Phil Campbell & Lemmy - photo by Michael Sherer
It’s been forty years since a thirty year old Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister started Motörhead in London, England. The band name is a slang term for a user of amphetamine. Many line up changes and fifteen million album sales later, the only constant throughout the four decades is Lemmy being at the helm, and a band that plays nasty, greasy, fast and loud rock and and roll throughout the world. On the serious down side though, Lemmy has been drinking Jack Daniels and Coke and smoking a whole lot of cigarettes for over fifty years, and his health has been declining. Unfortunately, it may spell the end of touring soon.
With this very much in mind, I was determined to make the trek from Manhattan to Jones Beach, Long Island to see them for the first time. I was also keen on catching the opening act, New York City’s own Anthrax. Motörhead’s speed and aggression influenced legions of bands that followed them, Anthrax being one in the early 1980’s. They were in top form here, and are surely proud to be on the bill with their forefathers.
Now let’s get to the headliners. This trio generates a lot of power and aura, and certainly volume. They get right to the point, which Lemmy made clear when he growled his usual statement into his mic at the start, saying: “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n roll.” And did they ever. Tearing into “Bomber,” released in 1979 as the title track from their third record, they were off and running. For ninety minutes the band rocked through a dozen songs spanning their history. I most enjoyed “Lost Woman Blues,” as it was a bluesy, soulful song that sounded great. The more sensitive lyrical content is a change from the most common of the band’s themes, which include thoughtfully written commentary about abuse of power, war, good versus evil, gambling, promiscuous sex and substance abuse.
Lemmy is slow moving and stays pretty still while delivering his musings and playing, given that he has problems with his long legs. He’s still able to get the job done vocally and musically though, and has a powerhouse band in Phil Campbell and Mikkie Dee on drums. Campbell has been in the band since 1984 and Dee since 1992, so it’s been a long time for this configuration. They both had impressive solos, with Campbell’s following the song “Over The Top” and Dee’s being incorporated into “Doctor Rock.” Dee has is a double kick player and uses both to great effect, which is absolutely key in helping to drive the band.
The stage had a straight forward set up, although there was smoke billowing on it at times. The lighting was excellent and colorful, with the spot beam on Lemmy most. The standard stacks of Marshall amps made up the back line. Lemmy uses the rather rare choice of Marshall for bass amps and heads. They are the most popular choice for rock guitarists, but not nearly as much for bassists. Lemmy may have some other non Marshall amps/heads mixed in, though. The man intentionally has a very dirty bass sound, and plays with a Dunlop pick on his trusty Rickenbacker 4004LK custom signature bass. Lemmy’s sound is very distinct and quite his own.
There wasn’t a lot of talking, with the music mostly doing that for them. Lemmy did say that Dee was the greatest drummer in the world when introducing the others and noted a few of the songs that they were about to play. And Campbell did have a few comments as well, such as their Orgasmatron, from 1986, not selling well. They blazed through their set and then exited the stage. They returned for an encore, that being the song “Overkill,” the title song from their third record, released in 1979. It was a fitting end, as if to say that if they didn’t knock you out already, they surely would now.
Well done, blokes. Happy and safe Motoring to your next bombsite.
Setlist: Bomber, Stay Clean, Metropolis, Over the Top, Guitar Solo, The Chase Is Better Than the Catch, Rock It, Lost Woman Blues, Doctor Rock (with Drum Solo), Just ‘Cos You Got the Power, Bomber, Ace of Spades