Motorhead – Glasgow Academy – 19/11/09
(I know this is not an Aberdeen performance but sometimes, you know, the mountain just has to go to Mohammed and all that).
The plan was straightforward. An early departure, a casual drive down to Glasgow picking up an Aberdeen mate on the way, check into the hotel about 4pm, scoof a few leisurely beers while chilling out and getting ready, go for something to eat then head to the venue. What could be more simple?
I should have known when I got the call from work to say I hadn’t attached the handover document to the email I’d sent the previous evening. The resulting telephone handover from memory meant we left the house late and then queues at the bank, supermarket, petrol station and petrol station till meant we were a full hour behind schedule before we even left Peterhead. Further delays in Aberdeen meant I was already a bit stressed before we even hit the open road.
Then…..the rain started.
And it forgot to stop again making conditions pretty awful all the way down the road. In this sort of weather, you really are just trusting to luck cos it really doesn’t matter if you’re in the slow, middle or fast lane, you’re still driving blind at speed. However, worse was to come. We were just approaching Stirling at about ten past four when the traffic drew to a halt. Both lanes, nose to tail. No signs, no nothing. And that’s how it stayed. Creeping forward twenty yards or so every ten minutes. An hour or so later, we eventually came upon a sign saying “Roadworks 2 miles ahead”. A further hour later, we reached them, bang on the merging point of the two motorways where four lanes were now trying to merge into one. An absolute nightmare but at least we finally knew what was going on.
We finally got to our hotel at 10 to 7, some three hours behind schedule and ten minutes before the Academy doors were due to open. So the question was whether to check in, or go and eat, or just head straight to the gig. We elected for the sensible approach and dropped the bags off at the hotel, quaffed a quick can of beer in two gulps and headed across the road to Harry Ramsden’s for a fish supper.
This meant that by the time we got into the Academy, we had completely missed Girlschool. I was a wee bit disappointed in that, as I’d not seen them before and I’d always liked their no-nonsense approach and hook laden 45s back in the 80s when they graced the Bronze records roster alongside the ‘Head. Still, my full belly had improved my sense of wellbeing and gave me a good liner for the beers which were now starting to slide down a treat.
We didn’t have long to wait for The Damned to set up so I headed down through the crowd to take up a spot about three or four rows from the stage. There was a wee backdrop set up in front of the Motorhead drum riser with the rest of their gear crammed up to the front half of the Academy stage – most unusual for The Damned. A cheer goes up as they were led onstage by Captain Sensible who immediately started goading the crowd about his number one records to a hail of abuse in response. Dave Vanian stepped up to the mic and uttered the timeless intro “Is she really going out with him?” and the band tore straight into a frantic New Rose, immediately resulting in an outbreak of pogoing at the front. Unusual at a heavy metal gig I guess, but then Motorhead have always been accepted by the punks, and vice versa. The Damned have a healthy following here tonight in their own right though with plenty of spikes and Mohicans side by side with the longhairs.
Street Of Dreams is up next and it’s cooking – a great version of this rarely played song. Stu West rumbles out the familiar bass intro to Neat Neat Neat and it’s clear that The Damned aren’t messing about tonight. It’s a classic support slot set, all their big songs fired out rapidly with no fannying about, just almost clinical precision – bang, bang, bang…. It really suits them to be honest. I’m a little shocked to hear the opening bars to Curtain Call but, keeping in type, they cut the 17 minute studio extravaganza down to a punky three minuter and it sounds none the worse for it. Hot on its heels comes History Of The Word which has become a staple of their live set these last few years. The Captain gives a little preamble about them still writing new stuff and releasing new records before they dish up Under The Wheels off of last year’s So Who’s Paranoid album. It gets a great response and sets us up for the cover versions that the
Damned have truly made their own, Looking At You and Eloise. The rumbling bass signals the classic Love Song before they close the set with what else but Smash It Up, once again driving the crowd at stage front into a frenzy of pogoing. While the rest of the band leave the stage, the Captain wants to stick around and tries to give us a couple of bars of Happy Talk before being picked up and bodily removed from the stage by the road crew.
I make my way up the back to meet up with my mates at the bar and get a couple of beers in. We all agree it has been a decent Damned performance and chew the fat for a wee while before I start to get antsy and decide to make my way down towards the front before Motorhead come on. The crowd is a bit thicker now and I struggle down the right wall of the Academy as far forward as I can manage. Learning from my mistake at last year’s gig – when, instead of the normal hissing in the ears, I was left with an audible rattle – I stick in the foam earplugs I’d brought with me. Just in time as Motorhead appear right there. “Good Evening. We are Motorhead and we play Rock ‘n’ Roll!” barks Lemmy and they’re off, straight into Iron Fist at full pelt. The earplugs work a treat, tempering in the guitars so I can hear every word crystal clear.
By the fourth song, it’s clear to me that the set hasn’t changed too much since last year but I’m not bothered. The sound is better (perhaps due to the earplugs?) and the band somehow seems more up for it. The early songs are attacked with relish. Stay Clean growls like a caged bear while Rock Out, from last year’s Motorizer album, proves to be the punk song live that it only hinted at on record. Maybe having The Damned at the top of their game is inspiring Motorhead to stay one step ahead.
They slow things down with the classic Metropolis from way back in 1979 and it sounds fresh as anything, Phil Campbell reproducing Fast Eddie’s lead lines with ease. Over The Top (if ever there was a signature tune for a band, this is it) raises the pace again and the crowdsurfing begins. I Got Mine is dedicated to its writer and local boy Brian Robertson. Despite the seemingly regular turnover of guitarists, Lemmy announces that Phil is now into his 25th year with the band. As if to reinforce his credentials, they churn through another newie, The Thousand Names Of God, a slow, relentless grind of a song. Brilliant.
We get a rather unnecessary (in my opinion) Twisted Sister cover before they head into the classic In The Name Of Tragedy off 2004’s Inferno album. This is another great mid-paced song that gives Phil a chance to shine. Mid way through though, he and Lemmy stop, take off their guitars and leave the stage, where Mickey Dee treats us to a five minute drum solo. I don’t go for that much although many here seem to. It’s a side of Heavy Metal that I could never quite get and it just sounds dreary to my ears. However, it gives Phil & Lemmy time to grab a swift half and a quick Marlboro before they return to finish the song off so I guess it’s worthwhile.
Lemmy dedicates a song to politicians everywhere. Just Cos You Got The Power (Doesn’t Mean You Got The Right) – it speaks for itself really. There’s a quick romp through the throwaway Going To Brazil before the mighty Killed By Death alerts me that the end of the set must be near. Sure enough, they announce the final song. It’s Bomber and they do a blistering version of it, they’re really firing on all cylinders, It’s knocking spots off last year’s show,
The crowd is strangely muted during the break though and we’re kept waiting quite a while for an encore. However, they finally come back on with the old acoustic guitars and treat us to the now traditional Whorehouse Blues which goes down well. On completion, Mickey returns to his kit while the other two strap on their regulation guitars, The classic bass chords ring out and they rip into the most ferocious version of Ace Of Spades I ever heard. It’s truly breathtaking. No matter how many times you hear the song, you can never tire of it, When it comes to the wee bridge bit where they stop, there’s five thousand voices singing “You know I’m born to lose, And gambling’s for fools” cos that’s the way they like it baby. They don’t want to live forever. Well, not right now anyway. They’re lost in the song as am I. Sheer brilliance. So how do they top that? With Overkill of course! The bass and drum intro kick in then Phil slides his pick down the stings slamming into the riff while the crowd goes mad. I catch a glimpse of my son as he crowdsurfs into the arms of the waiting Security Guards and smile to myself. He’s obviously enjoying himself too. As the song heads to the first false ending, I start to make my way to the back of the hall in order to beat the crowds. By the second, I’m at the rear bar and turn to watch the band bidding their farewell.
After a slightly lacklustre show last year, and then seeing the “old pals” supporting line-up for this time around, I had wondered if this tour was maybe going to be Lemmy’s swansong – one last fling with his old chums. However, with talk of a new album coming next year and on the evidence of tonight’s powerhouse of a performance, I’m pretty certain that Motorhead will be back in Glasgow this time next year. And I’m pretty certain I’ll be joining them.
New York Johnny.