By Paul Sandle
PILTON England (Reuters) - Metallica rocked Glastonbury on Saturday night, confounding critics who said heavy metal had no place at Britain's biggest music festival.
After opening with "Creeping Death" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," front man James Hetfield said they were representing "the heavier side of music" at the festival held on a farm in rural southwest England.
Both fans and newcomers to metal enthusiastically welcomed songs like "One" and "Enter Sandman" in the Pyramid Stage performance.
The choice of the U.S. group, which has sold more than 120 million records, for the prestigious Saturday headline slot had been controversial.
Some of the 135,000 festival goers complained that their music did not fit into Glastonbury's hippy ethos. Others said Hetfield's narration of a TV show about bear hunting did not fit the event's environmental culture.
Hetfield answered both counts in the one hour 40 minutes performance. He said all types of music were represented at Glastonbury, "so why not heavy rock."
And a film at the start of the performance took a humorous swipe at the hunting controversy.
It showed a traditional English fox hunt ending with the red-jacketed huntsmen being shot by bears, revealed to be the members of Metallica in costume.
Both the criticism and response echoed 2008 when rapper Jay-Z headlined Glastonbury.
The hip-hop superstar won over the crowd with a blistering performance that was not without humorous touches: he opened by singing Oasis song "Wonderwall," a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to the band's Noel Gallagher who had said rap should not top the bill.
Metallica's performance also impressed many of the merely curious in the crowd.
"I was not a fan, but I might be now," said Helen Langton from Stratford-upon-Avon in the Midlands, adding that they were "brilliant, amazing."
Ian Bates, from Chesterfield, North England, said they cracked it, despite half of the audience not knowing their songs.
"If you are going to have a heavy rock band, they are the ones," he said.
Ending with "Seek and Destroy", Hetfield shouted: "Metallica and Glastonbury, together at last."
He thanked Michael Eavis, the 78-year old founder of the event that started in 1970.
Eavis had defended the bill toppers, telling the BBC earlier this month: "There's no other band in the whole history of the festival that has been so keen to play. They will do the best set of their lives here."
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)