Metallica Shreds National Anthem at NBA Finals

Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett play the Star Spangled Banner at Game 5 of the NBA Finals (Image: NBA)

(WTNH) — “The West Memphis Three were (teenagers) convicted of killing three eight-year-old Cub Scouts, whose bodies were found in an Arkansas creek in 1993….Prosecutors focused on their outcast reputations and dark tastes: They listened to Metallica rec­ords.”
Rolling Stone Magazine
September, 2011

” ‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”
John Huston as Noah Cross in “Chinatown” 1974

Go ahead and add heavy metal bands to Noah Cross’s list.  That’s what I was thinking last night as I watched two members of Metallica play an electric guitar version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Oakland on ABC and News 8.  Metallica is from the Bay Area, and when James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett started shredded those opening notes, huge Marshall amps parked right behind them and not a hint of controversy to the whole enterprise, you knew metal music had been on quite a 20-year journey…all the way from being a satanic influence to mainstream respectability.

As some of you know, I’m a big Metallica fan, and what’s satisfying about this to me is not that they’ve changed to become admired figures, worthy of national anthem performances — they rock as hard as ever even in their 50’s — it’s that they never were a source of evil or demonic messages.  Far from it.  But over time, the misconceptions about their songs that were once even blamed in part for a multiple murder (one in which the convictions were eventually vacated) have been replaced by respect for their talent and their art.  A bunch of Grammys and induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame probably didn’t hurt, either.

It’s funny how some performers have to take this roundabout way to…respectability.  Our News8 web leader, Jesse Gosselin, a fine guitar player in his own right, waited literally decades before his favorite band, Rush, got their due.  Some of the same songs that are now staples of classic rock radio came out in the 1970’s and were pretty much either ridiculed or ignored for years.  Now they’re beloved. The same songs!  I’ll never forget the rather inelegant start of Dave Grohl’s induction speech when the Canadian trio also went into the Rock Hall of Fame: “There’s one mystery that surely eclipses them all: When the f— did Rush become cool?!”

I’m just glad that they finally did, and glad my Metallica boys can deliver a guitar-screaming national anthem with 20-million people watching on TV and not THAT many people batting an eye.  It’s the only time I’ve made devil horns at the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  \m/ \m/   And I’ll bet I wasn’t alone!  Rock on with Game 6…Tuesday night on News 8!

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