C O L U M N S

Road Reports

Motorhead / Saxon / Crobot
House of Blues . Las Vegas, USA

By: T. Ray Verteramo
Show Date: 8/21/2015
Published: 9/4/2015

About 7:30, the people start to trickle into the pit, though the line outside to get in snakes around the casino upstairs. The legendary venue's patrons on parade pay tribute in merch to the legends: Maiden, Metallica, Priest, Dio, and of course, the reason for the season, Motorhead, all represented loud and proud. If there was anyone under 25, they were probably cowering in a corner somewhere in fear for their ears.

Everyone knows Motorhead is truly "everything louder than everything else." Integrity is deliciously dangerous.

But, first, a warm up: An eclectic, energetic outfit from Pennsylvania named Crobot, a flashy stoner band that pays homage to tripping on the dark side and the classic, harder hitters from about the time when Aerosmith was telling you to "walk this way." They owned the little strip of stage as best as any band could, delivering something recycled, but refinished. It works. Though the back-up vocals were a little buried beneath the crunching six strings, the songs still came through well enough that even if you weren't familiar with the material, you could feel the groove. With a very skilled lead vocalist that dares to move the way only Jagger could really pull off (sorry, dude) and a bass player that romances his instrument like a 17-year-old trying to score at the prom, everyone on stage looked and sounded like they were enjoying themselves and it rubbed off. Crobot's superior showmanship and graciousness of their hosts, along with some memorable riffs and personality, makes this a band to keep an eye out for. Impressive, especially seeing the band members, themselves, get their hands dirty after busting their asses entertaining and sweating, to help the roadies strike their set. Cool points scored.

Then came the supreme coolness of Saxon. Three words: They... killed... it. No other way to say it.

Right from the moment they took the stage, whatever the years may have taken away from their pretty faces, they gave back tenfold into their skills. These boys are playing stronger than ever -- seeing is believing, hearing is bleeding. So much so, they had the audacity to open with a brand new song off their latest, unreleased, project and it brought the house down! Yes, they graced us with "Wheels of Steel," "Crusader," and of course, "Denim and Leather." But, "Battering Ram," which is due in October, if my tinnitus doth not deceive me, promises to deliver Metal on a golden plate, piled with bold, pummeling, great rockers and strong groovers. If the studio quality is even remotely the same octane as the live performances, fans new and old of pure, unadulterated Metal will be in for a treat.

Nigel Glockler's drum-slaught gave you CPR. The twin axe act of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt were so balanced and instinctual, flawless in blend and compliment, and the results were explosive. Quinn delivered solos with surgical madness in pristine chaos; beautiful, captivating, and bone-splitting. (The old bastard knows how to drive!) And Nibbs Carter, on the bass, had the most energy, but refreshingly didn't play into those flashy, silly bass-trickery tricks that get very tiresome very quickly. He just played his ass off, like a true down-home rocker. And as for Biff Byford, one of the most beloved frontmen of his era and today, is a perfect cross between a gentleman and a mother's nightmare. A majestic, towering presence of wit and mastery, he seduced and worked the audience with ease, and still hit every note with luscious tone and vibrato, as if he had sold his soul for a throat of chrome. Magnificent.

Saxon was one of the most surprising, and best, Metal shows I have seen in years. Walk in as a fan, walk out obsessed. Out-fucking-standing.

At around ten after 10:00, the men of the hour arrive. "We are Motorhead and we play rock-n-roll!" Though a little shaky at the start with some annoying tech issues, the train pulled from the station with, "Got No Time for a Damage Case."

Now, of course, Lemmy is divine. We know this. It's a spoken and unspoken given. No one has ever embodied Rock -- the life, and all it stands for the way he does. He's his own man, doing his own thing, his way, for the moment, by the moment, and he doesn't care. He's even out of the "ABBA closet." (Because let's face it: Everyone loves ABBA. Nobody wants to admit it). He is a beloved, living legend and will always be the face of Rock, Metal, and Motorhead. But, here's another thing: He can play the bass, lest you forget.

Motorhead is a band. You know, that structure where more than one person plays an instrument at the same time as all the other people to organize noise at the same time. It's not just Lemmy! Three members: Phil Campbell, Mickey Dee, and himself. He's not "Burt" from Mary frickin' Poppins steppin' in time, doing the shuffle with cymbals between his knees. There are other people on stage with him. And though this band is only made of three, they sound like six. Because they're loud? Yes. Because they're loud and because they can play.

Motorhead is a great band.

It's hard to imagine that Campbell has been playing with Motorhead for over 30 years, but man can he also play. Really play. True, he may be the overgrown version of that class clown show-off you hated in school, but you still can't resist him because he deserves to show off. In fact, the guy is so good, it's a wonder why we don't talk about him more. He executed a solo that not only demonstrated experience and technical savvy, but true, genuine soul. He really made that bitch sing. So, with chops like that, why isn't this guy on "the best" lists in the big rags? Where was his place on Rolling Stone's "Top 100?" The eighth stage of Heaven is a bottle of your poison of choice, with nowhere to go, hanging with your favorite people, and listening to Phil Campbell play the guitar. Who'da thunk?

And then there's Mickey on drums. On the 11th hour, he played a solo and it was good. Lemmy introduced him as "the greatest drummer in the world." Though, that could be respectfully contestable, he most certainly had some skill. Not a lot of flash, but a whole lot of dynamic. Very respectable.

As for the figurehead, Lemmy has a style all of his own, onstage, musically, as well as in life. If you listen to Motorhead's library going back before you were hatched (or brewed, whatever), you will notice these really strong, immortal songs all have his distinctive ink, even if they were covered by New Kids on the Block. His four-string fashion and lyrics make up the spine of every one of those songs that no one has been able to emulate. Ever. His rasp over the mic is just the cherry on the cake. But, the main course before dessert is his bass. Tonight, at House of Blues, he showed Las Vegas that whatever condition he may be in, he's a fighter, and he can play.

Set list included "Metropolis," "Going to Brazil," as well as "Just Because You're Louder, Doesn't Mean You're Right," "Doctor Rock," and of course, "Ace of Spades," before finishing off with "Overkill." And though the show was perfectly imperfect, it was testament of why so many generations of rockers have learned from them, and more need to. Motorhead knows that before you smear the paint on your face or lace up your boots, there is volume, ‘tude, and good riffs or you're not worth shit. In other words, know your bricks before you start building your castle.

They're not just louder than everything else, they're better. Bring your earplugs…or don't.



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