Metallica can't do anything normally anymore. The band put out a concert film that was also a sci-fi doom story -- whose soundtrack has been nominated for a Grammy. It played a goddamn headphone concert in Antarctica. And now, Metallica is playing at the Grammy Awards ceremony for the first time in 23 years -- but apparently not as the Metallica we know.
Metallica is performing at the Grammys with Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang. And not to pooh-pooh the thing at all, but we just cannot figure out how "Metallica" -- which means pummeling, titanic riffs -- and "classical pianist" -- which means dynamic agility and tonal subtlety -- will go together. And we aren't alone. Over at the NYT, Allan Kozinn said the performance "promises to be either an inspired pairing or a train wreck in the making."
The Recording Academy released no further information when it announced the performance this morning, so all we can really do is guess what's going to happen. Granted, Metallica has done lots of unusual pairings before: There were the concerts and the subsequent live album with the S.F. Symphony back in 1999. But that was with a huge, thundering symphony orchestra, not a sole classical pianist. There were a number of surprisingly subdued covers on the first disc of Garage, Inc., including a back-porch jam with Blues Traveler's Jon Popper. But that was a blues jam. Of course, there was the Lou Reed (R.I.P.) collabo Lulu, which famously met with outrage and mockery, but actually had its moments. And there have been acoustic sets at Bridge School over the years. But incorporating classical piano into the Metallica assault? How?
Word is that Metallica is kinda-sorta working on a new studio album, so perhaps the Grammys set will be a chance for a major relaunch -- the announcement of a new phrase in the band's career that will somehow include room for an instrument they've never really used before. More likely, however, is that it'll be a one-off stunt like Lang Lang's performance with jazz pianist Herbie Hancock in 2009. We can't imagine how there will be room in classical piano for Metallica, or vice versa -- but we sure are curious to find out on Jan. 26.