Live: Motörhead, Clutch, And Valient Thorr Pack 'Em In At Best Buy Theater
Better than: Any other 65-year-old still making (rock) music.
Bassist/vocalist/negative role model Lemmy has always insisted that Motörhead are not a metal band. His first words to the audience (OK, after "Everybody doing all right? Well, we'll soon fix that!") were "We are Motörhead, and we play rock 'n' roll!" And the set list for this tour, which supports the band's 20th studio album and the rapturously received documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son of a Bitch, indeed focuses on the more conventionally rockin' side of the band's output, avoiding thrash-punk assaults in favor of slower songs like "Stay Clean," "Metropolis," and most surprisingly of all, two numbers that are the closest thing Motörhead's ever recorded to slow jams. "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch" is an underrated slow-burner from the Ace of Spades album, a stalking blues with a bass break made for audience participation, while "Just 'Cos You Got the Power" is a seven-and-a-half minute (!) rant against the money-hungry bastards who run the world (a favorite Lemmy target, along with those who declare war, those who run major world religions, and anyone getting between him and the bar, or him and the nearest available woman), punctuated by multiple stinging guitar solos from Phil Campbell.
There were plenty of blazing head-down rockers, too, of course, including the obligatory new single, "Get Back in Line." With Motörhead, though, nobody leaves when a new song kicks in, because it sounds just like all the great old songs, and anyway, the Best Buy Theater was sold out, packed so tight you'd have just about needed a cattle prod to make your way out once they were onstage. As a special surprise, German power-metal queen Doro Pesch emerged onstage as Motörhead's set was coming to a close ("winding down" is hardly a reasonable description), to sing "Killed by Death" (a job that's been handled by Clutch's Fallon on other dates). Then it was time for the one-two punch of "Ace of Spades" and "Overkill," and that was that . . . until another surprise guest appeared: Dee Snider, who ran the band through "We're Not Gonna Take It."
As for Clutch's own 45-minute set, well, they've always been a puzzle. Utterly boring yet mysteriously beloved, they're the Phish of stoner rock -- fans see them dozens of times, even following them on the road. Every song is basically Fu Manchu trying to cover a Meters instrumental while Fallon does his barking preacher-man thing. They opened with an instrumental jam, and concluded their third song with a drum solo so tedious they should have had the venue pass out pillows and blankets beforehand. But a large and vocal portion of the crowd loved them, and it's very likely they contributed to the show's selling out, so whatever.
Valient Thorr were on first, and they were simply awe-inspiring. A screaming ball of energy, they combined the rock abandon of the MC5 with Skynyrd-esque twin-guitar action. Frontman Valient Himself, hair flying and massive beard practically standing on end, ran back and forth, gesticulating wildly and howling himself hoarse, shirtless in red jeans and blue wrestling boots. The rest of the band wore Valient Thorr denim vests over black T-shirts, like a biker gang turned end-of-days cult. (The group's lyrics carry a message that's a mix of cosmic theology, political ranting, and fervent worship of the power of rock 'n' roll.) Their six songs exhibited more energy than most bands manifest in a week of gigs, and they deserve to rise much higher on bills like this.
Critical bias: I've been listening to Motörhead since age 14, and have interviewed Lemmy five times, including once in front of a live audience at SXSW 2010.
Random Notebook Dump: Motörhead were not selling their classic "Motörhead/England" T-shirt. You can get one pretty much anywhere else on Earth, though, so no worries.
We are Motörhead
Get Back in Line
Over the Top
One Night Stand
The Thousand Names of God
I Got Mine
I Know How to Die
The Chase is Better Than the Catch
In the Name of Tragedy
Just 'Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed By Death (w/Doro Pesch)
Ace of Spades
We're Not Gonna Take It (w/Dee Snider)
Instrumental jam/King of Arizona
Child of the City
50,000 Unstoppable Watts
The Mob Goes Wild
Instrumental jam/The Elephant Riders
One Eye Dollar
Mask of Sanity