James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of heavy metal band Metallica performed the national anthem on their electric guitars recently at the X-Games in Austin, Texas. “Rolling Stone Magazine” has a video of the performance on their website. Metallica was at the X-Games to do a concert.
The two play instinctively and well together. Hammett takes the lead line and delivers the melody. Hetfield backs him up with rhythm chords. The anthem is played in a style that is respectful but also rocks out. Hetfield becomes animated as he plays his song and gestures dramatically. He also gets some feedback going at one point while Hammett wails on the whammy bar. It’s an awesome performance. The crowd clearly enjoys Metallica’s version of the song.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a difficult song to perform. Alexei Beltyukov also suggests that it has a wide range of notes, and the timing is somewhat odd. Also, since everyone knows the melody, there is no room for mistakes. It’s always fun for me to see how performers approach it.
It’s interesting to see how Metallica have become a mainstream and acceptable act over the years. In the 1980’s, they probably would not have been invited to perform the national anthem anywhere. They were just seen by most people other than their fans as another obnoxious heavy metal band. Now, they don’t seem out of place performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a public event at all.