I like the old shit. Always have.
If there’s a touring band with more combined prostate exams than albums to its credit, I’ve probably seen them – especially if their stage show has ever included lots of fake blood or needlessly large replica aircrafts.
Motörhead doesn’t tote around their aluminum-tube fighter jet these days, and some older fans will even tell you that their performances are not as hazardous as they used to be. I guess I’ll take their word for it, but it sure seemed like a dubious thing to claim on Tuesday night as the sweaty masses rambled out onto Lansdowne Street. Motörhead had just rocked the House of Blues for the second time since it opened in 2009, and people from all walks of lowlife wore the look of someone who had just seen a great band at the top of their game.
My small crew rolled in to the House as openers Valient Thorr were getting the fists pounding with their sci-fi themed, boot scootin’ boogie metal. What The Who were to decibel levels in the mid-70’s is what Valient Thorr is to beard mass today. It’s not easy to be the most hobo-lookin’ sonofa bitch at a metal show this size, but lead singer/dancer Valient Himself was a legit contender that night – not only because of his unkempt appearance, but also the way he pranced around shirtless while flailing his arms and yelling about corruption and the planet Venus. He was like the vow-of-silence man in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” fiercely defending his juniper bushes - only much sweatier, and (thankfully) with pants on.
Having been around for just one decade, Valient Thorr was, by far, the “newest” band on the bill. Their most recent album, The Stranger, was released last September.
Up next was Clutch, as prolific and versatile a band as you could ever lose a tooth while watching. I was still orbiting the bar at the time, so I didn’t get a close look at the pit, but it certainly didn’t resemble the warzones I imagined back when I was in high school and using their first album, Transnational Speedway League, as an excuse to shout “COME ON, MOTHERFUCKER, LET’S THROW DOWN!!!” as often as possible. This was not a major surprise - like a bizarro version of Motörhead, Clutch didn’t play their earliest hits, and their sound has changed dramatically over their 20-year run, diverging from an all-out mosh pit factory to more funk and blues-heavy styles of hard rock. Frontman Neil Fallon did much more singing than shouting… and it turns out he’s a damn good singer! Great stage moves, too – part prime-era Elvis Presley, part middle-years Henry Rollins, and part washed-up Dave Meniketti (from fuckin’ Y&T, dude!).
It occurred to me that Clutch and Valient Thorr were as fitting a pair of openers I had seen at any of the six-and-counting Motörhead shows I’ve been to. Both bands play what most people would call “heavy metal,” but there are no blast beats and no more screaming than you’ll find on a James Brown album. In other words, they play rock n’ roll – it’s just a faster and louder version than you might be used to. Hardcore Motörhead fans know that Lemmy has never identified his group as a heavy metal band. He starts every show by proclaiming, “We are Motörhead! And we play rock n’ roll!”
It’s a good reminder of why heavy metal was such a great idea in the first place, before all of the cliquey subgenres and mascara-clad arsonists and motherfucking Zakk Wylde.
Mr. Kilmister and the lads cleared up all of the confusion about who the hell these guys are by opening with the song “We Are Motörhead” off of the 2000 album of the same name (if it’s one thing Motörhead understands, it’s the memory-and-comprehension limitations of their fanbase).
The band played an even mix of selections from their 500- or-so albums, covering a wide range of speeds from fast to very, very fast. The songs from their latest, The World Is Yours, sounded like Motörhead songs, which is all we ever ask for.
As expected, the House of Blues was transformed into the shores of Normandy during uber classics like “Metropolis,” “Killed By Death” and a little ditty called “Ace of Spades.” I did my best to scream along, but was often busy pulling someone’s hair out of my mouth or deflecting the boot of some skyward crowdsurfer.
Motörhead – “Metropolis” – Live in Bostön, 3/1/11
Talking to people outside, I was a little surprised at how many folks had just survived their first Motörhead concert. What was not surprising were the reactions I got from people who had seen them numerous times when I asked, “so, what keeps you coming back?”
One by one, they all looked at me as if I had just offered them a tube sock full of dead mice.
“It’s fuckin’ Motörhead!”