Three years after Metallica debuted their new arrangement of “One” with classical pianist Lang Lang at the Grammys, the band teamed once again with the virtuoso at a concert in his native China. The fiery performance, which showed the pianist navigating the thrash tune’s jagged rhythms with ease and playing around Kirk Hammett’s solos, took place at LeSports Center in Beijing on Wednesday.
“Lang Lang has interjected himself into the song in a way I don’t think anyone else has ever done in the course of our career,” Kirk Hammett told Rolling Stone in 2014. “He’s going to be playing major parts of the song. He’s going to be playing through the melody. … We’re keeping all the heavy parts. And it’s going to be really cool and it’s really dynamic.” He also marveled at the way Lang Lang was “weaving in and out” of his solos. “[It’s] amazing for me,” he said, “because I’ve never played with another instrument that’s been able to do that so effortlessly.”
The collaboration originally came about when one of Metallica’s managers visited China and met with a concert promoter who works with the pianist, according to Blabbermouth. He suggested the collaboration when the idea for a Grammy concert came about. “They were such cool people and I had a wonderful time working with them,” Lang Lang told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune after the initial performance. “Now everywhere I go, particularly in America, everyone is talking about it. Even checking into a place, going through customs, people say, ‘Wow, you played really great!'”
Metallica released “One” on their 1988 album … And Justice for All, but the band had hoped to make some approximation of the song on their previous LP. “When we were writing the Master of Puppets album, James [Hetfield] came up with the idea – what it would be like if you were in this situation where you were sort of a living consciousness, like a basket case, where you couldn’t reach out and communicate with anyone around you,” Lars Ulrich once said. “You had no arms, no legs, couldn’t obviously see, hear or speak.” Their managers then turned them onto Dalton Trumbo’s antiwar novel and movie, Johnny Got His Gun, which provided them with the narrative they needed for the song. It went on to become a Top 40 hit and win a Grammy.
Metallica, who last year put out their 10th LP, Hardwired … to Self-Destruct, previously gave “One” a classical spin when they performed it with the San Francisco Symphony in 1999 for what would become their S&M album and video release.