“Who would win in a wrestling match: Lemmy or God?”
In an oft-quoted scene from 1994's Airheads — a movie made during that strange period when Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi could be considered “peers” — Brendan Fraser's character, a hard rocker by the name of “Chazz,” poses this simple question to Harold Ramis. Ramis plays an undercover cop posing as a record executive, and the inquiry is meant as a test.
Who would win? Lemmy — an indelible rock icon, a pioneer of the form, a sneering, hard-drinking, hard-living legend — or God — an omnipotent being, an unstoppable force, a larger-than-life figure worshiped across the entire world.
As anyone who has seen the movie knows, it's actually a trick question.
In recent weeks, Motorhead fans have feared for the frontman's health as his battle with God moves off the silver screen and into real life. Recent show cancellations in Denver, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, as well as shortened sets in Salt Lake City and Austin, had fans fearing he was on the brink. These came on the heels of a recent interview published by The Guardian in which Lemmy revealed that he had switched from his signature Jack Daniels and Coke to orange juice and vodka in an apparent bid to better manage his diabetes. (“Coca-Cola can fuck off,” he told the reporter.) The article also mentions the recent heart problems, the defibrillator, the tour-canceling hematoma, the gastric illness. It describes the rocker as “pale and drawn.” In all, it paints a worrisome picture.
Whispers in the halls before Motorhead's St. Louis performance — the group's first show back since the cancellations — leaned toward the morbid. Attendees were overheard openly wondering if they would watch Lemmy die onstage tonight. The mood was still tense, even as the band took the stage to thunderous applause.
“How are you, St. Louis?” Lemmy asked a crowd that was far more concerned with the inverse.
“We are Motorhead,” he continued, “and we play rock & roll.”
As the band launched into “Damage Case” it became clear the fears were unfounded. Howling into the microphone, Lemmy led the band he founded some 40 years ago with conviction, as though he still has something to prove (he doesn't). Sure, he showed signs of age. He rarely moved from his spot in front of the microphone, owing to his legs, which he has said “are fucked.” His vocal delivery was occasionally a tad off-time. His speaking voice was a little unclear, much as you might expect from a set of vocal chords so loudly put to use for four decades.
But he played, and he played his heart out.
St.Louis!!!! St.Louis St.Louis SAINT LOOOOUUUIIISSSS!!!!!! How LOVELY it was for Motörhead to kick every single one of your asses tonight eh?!!!!!!! (thanks to Victor for the speedy pix!)
When Motorhead performed in Austin, Texas, on September 1, Lemmy cut the show short only two and a half songs into the set. Midway through “Metropolis” he stopped playing his bass and said “I can't do it,” into the microphone. He looked frail and sick, and video of the event shocked fans across the globe.
But just one week later, things were different. “This next song is called Metropolis,” he growled into the mic. As the music swelled, guitarist Phil Campbell walked across the stage, took Lemmy's hand and raised it high in the air. The audience went crazy, and the song went perfectly. The entire set went off without a hitch, encore and all.
“You've been a fucking excellent crowd tonight,” Lemmy said at the end of the set. “We'll play for you anytime.
“Don't forget us,” he added. “We are Motorhead, and we play rock & fucking roll.” The screams from the crowd, in response, were deafening. No one who was there would be forgetting anything.
It makes some sense to have feared for Lemmy's health. After all, every human being that has yet lived has also died, or is at least expected to. But to think that Lemmy Fucking Kilmister might? We were naïve.
Lemmy will go on. He will outlive us all. He will watch the great civilizations of man rise and fall. When the sun explodes and kills all life on earth, Lemmy will bear witness. The ground will crumble beneath his feet and he will float through space, bass guitar in one hand and bottle of Jack in the other (surely he will have this diabetes thing licked in no time). Lemmy will give birth to new worlds, and then destroy them for his own amusement. When he does meet God, he will challenge him, then and there, to a fight.