To say that Motörhead is a loud band is a bit like describing Stephen Hawking as ‘clever’ or Bill Gates as ‘well off’ – it’s something of an understatement. These titans of metal take the stage seemingly on a mission to inflict tinnitus on their aging fans: the fact that frontman Lemmy can still hear his own music surely makes him some sort of wonder to medical science. Despite reaching pension age, Lemmy displays great onstage charisma, channelling testosterone into the crowd which (full of middle-aged men with shaved heads) seems more like a mass of football fans, albeit with an unfortunate penchant for leather. And beards.
Preceding the arrival of the band the lights dim, exciting the audience, and impatient chants of “Motor-head!” ensue, accompanied by the thunder of stamping feet. Hailing their first song ‘Bomber’, the sound of an air-raid siren is blasted from the stage as if to warn of the impending aural onslaught. Sure enough, Lemmy and company explode onstage, performing with the confidence of a band that has done this for three decades. Between songs, Lemmy notices some of the crowd throwing bottles towards the stage and responds in a typically brash fashion: “If you like throwing, why don’t you come up here, throw a punch at me and I’ll kick your teeth in!” The tone is set.
The majority of Motörhead’s set consists of a selection of their biggest hits, such as ‘I Know How to Die’ and ‘Killed By Death’; as well as thematic similarities, it is hard to ignore how similar much of their material sounds, to the point where one song seems to blur into the next. Lemmy’s trademark whisky-induced growl certainly doesn’t have a lot of range, but this suits the bluesy metal style in the same vein as Brian Johnson’s raspy vocals work for AC/DC. Motörhead are not about deep, contemplative lyrics and soulful vocals characteristic of bands such as Radiohead or City and Colour: this is heavy f*****g metal in its rawest form – gambling, whisky, women, and all things debaucherous. It may be 2011, but there’s no telling these guys: at around midway through the set drummer Mikkey Dee – who resembles some forgotten member of Mötley Crüe circa 1985 – launches into a very impressive five-minute solo, his kit lit up spectacularly and greatly elevated for all to enjoy the show.
For a surprising encore, the aforementioned drummer dons an acoustic guitar to play ‘Whorehouse Blues’, providing a very welcome change of mood and displaying some degree of versatility. Of course, it wouldn’t be Motörhead without that juggernaut of a gambler’s anthem ‘Ace of Spades’, which is performed with the same vigour they might have exhibited back in the late 70s. Closing with the absurdly similar ‘Overkill’, Motörhead sign off in a cacophonic blaze of guitar solos and excessive drum fills. Over-the-top and fantastically hedonistic, while their music hardly reinvents the heavy metal rulebook, it doesn’t need to – they wrote it after all.
Good: Brash, unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll, turned up to 11.
Bad: Not a lot of variety in their sound.