Motörhead/ Clutch @ Vogue Theater, Vancouver BC, February 7, 2011

Photo and review by Kyle Harcott

Like the Swiss watch of rock and roll, those road dogs in Motörhead can forever be counted on to swing through my neck o’the woods every two years or so. Though this show would be my fourth time seeing them in twice as many years, it never fails – I always get giddy on Motörhead Day. That they were bringing Clutch and Valient Thorr this time was an added bonus.

However, an insanely hectic day and some seriously bunk start-time information (thx internets!) meant I walked into the Vogue a little late. I stepped into the theater just in time to see Valient Thorr say “Thank you and goodnight!” and leave the stage – a damned shame because I’d really wanted to catch their high-energy, all-beard/all-sweat set. By all accounts, their show was decidedly awesome. Sorry Thorriors, next time I’ll get there on time.

I got over missing VT quick, though, as, Germantown, Maryland’s finest Clutch were up next. Though I’ve been a fan of theirs since “A Shogun Named Marcus”, I’ve somehow managed to never see Clutch play live so this was a seriously overdue treat. And while I was entertained by their set, I can see how people unfamiliar with them might not have been. Badass groove aside, half the band (singer Neil Fallon and drummer extraordinaire Jean-Paul Gaster) were engaging and entertaining onstage; the other two (guitarist Tim Sult and bassist Dan Maines) didn’t move (at all), and honestly seemed pretty disinterested. Clutch’s whole set seemed to be built around Gaster’s masterful thump, every song an excuse for him to tastefully put his stamp across every fourth bar or so with big, burly fills. With only an hour onstage, Clutch’s set ran pretty much the gamut of their catalogue, covering six of their nine studio albums. Highlights included the well-loved tracks “Escape from Prison Planet” and “Spacegrass”, from their 1995 self-titled album. And, of course, Viva La Bam favorite “The Mob Goes Wild” went over horrorshow – when Fallon got to the line “Everybody move to Canada, smoke lotsa pot!”, the floor was right on cue with him like a goddamn Greek chorus (Vancouver likes marijuana!? Who knew?!) Clutch closed their set with a rousing “Electric Worry” and quickly vamanos’d off the stage. Good as they were though, everybody was riled up for only one band, and ready to get deaf.

After a short wait, the three of them strode onstage –Mikkey, Phil, Lemmy- the crowd roaring as if welcoming home long-gone heroes. Mr. Kilmister, as is custom, leered at his minions, greeting them with ‘Good evening! You awake? We are Motörhead and we play rock and roll!’ He then kicked in the bass line from “We Are Motörhead” and wall-to-wall, the Vogue went nuts. There’s nothing like the rush of adrenaline at a Motörhead show, and from my vantage point at the back of the room, watching the packed floor go off was half the fun. As soon as the song finishes, there’s barely a second’s respite, then Mikkey Dee’s giant fill tears open “Stay Clean” and the entire theater roars for the perennial classic. Thirty-two years on and the song still packs a punch. The new songs, “Get Back in Line” and “I Know How to Die” (from this year’s The Wörld Is Yours) are also well-received by the crowd; but it’s the classics that whip everyone into a frenzy. Overall, the set was a good balance of classics and songs from the last ten years of Motörhead’s career.

Each member of Motörhead is fascinating in their own right onstage. They’ve been doing this together so long it’s like science at this point. Being the lead singer, of course, Lem stays near the mic so he’s mostly stuck at stage left, chin upturned at the dangling microphone as expected, barking out the words and choking sonic life out of his custom Rickenbacker. But jesus – it’s Lemmy! He could stand still and quiver his warts onstage and it’d be enthralling.

So, for most of the show it’s Phil Campbell’s stage to roam. Decked out in his standard fedora, wifebeater and ‘Roger’s Bitch’ guitar strap, the eternally cool Welshman struts all over the stage tossing off scorching licks like it ain’t no thing. His guitar solo is tasteful, emotive and a bit of a break in the constant deafening blast. Past the quarter-century mark now with Motörhead, Campbell’s come up with some legendary riffs since taking over top spot in 1995. He also interacts with the crowd nearly as much as Lemmy, calling for the house to cheer ever louder to break the previous night’s noise record.

Meanwhile above it all on his ten-foot riser, the drummer; buried beneath his massive kit, only truly visible when the songs briefly stop – otherwise, he’s just a blur of hair and sticks. And what a drummer! It’s no surprise Mikkey Dee revitalized Motörhead when he joined in 1992 but to just sit back and watch him play is unreal. The man understands the nearly-lost art of showmanship, and while he’s a cocky dynamo, everything about his over-the-top playing style is organic and natural. His jaw-dropping solo reminds you why it’s still okay for some drummers to get the chance to showboat.

As the show progressed, I kept hoping there’d be a surprise in this tour’s set – some chestnut that hadn’t been unearthed in a long while. In 2009, it was “Another Perfect Day”; in 2005, “Dancing On Your Grave”. But this year trumped all when the band busted out “The Chase Is Better than the Catch”, which to my knowledge hasn’t been a part of their regular set in at least ten years. The 90-minute set wound its way down through “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power”, and “Going To Brazil”. But at a Motörhead show, it’s always about the last few songs, and the roars grew louder still as the band cued up “Killed By Death”, and of course, “Ace of Spades”. But for my money, it’s all about the encore. First, though, Lemmy introduced his bandmates; then Philip introduced Lemmy. The band gave heartfelt thanks at Vancouver’s unbridled enthusiasm, and finally Lemmy brings the house down with his final thoughts: “Don’t forget us, alright? We are Motörhead, and we play rock and fuckin’ roll!” With that, Mikkey drops the bomb, ripping into “Overkill” and lays everybody to waste. While the final note of the song’s third and final coda rang out/fed back, the three of them convened at the front of the stage, took a collective bow, and exited to the exalted roars of Vancouver’s grateful faithful. Motörhead Forever.

Clutch set:
Gravel Road
Immortal
La Curandera
Escape From Prison Planet
Spacegrass
50,000 Unstoppable Watts
Struck Down
The Mob Goes Wild
Mice And Gods
Electric Worry

Motörhead set:
We Are Motörhead
Stay Clean
Get Back In Line
Metropolis
Over the Top
One Night Stand
Rock Out
The Thousand Names of God
I Got Mine
I Know How To Die
The Chase Is Better Than the Catch
In the Name of Tragedy
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed by Death
Ace of Spades

Encore:
Overkill

All photos are the property of Kyle Harcott and Hellbound.ca and may not be used without the written permisson of both parties.

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.