Motorhead Came To Austin With Guns A'blazing
Band Photo: Motorhead (?)
The rustic décor of Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater seemed ideal for Motorhead front man Lemmy. Wearing his trademark black western wear, Lemmy could have been an outlaw gambler in a past life, searching out a lucrative poker game in the saloons of Texas’s capital city. March 8, 2011 wasn’t the scene of a 1980s Kenny Roger’s film, but Motorhead came prepared with an “Ace of Spades” up their sleeves.
Even after 37 years in the rock‘n’roll biz, Motorhead has a reach and longevity like few others. Their crossover appeal brought in a sold-out crowd of over 2,000 old school metal heads, bikers, punks, thrashers, black metal fans and stoners. Although nowhere near the legend of Motorhead, Maryland’s bluesy, heavy rock troupe Clutch has carved its own niche in the hard rock world. Their inclusion on the tour not only brought in a unique section of fans; the group’s style was a good fit with Motorhead.
Valient Thorr’s sleazy rock disposition gave the tour a feeling of completeness. The North Carolina opener fed the crowd large doses of volume to go with the huge quantities of beer and BBQ (look for Stubb’s products in your local grocery store) it had already ingested. Front man, Valient Himself stalked the stage like a Sasquatch, hair obscuring his face with every bang of his head.
Wearing jean jackets, bassist Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees and guitarists Sadat Thorr and Eidan Thorr combined to form old school metal tandems. Tracks such as set closer 'Sleeper Awakes' and 'Mask of Sanity' proved the band supplemented their stoner rock diet with a few dishes of Judas Priest, Metallica, and Iron Maiden.
Clutch slowed down the pace set by Valient Thorr. The group has become mellower since I first saw them open for Sepultura in 1994. The bruising "Come on Motherfucker" or the hopping dynamics of "Space Grass" were not on display. In fact, the group played nothing from the first two records, which commonly happens when a band has twenty-plus-years of recordings.
“Blast Tyrant” marked the earliest material, which the group obviously highlighted to promote its upcoming reissue. Clutch played album favorites 'I Am Immortal,' 'The Mob Goes Wild,' and 'Cypress Grove' to a welcomed applause. Another notable track was '50,000 Unstoppable Watts' from the “Strange Cousins from the West” album.
Clutch has made a name for itself as a jam band. While I’ve seen Clutch go off on longer tangents, the group made sure to insert a couple of jam sessions. Even though the years have faded their aggression, Clutch’s musical skill has vastly improved. Neil Fallon and Tim Sult created a dialog with the stars through trippy guitar solos. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster displayed impressive chops, something I didn’t notice until his performance with Wino on “Punctuated Equilibrium.”
Amidst a winged backdrop and drum platform scribed with the title of their new album, Motorhead pushed the venue’s speakers to the max. While not cranking their volume to the extent as their indoor performance (the last time I saw Motorhead) with Black Sabbath and Morbid Angel in 1994 (good year for concerts), I would not advise standing in front of a speaker. A blown speaker needed the help of Mickey Dee’s snare hits to straighten out the static produced by Lemmy’s rumbling bass.
Other than the blown speaker, Motorhead played tight and sounded great. Lemmy’s characteristic gruff too-many-cigarettes-and-whiskey voice was akin to a studio recording, a feat made much greater considering how long this dude’s been singing. His voice and lyrics often overshadow his bass playing, which was spot on. Phil Cambell played his guitar notes with exquisite execution, while drummer Mickey Dee blurringly flailed his arms and pumped his feet during a solo.
Steadfast fans of the group likely left the venue with complaints of them not playing their favorite song. With a discography spanning back to the late ‘70s, Motorhead could not possibly include all of their hits. Plus, the group needed to promote newer material such as 'Get Back in Line' and 'I Know How to Die.' Early favorites 'The Chase is Better than the Catch' and 'Killed by Death' set the mood for 'Ace of Spades' and then 'Overkill' as an encore.
Words do not fully express a Motorhead performance. Even though Lemmy could grandfather most of the kids in attendance, his pistons still fire on all cylinders. Motorhead is a concert necessity. I’ll make sure not to wait another 17 years before seeing them live, again.
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