There’s something special about seeing the name Motörhead, umlaut and all, mounted on that grand Market Street marquee, next to a strip club and at the intersection of one of San Francisco’s seediest streets. If you know anything about the band, its history, and iconic frontman Lemmy Kilmister, it just feels right.
The black-clad masses had congregated outside the historic Warfield Theater well before showtime and the mood was noticeably high, as show-goers were surely thankful for either a first chance, another chance, but hopefully not last chance to see and hear the true king of metal live and in-person.
The room was about half-full for opener Graveyard’s set and those in attendance were engaged and impressed. The Swedish '70s revival rockers played a solid set consisting mostly of songs from their first two albums, peppered with a few from Lights Out, their third and decidedly less metal offering. Motörhead’s Phil Campbell would later describe them as “the only good thing to come out of Sweden.”
Graveyard. All photos by Brittany Powell.
As the main event neared, the room packed up quickly and the mood felt like what one might expect at an appearance of the Pope at a monster truck rally, with the latter being a bit closer to the beating that our ears were about to take.
With the predictability of the tides, the loudest band in the world emerged and delivered the standard greeting:
“We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll.”
They immediately lunged into “Damage Case,” Lemmy’s head craned upward towards his trademark high mic, where it would remain for most of the show. He doesn’t move around much these days, but did he ever? Nonetheless, at 68, his gravelly snarl is still a force to be reckoned with. The floor got rowdy pretty quick and security could be seen ushering, quite roughly, more than a handful of audience members off the floor and presumably out the door. This is the effect that Motörhead has on people, and it has some significance at the Warfield, which used to have seats that went all the way to the front, until the first three rows were ripped out in 1984 at -- you guessed it -- a Motörhead show.
After the second number, “Stay Clean,” Lemmy took a moment to address the dipshit (or dipshits) in the crowd who were hurling water bottles at the stage. “Please don’t throw shit at us and we won’t throw anything at you,” he said in a polite deadpan, before Campbell threatened to walk off if it continued. One final item, a pink lighter, whose hurler Campbell called “a real star,” hit the stage -- and the barrage was finished, probably thanks to crowd or security intervention, or perhaps a combination of both.
Despite the disrespect, Lemmy twice told the crowd that we were the best on the tour and that “Coachella definitely isn’t giving [us] any competition.” Maybe he was just being nice, but I believed him.
The remainder of the show went smoothly enough, with the band playing most of the live favorites punctuated by Campbell’s glowing (like, actually glowing) guitar solo and Mikkey Dee’s bombastic, elevated drum solo, bookended by blasts of smoke, both of which felt a little dated, but this is real rock 'n' roll ,and modern-day gimmicks weren't needed. The guys didn't waste much time between songs, except for the occasional intro, and a moment to dedicate “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power” to the “politicians who are stealing all of our money.”
The regular set ended with “Ace of Spades,” during which nobody missed their chance to scream “That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever,” all the while probably wishing that Lemmy would live forever, so they would’t have to wonder how long it might be before they're reminiscing about the times when rock gods still walked the earth.
Over the Top
The Chase is Better Than the Catch
Lost Woman Blues
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed By Death
Ace of Spades