Motorhead @ Nation, D.C.

Driving five hours for a concert subjects one to certain risks. We're not talking about the social consequences here -- having to explain, justify, apologize, excuse the plan to people who just will never understand ten hours in a car to see a band. As frustrating as that can be, there're risks that are still worse. For example:

  1. One may find, after driving five hours that the tickets he so carefully reserved and expected to find waiting for him, tucked in a perfectly sized envelope with his name written on it, and kept safe behind a bullet proof teller window with carefully trained caretakers looking over them as if over their own childeren, are not there at all Perhaps it's due to some administrative, beaurocratic, or careless mistake; perhaps it's some divine or karmic economy.

  2. Another possibility involves arriving late and missing a significant portion of the show. This may be a consequence of any number of complications: a late start; traffic jams; unmarked cars with radar guns...the possibilities here are endless, but almost always avoidable.

  3. Car trouble is the perpetual monkey on the back of the music fan. A person invested enough to spend ten hours in a car to see a band probably is not invested enough in other things to put give them the attention they deserve -- such as scheduled oil changes, tire pressure checks, an occasional glance at the gas guage. As a result, it's not unlikely that the car will break down, leaving the music fan either on the side of the road instead of headbanging (see 2 above) or stuck on the side of the road in unknown territory in clothes and hairstyles that are acceptable in only a few locations worldwide at any particular moment.

In fact, all of these things and more happened on the way to Motorhead in DC. Three complimentary tickets ended up costing somewhere in the $200 range; openers Speedealer, who we were there to review in the first place, took the stage despite the fact that we were stuck in post 9/11 DC traffic mazes; and the car collapsed at 4:00 am on I-79, leaving its driver peeing in the emergency lane in the bright white light of a state trooper's spotlight.

But when it's Motorhead, it just doesn't matter. Indeed, it wouldn't be Motorhead without it. When the band's name is slang for methamphetamine addict and when their set includes tracks called "White Line Fever," "Ace of Spades," "Killed by Death," and "Roadcrew," taking a gamble and losing is what gives the experience its authenticity.

Not that they need it. Singer and bassist Lemme himself is tall, weathered, and haggard enough to give the grim reaper himself a run for his money. His arms stretch across his huge bass like Death's scythe mid-reap, while his already tremendous stature is exaggerated as he stretches to meet the mic, which is stituated such that he has to stretch his neck to sing into it. Add to the deathly presence the pestilence suggested by the enormous warts growing from his cheek, and Lemme on his own seems an authentic full 1/2 of the four horsemen.

By contrast, the other 2/3 of Motorhead add absolutely nothing when it comes to authenticity or stage presence. Guitarist Phil Campbell looked like a cartoon of a 50 year old dressed for a rave, while drummer Mickey Dee looked like someone opened a glamrock time capsul. Now, there's nothing wrong with these things, given the right context and schtick. But when the context is Motorhead, and the schtick is war, disease, famine, death, and "born to lose, live to win," Campbell and Dee add nothing in the way of authenticity. It would be great to say "it's rock and roll, focus on the music," but it's hard when the drummer....

But what they destroy in the way of stage presence, they more than make up for in music. The trio hammered out two hours worth of new and classic tracks with the intensity, power, and magnitude that they are known for, but which are nevertheless unreasonable to expect from a band. After 25 years of defining hard rock, Motorhead has quite a reputation to live up to. They still dwarf their reputation.




P.O. Box 266
Bethany, WV 26032