It just wouldn’t be November without a visit by Motorhead to the Academy, but despite the predictability of the annual event it is testament to their longevity that the venue is once again full to capacity. Even the usual touts that loiter around nearby Bridge Street underground station have nothing left to offer, and those poor souls who had turned up hopefully in their band t-shirts without a brief have resorted to begging for spares.
So just why do the long haired, leather bedecked faithful still turn out in their hordes to pay homage to the legendary heavy metal pioneers 36 years after they first exploded onto the scene? Surely even legendary frontman Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister would admit that they haven’t exactly pushed musical boundaries or experimented with styles over the decades, almost every track on every album bearing an uncanny resemblance to the last.
But perhaps that explains it.
Motorhead are in effect the metal-head equivalent of a comfy old pair of slippers. Slippers that would happily shatter your eardrums, kick your teeth out with steel capped boots and run off with your girlfriend, but comfy nonetheless. Those who buy their albums, released with admirable regularity, and attend their annual tours without fail know exactly what they are paying for, and therefore know that they will never leave disappointed.
What the hardcore following expected, and indeed what they witnessed, was 90 minutes of unadulterated brutality and a level of volume that reinforced Motorhead’s long held and proud reputation as the loudest band in the world. From the second the lights went out and the unsettling bellow of an air raid siren filled the room the tension was palpable, and when the opening strains of ‘Bomber’ rang out bedlam became the order of the day. By the time the last notes of second song ‘Damage Case’ are struck the downstairs standing area is already awash with shirtless torsos and hair swat drenched from some serious head banging.
And this is how the evening progresses, quite simply because Motorhead just do not do subtlety. Even the two new tracks from recent album ‘The World Is Yours’ are received with raucous appreciation, and it soon becomes clear that anyone looking for some form of reprieve will need to step to one side until their breath has been sufficiently restored.
The magnificently sleazy yet mesmeric riff of ‘Metropolis’, coupled with the smoke silhouetted, iconic, figure of Lemmy conjured up exactly the sort of seedy allusions it aims for, while ‘Over The Top’ acts as a signal for anyone inclined to a spot of crowd surfing to venture, you guessed it, over the top.
Despite being arguably the most quotable figure in rock and roll history, Lemmy is a man of few words whilst on stage, preferring instead to let long time ‘Head guitarist Phil Campbell take over the bantering formalities. That said, any time the man himself does open his mouth the clamour from the crows instantly drowns him out anyway. He does however manage to squeeze in his opinion that Glasgow boasts the greatest audiences in the United Kingdom, an oft professed adage from visiting bands but somehow given his straight talking, no nonsense demeanour you get the impression that Mr Kilmister may not merely be brown nosing on this occasion.
He may be eligible to draw his pension these days but Lemmy still torments his trademark Rickenbacker bass with a playing style like no other, rolling out a thunderous rhythm that is more in keeping with a distorted guitar than the usual background rumble. Between songs he retreats to the back of the stage for a rejuvenating swig of Jack Daniels, a bottle of which he purportedly sinks each day. In short, everything about the man typifies the traditional rock and roll lifestyle glorified in the pages of music magazines since the birth of the genre. The only time he relents throughout the evening is when drummer and former Swedish I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here contestant Mikkey Dee takes five minutes to smash the living hell out of his kit in a fist clenching, adrenaline soaked solo spot that climaxes with jets of smoke emitting from either side of the towering drum riser framing a whirlwind of sticks and blonde hair.
An assimilation of both crowd adulation and flawless execution on the part of the band means that every number towards the gig’s conclusion has a classic presence about it. ‘Going To Brazil’ portrays the underlying punk influences that have always been a driving force in the band’s foundations, while ‘Killed By Death’ invites an exuberant, call and response sing along.
The encore begins on a remarkably subdued note, the three piece trading their usual weapons of choice for acoustic guitars and a harmonica to pick through the delightfully bluesy ‘Whorehouse Blues’, but it is the next piece and one of the most famous bass lines of all that truly threatens to blow the roof clean off the old building. ‘Ace Of Spades’ is a genre defining track, a crux at the very heart of rock and roll that has withstood the test of time to be considered a classic. Lemmy has in the past professed his distaste towards the song so often has he played it, but he would never dream of depriving his public by dropping it from the set.
Not done yet, the night ends in a cacophony of strobe lights and flailing limbs with the lacerating drums of ‘Overkill’, Lemmy seemingly reluctant to leave as he urges for two reiterations before finally calling it a day. The house lights up, thousands of battered and bruised devotees stagger off into the night safe in the knowledge their hearing will probably return before their hangover subsides in the morning.
Same time next year?
(Ronnie McCluskey)Just Published: