The 10 best moments from the Power Trip festival

Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo and James Hetfield of Metallica perform onstage during the Power Trip music festival
Metallica performing at Power Trip on Sunday.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Power Trip)
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“The question I got for you right now: Do you want heavy?”

That was James Hetfield about halfway through Metallica’s closing set Sunday night at this past weekend’s Power Trip festival — and indeed heavy was what the tens of thousands of fans before him got in the form of a bludgeoning rendition of “Sad But True” that seemed to shake the desert ground.

Held at the Empire Polo Club (where its promoter, Goldenvoice, also puts on the annual Coachella and Stagecoach fests), Power Trip brought together Metallica, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Tool for a kind of harder-and-faster follow-up to 2016’s Desert Trip mega-concert featuring the legends of 1960s rock.

Here are 10 of the show’s most memorable moments:

1. Metallica was in Southern California just weeks ago for a pair of sold-out dates on its M72 tour, whose ring-shaped stage the band adapted to a semicircle at Power Trip. (As a result, Lars Ulrich utilized only two drum kits as opposed to the four he played at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium.) But the presence of so many peers and predecessors — “I got to see my heroes this weekend,” Hetfield told the crowd — appeared to draw out the group’s competitive streak: Its 1-2-3 opening punch of “Whiplash” into “Creeping Death” into “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was as tight and furious as Metallica has sounded in ages.


2. Hetfield tapped into a richly emotional vein in the haunting “Fade to Black,” which he described as a song about suicide — “something we’re not supposed to talk about,” he noted — and which he used as an opportunity to address anyone in the audience who might’ve needed it. “If you’re feeling the darkness, talk to your friends, please,” he said. “Please do it. We need you here.”

Rob Halford of Judas Priest performs onstage.
Rob Halford of Judas Priest performs at Power Trip.
(David Vassalli / For The Times)

3. Among the heroes Hetfield beheld was Judas Priest, which capped its set on Saturday with an unannounced appearance by longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton, who stopped touring with the hugely influential British group in 2018 due to Parkinson’s disease. Here he rejoined his bandmates for “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.”

4. Always a snazzy dresser, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was one of two gentlemen at Power Trip, along with Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, to don a sparkly silver jacket that happily played up the theatrical side of heavy metal and hard rock. (Halford took his off after a few minutes to reveal an equally fetching sequined leather number.) Yet as style icons both men were actually outdone by AC/DC’s Angus Young, who came onstage in his signature schoolboy uniform but eventually lost the jacket and tie and unbuttoned his shirt to let it billow in the desert wind.

AC/DC’s two-hour Power Trip set stacked classic after classic, each delivered at deafening volume and with precisely the right blend of rawness and finesse.

Oct. 8, 2023

5. AC/DC’s performance was its first since 2016, when singer Brian Johnson was forced off the road as a result of hearing loss and was replaced for a stretch of gigs by GNR’s Rose. With Johnson back in the fold — and Young’s nephew Stevie filling in for founding riffmeister Malcolm Young, who died in 2017 — the band’s whole set here was a rowdy delight. But it peaked with a merry run through “Highway to Hell” that made you wonder whether there’s any bad trip AC/DC couldn’t rebrand as a good time.

AC/DC's Angus Young
AC/DC’s Angus Young performing at Power Trip.
(David Vassalli / For The Times)

6. Playing mostly in shadows, Tool did the opposite in a nightmarish set of dense prog-metal that likely terrified anyone who’d taken the wrong drugs before showtime.

7. By far the festival’s chattiest performer, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson introduced “Death of the Celts” with an impromptu history lesson on how “human beings have a streak of being the biggest f—ing a—holes on the planet.”

Guns N’ Roses headlined the first night of this weekend’s Power Trip hard rock festival with a show that lacked spectacle and mayhem.

Oct. 7, 2023

8. Guns N’ Roses played the longest set of the weekend, finishing at 1 a.m. early Saturday morning, yet somehow couldn’t find time to do “Don’t Cry,” its second-best power ballad after “November Rain,” which Rose did sing while seated on a piano bench designed to look like a motorcycle. What made the omission even crazier (in a fun way) was that GNR dedicated four minutes or so to a very sincere cover of “Wichita Lineman,” Jimmy Webb’s classic country-pop tune that was a hit for Glen Campbell in the late ’60s.

Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N' Roses perform onstage
Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Power Trip)

9. Rose also reached back to the classic-rock past for the band’s hit renditions of songs by two Desert Tripsters: Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” which he dedicated to Paul McCartney on the occasion of the song’s turning 50, and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which had a kind of sanctified reggae vibe.

10. Heavy metal and hard rock thrive on instrumental prowess, as Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo demonstrated in a performance of a song they said they’d composed earlier Sunday. (Somewhat sheepishly, Trujillo reported that the song was titled “Funk in the Desert.”) Yet the festival’s most endearing moment arrived maybe 20 minutes later when Hammett flubbed the intricate fingerpicked intro of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” “Sorry, guys,” he told the crowd with a laugh before starting again. “You know, it’s really hot in this f—ing desert.”