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Concert Reviews:
Metallica surprise among many musical highlights on first day of Orion festival
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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DETROIT -- Orion Music + More is Metallica's baby. So it should come as no surprise the sponsoring band was responsible for the biggest musical moment on day one of the festival's second year on Saturday, June 8, on Belle Isle.

And that's not taking a thing away from the other bands that played on Orion's five stages during the day -- especially the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who closed Saturday's show.

Besides a move from Atlantic City to Motor City, the other big news when this year's Orion was announced was that Metallica would be playing just one of the nights rather than the two it played last year, bringing in the Chili Peppers as the festival's other headliners. But on Saturday the headbanging quartet stepped into the slot billed as the mysterious -- and non-existent -- Dehaan, celebrating the 30th anniversary of it's debut album, "Kill 'em All," by playing the 10-song set in its entirety.

Few picked up on the clever bait-and-switch before Saturday afternoon, when rumors about a Metallica performance on the Damage Inc. stage began to spread (the Dehaan name references actor Dane DeHaan. star of the forthcoming 3D movie "Metallica Into the Never"). Frontman James Hetfield -- who had sent out an Instagram with a picture of the stage and the message "can't wait to see Dehaan, my new favorite band," even introduced Dehaan as being "from Baltimore. Nobody knows anything about them but us" before his bandmates joined him.

Fans streamed from all over the Orion grounds to pack the area in front of the smaller stage as Metallica charged through the album's 10 songs, with bassist Robert Trujillo ably handling the late Cliff Burton's showpiece "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" and less-played tracks such as "Phantom Lord" and "Jump in the Fire" greeted like long-lost friends.

Hetfield stayed with the gag as the set came to an end, announcing before "Metal Militia" "this is the last one for Dehaan" but subsequently thanking fans "for putting up with us and all our surprises," joking that 1997's "Reload" was "next up."

Hetfield also showed up during the day at the car and motorcycle show he helps curate, meeting fans and posting for pictures. He and Trujillo also introduced several of the day's bands, including Detroit-based Battlecross. And Trujillo reunited with his previous band, the all-star Infectious Grooves -- which included Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins and Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin -- for a slamming set of funky and hard rock on the Fuel stage that revisited favorites such as "These Freaks Are Here to Party," "Turtle Wax (Funkaholics Anonymous)", "You Lie...And Yo Breath Stank," "Monster Skank" and a version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," as well as a bit of Journey's "Lights" sung by the group's alligator-headed mascot Sarsippius.

The Infectious set was a perfect lead-in to the Chili Peppers' funk 'n' roll, a 17-song, hour-and-45 minute Orion main stage performance loaded with hits -- particularly from the OOs, including "Dani California," "Scar Tissue," "Can't Stop," "Californication," "Snow (Hey Oh)," "By the Way" and "Around the World." A frenetic rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" offered some Motown props, as did drummer Chad Smith, a Bloomfield Hills Lahser High School graduate who, at the end of the show, proudly pointed to the olde English D tattoo on his left bicep and the Red Wings logo on the back of his red jumpsuit, telling fans "we love playing here. Thanks for being cool."

Battlecross played a furious set in the Frantic tent, debuting several songs from its forthcoming sophomore album "War of Will" and also paying tribute to Slayer with "War Ensemble." The babyfaced members of The Orwells held their own on the Damage Inc. stage with The Bronx raging across the way on the main stage, while Dropkick Murphys and Rise Against played rousing sets, though the former's was neutered a bit once Metallica launched its surprise. And Flag, comprised of former members of the legendary Black Flag -- including Keith Morris and Dez Cadena, whose T-shirt bore the face of Detroit-born shock rocker Alice Cooper -- proved punk rock wasn't just for the young, blitzing through material such as "Nervous Breakdown," "My War" and "TV Party." Cadena also dedicated one of the group's songs to Chili Pepper bassist Flea, showing that Orion was as interconnected as it was eclectic.

And in the Sanitarium dance tent, Bassnectar, Dillon Francis, Borgore, Dirtyphonics and Matt Clarke kept things moving with loud, savage beats and opulent light shows that kept Orionites dancing even in the broad daylight.

The music was the greatest triumph on a mostly winning day for Orion, which benefited from beautiful weather and a buoyant spirit from a crowd that came from all over the world, including countries such as Poland, Belgium, Dubai and Mexico. Lines were long all day at the Metallica Museum and guitarist Kirk Hammett's Kirk's Crypt horror memorabilia exhibit, and the Neverless Nooks' Globe of Death motorcycle stunt show had enthusiastic crowds at each of its shows. The only glitches were long lines at the Cobo Center ticket counter -- which Orion officials apologized for via tweet and promised to rectify for Sunday -- and a chaotic shuttle system leaving the island, though there were certainly plenty of buses to ferry fans back to Cobo.

Orion continues Sunday, June 9. Gates open at noon; music runs from 2-10 p.m., with Metallica slated to go on at 8 p.m. Tickets are $95. Visit www.orionmusicmore for information.

(Oakland Press staff writer Ryan Felton contributed to this report.)

Web Site: www.orionmusicandmore.com

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