As he has with numerous shows around the country this summer, Motörhead singer/bassist /rock & roll god Lemmy Kilmister announced at 8:55 p.m. Tuesday night: "We are Motörhead and we play rock & roll."
The crowd of leather-clad bikers, teenage punks and silvery-haired metalheads -- Motörhead has always attracted a variety of underground denizens -- were shoulder-to-shoulder in the Pageant for the nearly 90-minute set. With word coming Monday that the Misfits were no longer on the tour, it became clear to anyone who was confused that Motörhead was the main attraction.
And at the packed venue, Motörhead put on a show that bands half its age can't match. (FYI: Kilmister is 62 years old.) Younger groups may flail around stage more (one look at the openers Valient Thorr showed this), but Motörhead sets are a hypnotic, head-banging ritual.
Still, the energy and enthusiasm that the kings of dirty rock & roll demonstrated Tuesday night are the biggest part of its legend. With its new material on Tuesday, especially on songs like "Rock Out" (2008) and "In the Name of Tragedy" (2004), Motörhead played with abandon. Kilmister's snarling, growling vocals boomed over the breakneck bass rhythms he hammered out.
At one point, Kilmister mentioned the success of Motorizer, its nineteenth full-length: "We got a new album out. It's called Motorizer. And I'm proud to announce for the first time ever Motörhead are in the Top 100 on the Billboard charts. Here's a song from it if you like..." and the band launched into "Rock Out."
The audience showed Motörhead lots of love during its set. Guitarist Phil Campbell motioned to the crowd often to move up and pump their fists. Between hits from their marital joint, the couple behind me fervently obliged Campbell's calls.
Meanwhile, Lemmy shot looks at the audience – in fact, at one point to a woman scandalously close to showing off her goods from the balcony. While that may seem out-of-place for a venerable venue such as the Pageant, it feels as mandatory as a whiskey shot at a Motörhead show. However, it still doesn't beat the band's performance at Pop's (April 16, 2002 with Morbid Angel) when I saw a woman hoisted onto a man's shoulders, take off her top and, due to a momentary lapse of clarity, throw her shirt at Lemmy. She quickly left the building, probably to get another shirt.
Other highlights included drummer Mikkey Dee's antics behind the set -- from his three-minute-plus drum solo to him throwing out drumsticks into the air (and after each backward toss, grabbing a new one) during "Killed By Death."
Before starting "Rosalie," a Bob Seger (by way of Thin Lizzy) cover song, Kilmister remembered Phil Lynott, who fronted the Irish group and died in 1986. "This is for Phil Lynott, wherever the fuck you went," Kilmister said with love.
At 10 p.m. Lemmy thanked the crowd and the three-piece left the stage -- but predictably, not for long. When they reappeared, Campbell and Dee sat on wooden bar stools with acoustic guitars and Kilmister stood front-and-center as the band went into the acoustic song, "Whorehouse Blues."
As that sing-along concluded, they took their electric guitars back from the envy-garnering road crew and began "Ace of Spades." This Motörhead (and metal, and Guitar Hero) classic received the biggest crowd reaction. At one point I looked to my right to see a man jump feet-first from a table into a pit of moshing bros. Amazing. Then he did it again.
"Don't forget, we are Motörhead and we play rock 'n' fucking roll," Kilmister again told the crowd to raucous shouts and cheers.
The last song of the night was the 5:12 ripper, "Overkill," much of it accompanied by pulsating strobe lights. Then, as the band has done for years, they turned up their amps to just the right ear-splitting level, and Kilmister leaned his bass against the cabinets, creating mind-numbing feedback.
The three band members walked to the center of the stage, put their arms around each other shoulders, nearly did a chorus line kick, and then took a final bow before leaving. Off to the next show.
Set List (with help from commenter Jim):
"Dr Rock" "Stay Clean" "Be My Baby" "Rock Out" "Metropolis" "Over the Top" "One Night Stand" "I Got Mine" "Rosalie" "In the Name of Tragedy" < Drum Solo < "In the Name of Tragedy" "Just 'Cos You Got the Power" "Going to Brazil" "Killed By Death" "Iron Fist"
Encore: "Whorehouse Blues" "Ace of Spades" "Overkill"
-- words and set list by Nick Lucchesi
Reporter’s notebook, by Annie Zaleski:
Bands T-Shirts Besides Motorhead Spotted: Black Flag, Municipal Waste, Misfits, Sovines, Dio (which lead to some tittering among audience members, um), Metallica, the Clash, Ramones, Slayer, Whoppers Taste Good, Buzzcocks, Clutch
Best T-shirts spotted: One with the slogan “Techno Sucks”; one with the cover of the first Psychedelic Furs LP.
Cringe-worthy T-shirt spotted: One for white-power group Skrewdriver
Local bands with members spotted in the crowd: Left Arm, Murder Happens, Bad Folk, Strangulated Beatoffs, the Incurables, Victoria, Holy Python, Head On Collision
Best old slang overheard: Before the show, somebody outside called someone they knew a “gaylord.” I haven’t thought about that word since about 1988.
Best Fashion Oddities: The guy with the American flag doo-rag and tie-dyed shirt, to the guy sporting a helmet (Motorcycle? Not sure). Best Traffic Jam: A bunch of motorcycles, a KSHE truck and Joe Edwards' bright red Chevy Impala, parked all in a row before the gig