“You guys like the Beatles?” Metallica frontman James Hetfield asked the audience at a benefit called Acoustic-4-a-Cure. After hearing the crowd’s cheers, he deadpanned, “Uh, I’ve heard of them. This is a beautiful song.” Then, in a rare solo appearance featuring the typically fearsome metal frontman armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, he sang one of the Fab Four’s most tender love songs, “In My Life.” But that doesn’t mean he didn’t find a couple places to growl in between rare falsetto moments and a surprisingly accurate approximation of producer George Martin’s piano solo on the song. On Monday, he had performed the song with his bandmates at the MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit.
But a heartfelt Beatles ballad wasn’t the only surprise of the evening. In addition to playing two Metallica songs on acoustic – “Nothing Else Matters” and “Until It Sleeps” – Hetfield teamed with two of the evening’s other performers, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, for a medley of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” and the American Idiot track “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
The event was spearheaded by Satriani’s Chickenfoot bandmate and former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar, who also performed, and Acoustic-4-a-Cure also featured performances by Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson and Train singer Pat Monahan, among others. Proceeds from the show benefitted the Pediatric Cancer Program at the Bay Area’s UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Metallica are currently in the middle of a series of concerts abroad dubbed “Metallica by Request,” having charged fans with putting together their set list each night. They reserved one slot, however, for their own new song, “Lords of Summer,” a tune drummer Lars Ulrich has said could foreshadow the next Metallica record. As for the status of that album, Ulrich tells Rolling Stone they’re now in the “fourth inning” of songwriting.