Scowling down from the Other Stage, the Pixies are not looking for our love.
Bronzed, bald and bearlike, Black Francis bears a disturbing resemblance to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour nowadays. The latest in the band’s Spinal Tap-style line of replacement bass guitarists, Paz Lenchantin shows Glastonbury she has the skills, but inevitably lacks Kim Deal’s innate mischief and instantly seductive voice. A handful of prosaic garage-punk bone-shakers from the new comeback album “Indie Cindy” also disappoint.
All the same, Pixies have alt-rock artillery to spare. Dystopian bubblegum sci-fi surf-punk classics like “Gouge Away”, “Caribou” and “Wave of Mutilation” retain their forceful, angular, modernist bite. A decade into their reformation, the indie trailblazers who once served as midwives to Nirvana, Radiohead and many others still sound as bracingly alien as ever.
Meanwhile, over on the Pyramid Stage, Metallica begin by curtailing their usual Sergio Leone spaghetti western intro with a specially shot mini-film about fox-hunting that climaxes with the grinning thrash overlords machine-gunning the hunters. This is a sledgehammer satirical comment on the mild controversy over Glastonbury booking a heavy-rock headliner, with naysayers particularly incensed by singer James Hetfield’s love of hunting for bloodsport. All these high-minded critics must be vegetarians, we can only assume.
In reality, of course, Metallica fit the broad audience demographic of a mainstream mega-festival like Glastonbury just as comfortably as Bruce Springsteen or Beyonce. These elder statesmen are pushing against an open door, but their ingratiating underdog act is revealing at least. Behind their devil-horned bombast, they really want West Country hippies and indie kids to love them. Hetfield even makes a vaguely worded speech about saving the planet and staying true to your moral integrity, which could apply equally to a Greenpeace recruitment drive as to a Scientology convention. Metallica cover all bases.
Charm offensive over, Hetfield locks into Nietzschean rock-gladiator mode while Lars Ulrich rockets out of his seat, pinballing all over the drum kit like Keith Moon’s hyperactive Danish cousin. A famously well-oiled touring machine, Metallica crank out their speed-riffing, fist-pumping anthems with pulverising power, all accompanied by IMAX-level visuals. Sure, this is slick shtick with a blockbuster budget, but it works just fine as festival spectacle.
Whatever their critics feared, Metallica do not rip off Glastonbury’s head and drink its still-warm blood. Instead, they curl up at our feet and beg us to tickle their warm furry tummies. Once the sonically extreme fringe of the heavy rock underground, thrash metal is mainstream family entertainment nowadays. But there is a reason for that. And the reason is Metallica.