Motörhead at First Avenue, 2/15/11
"We are Motörhead and we play rock 'n roll!" explained frontman and living legend Lemmy Kilmister at the beginning of their set on Tuesday night, as if the crowd had never heard of them before. And with that they broke into "Motorhead," giving the beyond sold-out Mainroom just a mere taste of what the rest of the night would be like.
They followed with "Get Back In Line" from their new The Wörld Is Yours -- and you might think it was intentional following up their very first single with the latest, because it proved a point: Motörhead have not changed all that much since 1977, mostly because it seems stupid to try to fix what's not broken. Heavy metal's popularity has waxed, waned and seen a second coming on their watch, but it all seems of little consequence to the band who's only rule has been to turn the volume up and play as hard as they can. There's never been any spandex, never any hairspray or makeup; just the riffs, the signature gruff vocals and the ear-splitting volume. It's all they need; maybe all that anyone has ever needed. The songs are simple and brutal, they cater to our basest instincts, but they're also astonishingly beautiful in their stark spareness.
There was a bit of trouble after "Get Back In Line" as a showgoer threw a beer at the stage; Lemmy shot back with a warning: "We don't like beer being thrown at us. We had a drink before, backstage. If you see anyone else winding up [to throw a beer] clip them quick -- they'll end the show." Not a drop hit the stage for the rest of the night and Motörhead went into overdrive for the remainder of the set. The old songs like "Metropolis" from 1979's Overkill and "I Got Mine" from 1983's Another Perfect Day fit seamlessly with new material like "I Know How To Die" from the new album. The stripped-down nature of the songs can be thanked for that. The songs are all timeless somehow, in a way that is more shocking than it should be. But you can't argue with the power of simplicity; you can't argue proven facts.
As the hour-plus show wore on it seemed that a lot of people were there to hear just one thing: "Ace Of Spades," and really, that was fair. There's was nothing at all that wasn't enjoyable about anything else that Motörhead played during their set; the band was incredibly tight with the right amount of humor to temper the onslaught of jet-engine decibel levels (at one point guitarist Phil Campbell egged the crowd on to shout as loud as we could and declared us the loudest, something that most likely happens in every city), but "Ace Of Spades" transcends the band, transcends metal. It's one of the few things ever created that has become ubiquitous without losing any of it's initial power. "If you like this last one enough, we'll come back and play one more for you," Lemmy advised, and as they roared into the beginning notes it seemed, just for a few seconds, that First Avenue might implode. Or explode. Or both. Live, "Ace Of Spades" takes on different aura and really it's quite a sight to behold.
There was never any question there would be an encore, and Motörhead gave us "Overkill" as it's final word. They played the outro three or four times as the crowd was going absolutely insane, cheering louder each time they started it up again. As smoke billowed out from somewhere on the drum riser and dissipated into the crowd, Lemmy used his bass like a gun, pretending to shoot all of us, which really was unnecessary at that point -- he and the band already had. They pitched the drum sticks and guitar picks into the crowd and stalked off with a deafening wall of feedback as their backing music, leaving as noisily as they arrived and leaving none of us the same.
Critic's Bias: I have waited to see this band in a live setting for roughly 20 years.
The Crowd: Tons of people who weren't alive when Motörhead's debut album came out and far more women than I expected.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Holy shit, this is so fucking loud!" by nearly everyone I spoke to or could hear in passing.
Random Notebook Dump: Mikkey Dee's drum kit puts Alex Van Halen's to shame.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
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