Nick Morgan and crew
Review by Nick Morgan
Brixton Academy, London
November 25th 2006
any one hundred rock fans to choose the epitome
of the wild man of modern rock and roll and statistics
prove that ninety-nine will name Lemmy Kilmister,
the Burslem-born front man of “the loudest
band in the world” Motörhead
(the name is a slang description of a heavy speed
user – the umlaut a casual addition to “make
the name seem more menacing”). Bad-boy Lemmy
has done it all – a roadie for Hendrix he
found his way into psycho-space rock-combo Hawkwind,
and sang them into the charts with ‘Silver
machine’ in 1972.
following his arrest for amphetamine possession
in Canada in 1975 he retaliated in typical style
– “It's a terrible thing to be fired,
especially for an offence that everyone else was
guilty of. So I came home and fucked all their old
ladies. Outrageous? No, not at all. I took great
pleasure in it. Eat that, you bastards." He
followed this with the formation of Motörhead
(he’d wanted to call the band ‘Bastard’
but was persuaded this might limit radio airplay
time), who gave punk a heavy-metal counterpart and
whose high-speed heavy sound (apparently) "created
speed metal and thrash metal", whatever they
may be. And since their rise to fame and a place
in every music-lover’s consciousness with
1980 hit ‘Ace of spades’, Motörhead,
in their various guises, have never looked back,
never stopped recording, and never stopped touring
(indeed, in addition to Motörhead he’s
now got a new ‘physco-rockabilly’ band,
He’s at number eight in Maxim
magazine’s list of Living Sex Legends.
Wart-faced finger-poking smoke-toking whiskey-throating
Lemmy is every mother’s nightmare.
how can that be? There are more than a few mothers
in the audience at the Brixton Academy, many with
their sons. You see something has happened over
the past few years and remarkable rock-survivor
(quite how he has survived is a mystery both to
Lemmy, his doctors, and the rest of the world) Lemmy
has been transformed, transmuted, and even transmogrified,
from Satanic stereotype to National Treasure. Quite
how I’m not sure. His self-depreciating humour
must have helped.
revelations about his childhood (he and his mother
were deserted by his clergyman father when he was
three months old) have thrown a different light
on his persona. He’s played it up for kids
in adverts for things like Walker’s crisps.
He still loves his mum (she’s one of the two
people in the world who still calls him ‘Ian’).
He’s sixty and shares the same doubts as a
growing part of the population – “I
hadn’t planned to live this long …it’s
weird being old. I don’t feel old. I will
not be old, fuck you”. He’s campaigned
in the Welsh Parliament against drugs (well, heroin
at least). And as the Times told us a few weeks
ago, he even sponsors a hard-up under-10s soccer
team in Lincolnshire, ‘though for their sins
the boys now wear a shirt bearing Motorhead’s
Snaggletooth logo, and run onto the pitch to the
sound of ‘Ace of spades’. Yup –
he’s just an old
if Lemmy is a National Treasure then his black-shirted
audience (am I the only one here not wearing a black
T-shirt?) are almost subject to an English Heritage
conservation order too (even though a good many
of them are German). One in ten are being ‘tagged’
as they come into the theatre for future posterity,
“who knows mate” says one, grimacing
as his ear receives its fifth piercing, “we
could become an endangered species soon”.
And for all their lagers, Jack Daniels and Jägermeister
(it’s on promotion, being handed out in test-tubes
to the punters, apparently it’s very rock
and roll these days, and of course it shares a font
- Lucida Blackletter - and an umlaut, with Motörhead)
the audience are pretty tame, are very solicitous
of the Photographer (offering her a bite of a beef-burger
was a mistake) and don’t seem to deserve the
prodigious police presence they have attracted.
for the music – well it’s loud, but
I’m sure the Bad Seeds at the same venue a
few years ago were louder. And of course the sound
level at gigs like this is closely monitored –
exceed permitted levels and your licence is gone.
But let’s agree it’s a deafening wall
of sound. We’re almost dead centre, just behind
the sound desk and would have a great view but for
the fact that the sound desk enclosure is packed
with engineers, management (whisky lovers may care
to know that Motörhead’s manager is the
spitting image of whisky scribe Michael Jackson)
and celebrities, including Queen’s Brian May,
who brushes past us halfway through the first song,
shielded by his menacing security guards, and proceeds
to place his perm directly in our line of sight.
Nice one Brian.
As befits his National Treasure status Lemmy is
a true journeyman of rock.
stands tall, boots, legs firmly apart, sleeves rolled
up, bass slung low and bellows “We are Motörhead.
We play rock and roll” before the band burst
into “Dr Rock”, or maybe it was “Stay
clean”, or maybe ‘Be my baby’.
To be frank it was a bit hard to tell through that
wall of sound, but normally by about half way through
each song you could persuade yourself that they
were all playing in the same key and same timing,
and that the deep accompanying growl wasn’t
a fractured speaker cabinet but rather Lemmy’s
singing, if that’s the word to use.
it was a mixed set, demonstrating that ‘new’
Motörhead can be just as invigorating as the
‘old’ – Lemmy it seems gets somewhat
frustrated when their more recent work is disregarded.
There’s ‘One night stand’ from
this year’s Kiss of Death, and ‘Killers’
and ‘In the name of tragedy’ from 2004’s
Inferno, in addition to songs like ‘Iron fist’,
and of course ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Snaggletooth’
(the appearance of which in a live set has for reasons
best known to themselves got the Motörhead
bulletin boards humming), and a Thin Lizzy tribute
(that even had Brian May raising his fist in the
air), ‘Rosalie’. In between which Lemmy
and guitarist Phil Campbell chat away affably like
comperes at a church hall fundraiser in their vaguely
Welsh accents, Lemmy’s sounding as if his
false teeth need fixing.
It’s all pretty good fun really. We escape
during the opening bars of final song ‘Overkill’,
manage our way past the menacing plain-clothes policemen
outside (honestly, they’re more frightening
than the fans, but maybe it’s a Brixton thing)
and back to the car for a drive west. I’ve
got Lemmy’s words echoing through my brain,
“I don’t want to live forever”.
Well on the basis of what we’ve seen of Lemmy
tonight that, like Pete Townsend’s “Hope
I die before I get old”, is clearly another
line destined for the trash-can. The old boy’s
here for the long-haul.- Nick Morgan (photographs
by Kate, Maxim)
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