Review: Motorhead, Clutch and Valient Thorr at Pop's, Sunday, February 20

click to enlarge Review: Motorhead, Clutch and Valient Thorr at Pop's, Sunday, February 20
Todd Owyoung

At precisely 9:15 p.m., the lights at Pop's went dark. The sold-out crowd, which had been drinking (and/or tailgating) for hours, crackled up several notches as rock gods Motörhead took the stage. Lemmy Kilmister commented that it had been about ten years since the trio had last played the venue, and then introduced the set with a time-worn phrase: "We are Motörhead, and we play rock & roll." The crowd roared and reached toward the stage like rabid dogs.

And with that, the British band played a seamless, era-spanning set.

View a slideshow of photos from Motorhead, Clutch and Valient Thorr at Pop's

Reviewing what Motörhead does is difficult. First and foremost, the group is consistent. A "bad show" does not exist in Motörhead's world. The trio plays a tight, economical hybrid of punk and metal and always leaves 'em frothing for more. In fact, it's often said that Motörhead is its own genre - and nowhere is that idea truer than it is at one of the band's concerts. Lemmy's whiskey-pickled voice is a bit hoarser than it's been in the past, but somehow that just makes him even more badass. He doesn't move much on the stage, but these deliberate movements are the mark of a confident, iconic musician. Guitarist Phil Campbell whips picks into the crowd after he slashes through riff after flesh-searing riff. And drummer Mikkey Dee is just ferocious, a steady time-keeper who burns through the songs like a hot-rodding joyrider.

Motörhead's musical configuration - guitar, bass and drums - is also best described as economical. There's no fat, no fuss, no muss, no flash - just volume, head-nodding speed and good old-fashioned rock & fucking roll. About that volume, by the way: Before last night's fourth song, "Metropolis," Motörhead asked the crowd if it should play louder. (Perhaps out of deference to the photographers in the pit, the band waited until they were gone to pose the question.) The answer, of course, was a resounding yes. After some futzing with levels, the volume of the music went up significantly - and stayed loud for the duration of the night.

click to enlarge Motorhead's Phil Campbell - Todd Owyoung
Todd Owyoung
Motorhead's Phil Campbell

But Motörhead's decibel-busting is strangely calming - the inverse of white noise, yet still soothing. The same can be said about last night. You know what you're going to get at a Motörhead show. That doesn't make it boring or rote - quite the contrary. It's reassuring (and totally kickass) to hear the band kick the shit out of "Ace of Spades," "We Are Motörhead" and "Killed By Death." It's awesome to see young kids having their minds blown by Motörhead's sheer force. It's even a treat to see grown men -- some wobbling-drunk, others delirious with joy, most glassy-eyed - pumping their fists and throwing devil horns in the band's honor. Motörhead leaves a crowd satisfied. Lemmy rules. Devil horns up. Period.

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