The metal show

05Mar11

(This article is not about sheet metal or stainless steel or aluminum foil. This article is about heavy metal, the music genre)

If you are surrounded by white dudes in blue jeans and black T-shirts, you are at the metal show.

If the bar has a keg of Jagermeister, you are at the metal show.

If there are as many chicks as there are at Boy Scout summer camp, you are at the metal show.

Heavy metal progenitors Motorhead performed at the House of Blues in Atlantic City on Friday, March 4, 2011, supporting their latest album, The World is Yours. I was there.

I have been anticipating this concert for over two months. I’m not so much a Motorhead fan, but lead singer/bassist Lemmy Kilmister is a rock icon, and I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to see him live.

To quote Steve Buscemi in “Airheads,” “Lemmy is God.”

After watching him perform in person, my impression was that Lemmy is the ultimate rock n roll badass.

Motorhead formed in England in 1975. The lineage of heavy metal starts with Black Sabbath and from their splits off in two factions: Motorhead and Iron Maiden.

Iron Maiden is more balladic, inspiring the hair metal genre. Motorhead was more punk rock influenced, and like Enoch begat Methuselah, Motorhead begat Slayer, Metallica and the rest of the thrash metal scene. Of course, Kilmister doesn’t like to be labeled as a heavy metal band, saying they came before heavy metal.

He started the House of Blues show with his standard line, “We are Motorhead. We play rock n roll.”

Then we were hit with an avalanche of noise.

We were the deer. Motorhead was the 18-wheeler, with fangs.

They started the set with the eponymous, “We Are Motorhead.” From there, the songs blurred together.

As someone who is not a rabid Motorhead fan, their songs are a tad indistinguishable.

But that doesn’t mean these guys don’t have some serious chops.

In my opinion, there are two types of metal fans at the metal show. There are the overgrown adolescents who enjoy the socially accepted form of roughhouse known as “moshing.”

Then there are the metal aficionados, those who appreciate the fact a trio of musicians can make an A-minor progression change at 130 beats per minute.

This is what Motorhead does. They are essentially a blues/rock band performing on fast forward. They deftly maneuver throughout their progressions, performing as one fluid organism of rock.

Getting a little too old for the mosh pit, I hung out in the back corner, in the cell phone a fleece section, and watched the band, and the crowd, from a safe distance.

The crowd was as a I said before, a sea of white dudes in black T-shirts, some wearing black leather jackets, some in jean jackets. There were a few ladies, usually attached to the arm of some dude. I did feel a little sorry for the women. They spend all day preparing their get-up, teasing their hair, applying their goth make-up, ripping holes in their hose in asymmetrical patterns. But they spend hours dolling up for a group of smelly, dirty, uncouth dudes, who are there for one reason – metal.

Watching the band was a thrill. You have to see Lemmy Kilmister in person to truly appreciate his bad-assery.

His drummer, Mikkey Dee, is wild and flamboyant, and you would say akin to Animal from the  Muppets, with a wild blonde moptop whipping like a dandelion in a gale. One of the highlights of the show was his tight drum solo, performed under black light.

Long time guitar player Phil Campbell was in standard punk-rock form, gyrating with perfunctory gestures, the foil to Lemmy’s stoic disposition.

Kilmister merely stood at the mic, trademark brown muttonchops, handlebar mustache and cowboy hat intact (at one point I wondered if the 65-year-old Lemmy dyes his facial hair), with the upper half of his torso cocked back in statuesque repose. He was non-chalant. He was genius. He was cool. He was Motorhead.

In between songs, Lemmy was unintelligible, rambling rubbish into the microphone in his Cockney accent. At one point, I thought he said, “This song is for the guys in suits that make rules.” Then they proceeded to thrash.

The set was just over an hour, and they ended with the Motorhead standard, “Ace of Spades.” For even the casual metal fan, it was a show not to be missed.

Openers Valient Thorr and Clutch were more traditional rock n roll bands coming from different eras. Valiant Thorr formed in 2000 in North Carolina. A mix of ZZ Top, Lynard Skynard and Megadeath, the band met all of the metal band cliches – long hair, tight jeans and synchronized guitar bobs.

Clutch was the real reason I attended the concert. Out of Germantown, Maryland, they hit their peak in the 90s and have held strong, releasing a bevy of concept albums, each unique and melodic, from the mythical Elephant Riders to the metal gospel album Robot Hive/Exodus. They finished their set with a 15-minute version of Big News I and II, which transported me to 1995.

Hell, for the whole night I felt like I was 17 again.

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