Riverside Municipal Auditorium
Few things should compel a human being to willfully enter the 91 East freeway during Wednesday rush hour traffic. But if there's one thing worth enduring miles of IE gridlock, it's Motorhead. For four decades, Lemmy Kilmister's shit-kicking, fire-breathing band of rock'n'roll devils have indeed lived up to the slogan on the back of their band shirts: Everything Louder Than Everything Else. It took a while (only 40 years), but that gospel finally made its way to Riverside where the band played the Municipal Auditorium for the first time. But best believe the 909/951'ers were definitely ready to receive them, whether they were packed in on the floor or head banging up in the balcony.
The unconventional warm up gig before their big weekend show at the Shrine in LA (followed up by the band being honored by the LA City Council in a ceremony on Aug. 26–as they fuckin' should be!) was awash with biker chic, towering liberty spike mohawks and $12 pints of beer as the crowd readied themselves for a predictably rowdy show at the downtown venue.
The night kicked off with a set of vintage stoner rock courtesy of Crobot. Led by hair-flailing, high-pitched vocalist Brandon Yeagley, their sound carried the lineage of Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin with a side of Rush in one big bong toke. Their style, while familiar, was flush with hunger and energy as the guitarist Chris Bishop spun his guitar over his shoulder, bassist Jake Figueroa used his fingers to terrorize the neck of his bass and drummer Paul Figueroa thrashed away behind the kit. Though they were a long way from their hometown of Pottsville, PA and crowd was sparse, it was clear they were there on their own merit and not just for being a diet version of the bands they were opening for.
Next up was British heavy metal legends Saxon who, like Motorhead, refuse to let age be an obstacle to entertaining the crowd. If anything, 64 year-old vocalist Biff Byford put the young whippersnappers in the crowd to shame. Sporting a majestic white mane and an navy blue admiral's jacket, he traipsed back and forth riling up the front row, tossing water at the crowd, catching flying objects from the pit and throwing them back, smiling and twisting his hands into devil horns in between '80s classics like "Power and the Glory," "Wheels of Steel" (their first real hit in 1982). "Jump up and down with me!" He shouted. "I'm older than you fuckers, c'mon!" Summoning the young zombie crowd to life like that White Walker general on Game of Thrones was worth getting there early to see this often legendary (and too often underrated) metal outfit do their thing before Motorhead took the stage around 10pm.
By the time Motorhead's banner with their beastly logo hung behind the four foot drum riser, the floor of the auditorium was almost totally full. Touring in support of their 22nd studio album Bad Magic was merely a sidebar to the testament of Lemmy's bad-assery at age 69. Hot on the heels of Keith Richards for the title of Rock's Most Indestructible Man, the iconic bassist/vocalist sporting his black Robert E. Lee-style top hat continues thrashing his bass night after night despite diabetes, heart and stomach problems and assortment of wear and tear that allows him limited mobility on stage as he rocks next to guitarist Phil "Wizzo" Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee. But none of that bullshit really matters when he ambles to the mic, his Rickenbacker 4004LK strapped over his shoulder looking out into the crowd like a deadly cyborg ready to destroy the crowd with the first pluck of his thunderous, distorted bass.
"We are Motorhead," Lemmy shouts to a cheering crowd. "And we play rock'n'roll!" It's a simple mission statement synonymous with the band's full-speed-ahead rhythms and no-nonsense chords over powerful, freight train drumming. For a while, the sound from the house speakers was definitely muddied and unable to handle the sonic onslaught emanating from their wall of Marshalls and Lemmy's gravely growl. Classics like "Over the Top," "Rock It," and "Lost Woman Blues" continued to test the venue's sound system to the point of crackling as they raged through a set of most of the songs people wanted to hear and of course the solo sections from guitarist Campbell and the glowing green lights of his custom Framus axe before a dizzying display of stick work from Mikkey Dee.
Though we would've liked to hear a bit more off 1980's Ace of Spades, you already know they saved the album's immortal title track for last (before their brief encore performance of "Overkill"), nearly tripling the size of the moshpit swirling at the center of the floor as that buzz saw guitar riff and Lemmy's lyrics instantly brought out the wild heathen in everyone from original fans to teenage kids and the soccer moms who brought them to the show. Don't say the devil's music never inspired any unity.