On a night that honored those who served their country in the United States Military, Metallica showed why they are the biggest heavy metal band in the world. Introduced by metal loving comedian Jack Black as “a favorite of our troops,” and surrounded on stage by servicemen and women, the band’s appearance at The Concert For Valor had the same emotional impact as The Who’s performance at The Concert for New York City following the September 11th attacks. Opening with “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” which sings about the sacrifices made and horrors faced by veterans of war, the song clearly resonated with the many military personal in the crowd. A deafening cheer greeted the intro to the thrash metal epic “Master Of Puppets.” The song is the title track of their landmark 1986 album which featured an illustration of military tombstones attached by strings to a nefarious set of disembodied hands on its cover, a clear allusion to the fact that soldiers die thanks to the machinations of politicians. Singer James Hetfield said “We finally get to play for our heroes” before the band launched into their breakthrough hit “Enter Sandman,” which capped their brief three-song set and ended with chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”
While Metallica may have stolen the show, the competition for headlines and the hearts of the crowd was still a pitched battle. The Rihanna / Eminem tandem performance was nearly as powerful and lit up social media thanks to a flurry of F-Bombs from old Slim Shady. Emerging elegantly clad in black from her self-imposed exile, Riri sounded as if she spent the last year taking vocal lessons, so strong was her voice on the hits “Diamonds”and “Stay.” As she launched into the opening vocal hook of “The Monster,” the crowd bubbled with anticipation for Eminem to appear. With his new album anthology Shady XV on deck and with a brand new controversy on simmer, Em commanded the stage, darting back and forth and spitting verses with the speed of a muscle car. Though the crowd was filled with families, no “f***s” were spared in his delivery, though in fairness, the rapper was merely performing the songs as they were recorded. Coming after the surging finale of “Lose Yourself,” Eminem cried out “D.C., make some motherf***ing noise for yourselves yo!” and no one seemed to mind it one bit. Still, afterwards the easily offended took to the Twitterverse to voice their disapproval of his foul mouthed performance.
Almost as offensive to some was the performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” by the Zac Brown Band with special guests Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. Written during The Vietnam War, though not explicitly against it nor even specifically about it, the song decries those “senators” and “millionaires” that send America’s youth to war but make sure their own children don’t suffer the same fate. It is an entirely appropriate and topical song to play at a concert meant to honor those that have given all in their military service, however right wing pundits and bloggers felt the performance of an “anti-war” song on Veteran’s Day politicized the event and was disrespectful. Both Grohl and Springsteen also performed well received solo acoustic sets at the concert, which was aired on the cable channel HBO. Grohl received a hero’s welcome after saying “It’s an honor to be here in my hometown of Washington D.C.” The concert was estimated to have brought a crowd of 800,000 to D.C.’s National Mall and also featured performances from The Black Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood and Jessie J.