Show Review: Motorhead Deliver on Promise to Play Rock n’ Roll at New York’s Jones Beach
I’m not sure when it was that Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister first came into my awareness, but he seems to have existed forever in the periphery of my cultural consciousness, was largely formed during those extensive VH1 marathons in the late ’90s and early oughts (puberty for me), where talking heads like Henry Rollins and Scott Ian would carry on enthusiastically about the legends that formed their tastes. If memory serves me correctly, it was here I first witnessed the majesty that is Lemmy, with all his cock and balls and swagger and mutton-chopped goodness. Since that time long, long ago, I’ve waited patiently for the chance to finally see the spectacle of live Motörhead. When I learned earlier this year there was a new album and subsequent tour in the works with a New York date, I 1) shouted 2) cried a little, and 3) made sure Vince was ready for a MetalSucks day trip to Long Island.
Anthrax are the Big 4 band I’ve listened to the least, but they shocked me by not only being tight as a tick, but energetic and vivacious, and they put on twice the show I expected. By the time they made it to “Indians” I was a bonafide fan. It’s nice to see dudes like these be at it for so long without losing their passion and graciousness, and even going above and beyond their duty to put on a good show by spending time beforehand hanging out with local vets and first responders.
During the wait for the main event, I worried about what might happen during Motörhead’s set. Lemmy’s health problems have stopped the show more than once on this tour, and I was torn between my selfish desire to see them finish a full set and the compassion I felt for an aging hero who might not have the strength to pull it off. I was emotionally prepared but held out high hopes, and I was not disappointed.
“We are Motörhead, and we play rock n’ roll.” The famous opening line to every Motörhead show; the subtle message that they don’t just play it, they helped perfect it.
The trio immediately launched into classics like “Bomber” and “Stay Clean,” with Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee providing a smooth and powerful base to support Lemmy’s signature gruff vocal delivery and uniquely rhythm guitar-like bass playing. After pummeling through a slightly slowed-down “Over the Top,” Phil and Mikkey each took a spin at beefing up the set with deft solo work — Phil’s riffs fulfilling the need for serious shredding without any noodle-y bullshit, and Mikkey living up to Lemmy’s nightly declaration that he is “the best drummer in the world” during his solo on “Doctor Rock.” My favorite moment in the show came next, when Phil walked over to Lemmy, the two linked fingers and Lemmy let loose his infamous devilish grin. The old boy may not be the strapping stud he once was, but the undeniable charm is still fully intact.
Throughout the show I found myself quite emotional and wondered if others in the audience felt the same. It’s quite possible this is the last time we’ll be seeing these guys out on tour, and watching our idols age is not only a reminder of our own creeping, inescapable mortality, but a sign that the world has moved on from the time of the Rock Star: the hedonistic, black-clad, whiskey-swilling, chain-smoking idols we grew to love during the golden age of rock n’ roll. We’re watching one of the true carriers of the heavy torch slow down, and it fucking hurts. Where the future of music will take us is hard to know, but one thing is certain: Motörhead’s influence has lasted decades and will continue to inspire generations ahead, and it was an honor to see it in real time.
The finale of the evening was the career-defining hit, “Ace of Spades,” followed by “Overkill” for an encore. At this point it was obvious Lemmy was growing tired, but never once did he give off the impression that he was doing anything but exactly what he was born to do.
The tour wraps up in Orlando on Friday at the House of Blues.