It would be a stretch to call Metallica cheerful at Voodoo, but playful moments counted. 

Photo of James Hetfield of Metallica by Cherie LeJeune
By Cherie LeJeune

"We're Green Day except taller," Metallica's James Hetfield announced Saturday night at The Voodoo Experience, acknowledging the band that was scheduled to occupy the closing slot up until three weeks ago. The band further referenced Green Day with a quote from "American Idiot" in the encore, and playful moments like that showed another side to Metallica. Yes, it's clear they have fun - particularly drummer Lars Ulrich, who frequently stood up behind his drum kit to pound a floor tom - but when the band's in its default mode, it can be grimly relentless. When Hetfield said, "I hope we made you happy!" at the close of "Enter Sandman" at the end of the set, it was tempting to think he was being ironic.

But he wasn't and he did. The Voodoo set wasn't quite a greatest hits show, but the crowd-pleasers came on a pretty regular basis, starting with "Hit the Lights" and "Master of Puppets." Mid-set, the curious started to drift off, particularly during the proggy instrumental "Orion" - dedicated to former bassist Cliff Burton - and the anguished "One," but most stayed strong, just as the band did. Small mosh pits dotted the crowd, but none that I saw achieved critical, self-sustaining mass.

Metallica's subject matter is power, and it plays out in the words and music. Since that's not a fascination of mine, at a point I drift away, but as Team Milk member Collin McCabe pointed out, they're one of the bands where you saw Voodoo's "Worship the music" slogan play out. That passion for Metallica became evident when Silversun Pickups came onstage to boos from Metallica fans who were mad at anybody for being on the stage other than Metallica. There was a hardcore connection to the band that was inspiring if it wasn't right next to you. 

Elsewhere at Voodoo

- A similar passion was on display at Justice, who made the "worship" idea more literal with the cross from the cover of their debut album lit-up on graphics screen in front of the DJ table. The fans were just as rabid, only they didn't have any obvious issues with Silversun Pickups.

- After seeing Silversun Pickups at Voodoo twice, my Tweet from last night says it: "I understand liking Silversun Pickups, but it's hard to imagine they're anyone's favorite band."

- Silversun Pickups vocalist Brian Aubert has a strange, strange voice. It’s not for everyone, as the Metallica fans around me made loud and clear during the duration of their set. He’s listened to a good amount of Billy Corgan, and that’s obvious. But if you come to terms with the odd, slinky croon, the rest of the band falls right into place. Their sound was spot-on last night at Voodoo, a huge roar of standard, guitar-driven, rock music.  There was even a point halfway through the set where one of the Metallica fans standing next to me said, “Alright, I’ll stop complaining now.” [Cherie LeJeune]

- Dave Stewart set was what I'd imagine a John Oates show must be like. He's a major part of a duo you like, but he's not the one who sang the songs, and the work he's done since hasn't been distinctive, particularly compared to his work with the duo. Saturday, the Eurythmics monents were engaging; the other stuff was pleasant. I assume most locals there were at the show to see the guest spot with the Soul Rebels they assumed would come. It did, first with them adding the horn parts to "Would I Lie to You" with a female singer handling Annie Lennox's vocals, then joining in for "Sweet Dreams (are Made of This)." It became very obvious very quickly that this team-up hadn't been overthought. Stewart's band started the song with the Rebels looking for ways to contribute, then when signalled in, they took the song entirely while the band laid out. At some point, it became clear that nobody knew how to get from the Rebels back to Stewart's band, and he finally had to signal a dead stop from which the song could be rebuilt. In the final moments, the version got hot as the horns broke away from the parts they had been playing an improvised with each other and the rest of the band on the chorus changes.

- Everybody I ran into while walking toward Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds raved over them, and maybe they were right. Me, I heard a slightly unfocused roadhouse band from Brooklyn. Their musical core was R&B with a five-piece horn section and petite, flirty, husky-voiced female lead singer on one side of the stage, and a hyperactive, rock star guitarist and harmonica player on the other. The drummer was a rock drummer, so there wasn't a groove, but there was a lot of energy. I'm curious enough to see them again, but I wasn't convinced.

- Saturday’s Voodoo lineup featured a lot of that New Orleans brass. That’s to be expected from the beloved Treme and Soul Rebels brass bands, but even Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds from Brooklyn, New York, sounded like a brassier Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. One female vocalist, the backings of a rock band, and then add in the horns. Their female vocalist knew how to work her stage, and fed soulful, jazz-driven melodies to an audience that knows the genre well. New Orleans might do it better, but I’ll call it a success. [Cherie LeJeune]

- The walking beer vendors and a couple of official vehicles parked near the Le Carnival Stage for the Fleur de Tease burlesque show. It was fun, but a big part of the fun was Michael Patrick Welch leading the band in a set of well-chosen Prince covers. They're going to do this show one more time at One Eyed Jacks next month.

- Quote from Fleur de Tease: “If you’re a sexy motherfucker go ‘Oooooh,’ but if you’re just a standard issue motherfucker, go ‘Uhhhhh.’” [Cherie LeJeune]

- Debauche turned their set into a rambunctious Russian party, and had a crowd moving and shaking before noon. Coldness is lessened with dancing, and I know a word or two of Russian now because of it. Their set stood out as one that strayed so far from everything else heard at Voodoo, a cultural experience that asked an audience to partake in their naughty bacchanal. Exactly how many songs can they write about sex, anyway? [Cherie LeJeune]

- K’Naan’s set was a dynamic one. Heavier rock-rap moments filled the opening songs of his set, but an intense moment occurred midway through, something an early afternoon audience wasn’t prepared for: K’Naan quieted the band and rapped a cappella into the mic. K’Naan’s talented for rhythm and rap came forward in that moment, and even though its seriousness brought the crowd’s energy to a standstill, it gave a glimpse at the real K’Naan. [Cherie LeJeune]