 years.
“I’ve watched them become more of a solid band,” he said, referencing the time passed since the two shared a bill on the 2003 Summer Sanitarium tour. “I know we were a fucking wreck right then, too. When Metallica was worst was when they were uninspired, and you could kind of tell. I think we went through that stage for a few years and maybe a couple of records, but I feel like we got it back pretty much after [late Deftones bassist] Chi [Cheng]’s accident, that shook us up. I don’t know what shook up Metallica, but it seems like they got their shit together.”
Other Sunday highlights included the elaborate costuming of three-piece dubstep group Destroid, which wore full-body outfits covered in LEDs that called to mind the cinematic image of the faceless police force of a dystopian cyberpunk future. The EDM tent did bustling business throughout the weekend, as shirtless metalheads with full-chest Slipknot tattoos happily danced alongside the club kids into noisy oblivion. Vista Chino, half of stoner rock legends Kyuss, brought the heavy grooves of the high desert to Detroit with a strong set of classic material. New Jersey’s Dillinger Escape Plan, who on any given night are the most dangerous band to take the stage anywhere, were reduced to a more subdued four-piece following a hand injury to guitarist and band founder Ben Weinman, who watched the set from a chair onstage and gave his band scores on every song.
Now Metallica is left to count the beans and decide whether Belle Isle is a suitable location to permanently host the Orion Fest. The festival added a fifth stage this year, and their proximity to one another led to sound bleeding over between stages. On the upside, the school bus shuttle system between the island and a downtown Detroit convention center seemed to run more smoothly on Sunday following a rocky first day. But based on the number of attendees wearing shirts from last year’s Atlantic City-hosted event, the diehards will follow Metallica wherever they decide to plant their festival.