Motorhead's Lemmy Takes It to 11: Concert Review

John Harrell
In the words of its indomitable leader, veteran metal icons are "back from the dead" and full of life.

In the words of its indomitable leader, veteran metal icons are "back from the dead" and full of life.

Thank whomever it is you thank in these situations – either God, Satan or a little of both -- that Lemmy Kilmister finally made it off the stool perched in his accustomed place at the Rainbow and back fronting his now four-decade-old, iconic heavy metal outfit, which may well have been the inspiration for Spinal Tap.

The show, the band’s first in L.A. at the same venue since last May, was a preview for the group’s appearance at Coachella, and brought out a sold-out legion of one of the more gnarly fan bases in rock.

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“Back from the dead,” Lemmy chortles -- apparently his demise has been greatly exaggerated --  before his sandpaper vocals cut through “I Know How to Die,” like a rusty knife slicing a squealing boar, a blast of white noise emanating from the ultimate power trio. Longtime (since ’83) fedora-clad guitarist Phil “Wizzo” Campbell and Swedish platinum blonde he-man drummer and former King Diamond member Mikkey Dee provide a chainsaw maelstrom of unadulterated riffs and thunderous beats to Lemmy’s surprisingly melodic bass lines.

To call Motorhead metal, punk, thrash, speed, death-rock or thrash is akin to that proverbial blind man trying to describe an elephant. Their loyal audience – large, black-clad, inked and strangely polite – looks like a cross between attendees of a biker, tattoo or body-building convention, but their audio pummeling is the equivalent of riding a Harley down the Pacific Coast Highway, hair flowing in the wind, bugs stuck in your teeth.

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One song follows the other, a constant barrage of sound whose titles serve as simple descriptions of the Motorhead lifestyle – “Damage Case,” “Stay Clean,” “Metroplis,” “Over the Top”… Campbell dons a neon green-lighted guitar – one of the only concessions to theater aside from the dozen stacked Marshalls impressively massed on either side of the stage – for “The Chase is Better Than the Catch,” a mind-numbing assault that even bleeds through the tissue I’ve uncharacteristically shoved in my ears to little avail.

“Rock It,” a chestnut from 1983’s Another Perfect Day, segues seamlessly into “Lost Woman Blues,” from Aftershock, their 21st and most recent studio album, showing, thankfully, the group hasn’t progressed one iota over all that time, one of the few things left you can count on in the battered corpse of rock ‘n’ roll. “Doctor Rock” culminates in a Mikkey Dee drum solo that offers a blurred vision of his muscular torso in full-on rapid-fire, non-stop motion. The final flurry includes “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power,” “Going to Brazil” and “Killed by Death,” with Lemmy’s son joining in on guitar for the latter regular set-closer.

At this point, the crowd at the relatively well-heeled Club Nokia is finally on their feet and wanting more, and for the second time in a week, we get to see Slash join the band on-stage after helping out Aerosmith earlier at the Whisky. Now, he's joining in on a raucous “Ace of Spades” and suitably titled “Overkill,” enough to wake the dead, and jump-start Lemmy’s heart for an encore that transcends noise to achieve a vibrating post-apocalyptic aural epiphany, the mind abandoned to the sheer buzzing throb of the body, now reduced to absorbing the pummeling like a bloodied boxer on the ropes.  At the end of this intensive 75-minute workout, a triumphant Kilmister has offered conclusive proof there is, indeed, life after deaf.

Set list

I Know How to Die
Damage Case
Stay Clean
Over the Top
The Chase is Better Than the Catch
Rock It
Lost Woman Blues
Doctor Rock
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed by Death


Ace of Spades