Heavy-metal superstars perform national anthem before Giants game
SAN FRANCISCO -- You might say that Friday night's crowd at AT&T Park was more amped up than usual. Literally.
The combination of the Giants' Orange Friday promotion and the Los Angeles Dodgers' first appearance of the season here guaranteed that the sellout crowd would be especially motivated. But fans received an extra jolt of electricity from the rock band Metallica, who have become a prominent part of America's sports scene while putting the "heavy" in heavy metal.
This was Metallica Night at the ballpark, and the band and spectators were ready.
Lead vocalist James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett collaborated on a lively instrumental rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which sounded faintly reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix's enduring delivery of the national anthem at Woodstock. Fittingly, the bodies of the guitars Hetfield and Hammett used were black, each decorated with the familiar orange interlocking "SF" logo. The instruments, autographed by Hetfield and Hammett, were later auctioned off at the Giants Community Clubhouse and raised more than $15,000 to be shared by the Giants Community Fund and the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation.
Then drummer Lars Ulrich took center stage to throw the ceremonial first pitch. He toed the rubber and uncorked a blooper pitch for a perfect strike. It just so happened that Ulrich's catcher was Giants closer Sergio Romo, who lists Metallica's "Whenever I May Roam" as his alternate entry music.
Reprising his pregame performance in Game 6 of last year's National League Championship Series, Hetfield then took the microphone to lead a brief "Let's go Giants" cheer before he bellowed, "Play ball!"
The musicians wore Giants jerseys bearing the number 81, reflecting their 1981 inception as a band.
Consistent with the evening's theme, Metallica songs were played between innings on the public-address system, and Giants players were depicted on the video board sporting mocked-up rocker-style long hair and headbands.
The band members seemed at home in the ballpark, as well they should have been. Hetfield said that most of them live in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
"I think we all love this area," Hetfield said. "It's been very embracing to us and our art and the freedom of what we like doing in our music. People like you for you."
"It's an honor to be here at this park," bassist Robert Trujillo said. "It's one of the most beautiful ballparks in the U.S. and probably in the world even. It's incredible. I don't think any seat's a bad seat here."
Moreover, Metallica's "Enter Sandman" has become one of the most popular songs played at sports venues to motivate crowds.
"To have a song that's so relevant to kind of getting the energy going and people fired up, that's really special," Trujillo said. "That doesn't happen. It's really a rush and a thrill to feel you've been part of a body of music that's inspiring [people]. It's really special."
"Enter Sandman" is particularly associated with New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, since it's his entrance music at home games. It doesn't hurt that Rivera is the all-time saves leader who's bound for baseball's Hall of Fame.
"It's been great," Hetfield said of the Rivera-Sandman link. "I love the fact that we inspire some next level of performance, because that does it for us, too. We love playing it and it shows."
Hetfield recalled when the New York Mets' closer was Billy Wagner, who also was serenaded by "Enter Sandman" as he sprinted from the bullpen toward the mound. Said Hetfield, "I remember the battle between the Mets and the Yankees and who has the song and all that. It was kind of cool to be fought over."
Metallica fans don't have to worry that the band will follow Rivera, who has announced that this is his final season, into retirement.
"You don't retire from art, in my opinion," Hetfield said. "Especially being a musician. I don't have to tour nonstop and destroy myself like I have the first 30 years. But being at home, writing, recording, doing local gigs, whatever -- I'll continue to do that. It's a form of expression. You can't turn that off."