–Motorhead Concert Review: Grand Rapids, Mich. 2-22-11

–MOTÖRHEAD: w/s/g Clutch and Valient Thorr, The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI. Tuesday, February 22, 2011:

Their new album may be entitled The World is Yours, but after witnessing Motörhead’s live devastation of The Orbit Room on Tuesday night, the world clearly is theirs. These British pioneers of their indefinable amalgamation of punk rock and speed metal have always done their own thing, their own way, and their diehard fans wouldn’t want it any other way. Like a fine aged wine, or AC/DC, Lord Lemmy Kilmister and co. still deliver their inimitable brand of rock and roll the same way they always have: loud and fast, and louder and faster.

Following a brief dinner detour at the Cantina Mexican Restaurant off the 28th Street business district, my brother Jeff and I arrived at The Orbit Room nightclub shortly before doors were to open at 6:30 p.m. We have witnessed many a great metal show on these somewhat hallowed grounds over the past 11 years: Halford, Dio/Malmsteen/Doro, Megadeth/Iced Earth, Trivium, In Flames, Arch Enemy, HellYeah, Megadeth again, Opeth, Black Label Society etc. So The Orbit Room has grown to be a comfortable hometown venue, even if the room is bass heavy and the sound can be hit-or-miss depending on the night and sound man. Given the typically-frigid West Michigan temps in the low ‘20s, we decided to wait it out in Jeff’s temporary vehicle (his rental Chevy HHR, or Horseshit Herbert River, as it has been dubbed) until the line started moving inside. Once we got in the lobby, it didn’t take us long to purchase our Motörhead t-shirts and head into the concert hall. Even though it was early, it was already apparent that it would be a packed house tonight, with the spacious balcony open for business as well.

I won’t waste much space describing the opening acts, but I’ll try to summarize their performances the best I can. Valient Thorr was up first, and they were a curious act from the onset. This heavily-bearded quintet looked like ZZ top in denim vests, either that or back-hills moonshiners from Tennessee, apart from the younger affro-donning bass player, who was bouncing around the stage while almost exclusively playing in the middle range of the fretboard. I’d interpret VT’s sound as a brisk heavy rock that sounds influenced by some of the more up-tempo New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, including lots of riff changes and some nice harmonized guitar solos. Valient Thorr’s vibe seemed more upbeat and party-hardy than heavy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it would be easier to get into their shows if one already had heard their albums, but live it seemed like most of their songs consisted of a hodge podge of riffs thrown together without enough of a coherent structure to make them feel like real “songs.” Still, it wasn’t a bad warm-up for the night.

I do not like Clutch at all, and neither does Jeff. So after 2-3 songs we made our way to the lobby to use the restroom and wait it out with the rest of the disinterested Motörheadbangers. As a caveat, however, Clutch was very popular this night, and many members of the audience could be seen dancing/bopping along to their tunes and singing along to their lyrics. So what do I know? What sounds like utter sanity-draining boredom to one can be like Beethoven’s Ninth to another.

Finally, after squirming our way back into the hall and finding a great spot close to center stage and just five or six rows back, the lights dimmed to the sound of the crowd cheering but no recorded intro or other such bells and whistles. There was just a brief rumble of bass guitar, and Lemmy and the boys quietly took to the stage, Lemmy wearing his trademark all-black getup with cowboy hat as if he were an outlaw straight out of a Sergio Leone western. Exuding class and poise as one of the most important elder statesmen of rock, Lemmy calmly uttered into the mic: “We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll.” Then followed the most ungodly, brutally amazing, primordial wall of a distorted bass sound these ears have ever heard, and the mega-POWER trio launched into “We Are Motörhead.” To quote another godfather, Sir. Ozzy, “let the madness begin…”

As expected, Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mickey Dee delivered their infectious brand of unbelievably fast and loud rock and roll, well, unbelievably fast and loud. Putting much younger acts to shame, after the early classic “Stay Clean,” Lemmy asked the audience, “raise one arm if you want us to play louder. Okay, that looks pretty unanimous.” Motörhead’s performance was a devastating onslaught of heavy and powerful music that still can’t be easily pigeonholed or labeled. Still, the youth and elders alike formed some mighty pits and moshed throughout the show, thrash metal or not. Lemmy’s music inspires fans of all ages to blow of steam and safely sow their aggressive oats, and that they did. Every song, whether it was from the their last few releases or from their first three albums, was delivered succinctly and precisely like a Panzer tank on the loose at the Marne.

The hits kept coming. Just four songs into it, here came the distorted bass chords to “Metropolis,” and the mid-tempo grinder tore us apart. Then the band shuffled away “Over the Top” before Phil Campbell entranced us for a few minutes with his soulfully shreddy unaccompanied guitar solo. We were all treated to a “One Night Stand,” and other newer tracks followed, which Jeff and I were less familiar with than the old classics. But suddenly the familiar deliberate, grinding bass riff to “The Chase is Better Than the Catch” began, my all-time favorite Motörhead tune. The sonic reverie during this rampage was nothing short of sublime. Then came “In the Name of Tragedy,” before which Lemmy quipped, “This song is dedicated to Mr. William Shakespeare. Yeah, who reads that shit anyway?” followed a masterfully hypnotic drum solo by Mr. Dee, which kept the pit going and some lovely young ladies dancing away ecstatically. Speaking of lovely young ladies, the band showcased a beautiful tattooed brunette, who also happened to breathe and eat fire, during “Killed By Death.” She mesmerized the crowd and highlighted the tune by spitting bursts of flame rhythmically during the chorus and steadily throughout the rest of the track. The talented young woman appeared again during “Ace of Spades,” this time as a dancer as the pits swelled and swarmed before the orange glow reflected through the smoke onstage. Lemmy and the band looked just like they did in the old music video from the ‘80s, and they never sounded so loud and vibrant.

Finally, after leaving the stage and returning for the obligatory encore, Lemmy and the Motörhead boys blasted their way through an extended version of “Overkill,” replete with strobe lights aplenty, which still did not detract the moshers from wreaking their havoc. When the band finally left the stage and said good night and, “Remember, we play rock and roll,” (as opposed to “metal” or other such meaningless label nonsense) it seemed all too short, even though we knew it really wasn’t. Let’s just hope this rumored “final” tour was just that: a rumor. And Motörhead? They’re nothing but world class.–Jonathan Kollnot

–Approximate setlist: 1.) We Are Motörhead 2.) Stay Clean 3.) Get Back in Line 4.) Metropolis 5.) Over The Top 6.) One Night Stand 7.) Rock Out 8.) Guitar Solo 9.) The Thousand Names of God 10.) I Got Mine 11.) I Know How to Die 12.) The Chase is Better Than the Catch 13.) In the Name of Tragedy/Drum Solo 14.) Just ‘Cos You Got the Power 15.) Going to Brazil 16.) Killed By Death 17.) Ace of Spades. Encore: Overkill.

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on February 24, 2011.

2 Responses to “–Motorhead Concert Review: Grand Rapids, Mich. 2-22-11”

  1. If you wanted a real intimate time with Lemmy you should have been at the Rocker on Plainfield… Incredible…

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