Proving that no one does Metallica better than Metallica, acts such as Sum 41, Limp Bizkit, Korn and Avril Lavigne gamely covered songs by the hard rock group at MTV’s annual tribute concert on Saturday while fans impatiently awaited a set by the honorees themselves.
Playing in public for the first time with new bassist Rob Trujillo, Metallica ran through a fast and furious medley of songs, including “Creeping Death” and “Sanitarium,” before unveiling the speed-metal song “Frantic” from their upcoming album, “St. Anger.”
Still a little rusty from a long layoff, Metallica performed “Frantic” twice after deciding that the first version was not to their liking. The medley also got off to a false start.
The performance capped a taping that lasted almost three hours in a soundstage at Universal Studios. MTV will air its third annual “mtvICON” event on Tuesday at 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT. Fans in the audience included Kelly Osbourne, “American Idol” singer Ryan Starr, model Rachel Hunter and record producer Rick Rubin.
The tribute kicked off with a Sum 41 medley that included “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “Enter Sandman.” The four members of Metallica then appeared on stage and walked through the excited crowd to their front-row seats on the bleachers at the end of the cavernous venue.
The band’s two-decade career was documented between performances on two giant video screens. The film wasted no time probing Metallica’s troubled past, beginning with an examination of bassist Jason Newsted’s exit and singer James Hetfield’s rehab stint. On the other hand, the respective departure and death of original members Dave Mustaine and Cliff Burton were barely acknowledged.
Aaron Lewis and Mike Mushok of Staind performed a brief version of “Nothing Else Matters” on acoustic guitar, later returning to repeat the song for technical reasons.
Lavigne, barely moving from her mike stand, sang “Fuel” with her considerably more energetic band. Drummer Lars Ulrich visibly enjoyed the version; Trujillo and guitarist Kirk Hammett seemed less enthused.
Rapper Snoop Dogg thrilled fans with a karaoke version of “Sad But True,” while Korn earned a standing ovation from Metallica with their severely truncated take on “One.”
Limp Bizkit, one-time targets of hatred from Ulrich who previously described the band as the Motley Crue of the ’90s, played a rap metal version of “Sanitarium.”
Presenters included Rob Zombie, Lisa Marie Presley, Travis Barker from Blink 182, actress Shannon Elizabeth, comedian Jim Breuer and Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. Michelle Branch introduced four U.S. Marines just back from the Iraqi war, who got a loud cheers. On the other hand, anti-war activist Sean Penn received scattered boos when he introduced Metallica.
Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, leaders of last year’s honorees Aerosmith, were scheduled to appear but did not turn up. Other no-shows included guitarist Slash and actress Lara Flynn Boyle.