After getting sick and cancelling tours and being nearly 70 years old and generally scaring the piss out of fans everywhere, Lemmy finally emerged from his West Hollywood meth lair/Nazi shrine to play the first Motörhead show since last summer’s appearance at Wacken, when severe back pain and oppressive heat forced him to walk off before they could finish their set. Which makes tonight’s gig at the sold-out Club Nokia in downtown L.A. the ultimate rematch -- the rock 'n’ roll equivalent of Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston or Marvin Hagler versus Sugar Ray Leonard or some other completely irrelevant boxing metaphor, given that Motörhead’s last L.A. show was at this very venue. Right? Right.
Thanks to the hyper-efficient box office staff, fresh off their day jobs at the post office or DMV, my business manager and I only have to wait for an hour to get our tickets, even with a whole nine or 10 people in front of us. After getting lost --twice -- in the labyrinthine back hallways of the club’s multilevel hellscape, we finally land in a “VIP” bar area that’s totally, sadistically walled off from the stage. “It looks like a Wesley Snipes vampire movie in here,” my business manager says before shelling out for the first round of overpriced Bud Lights. “This one’s for getting me in to the show,” he says. “The next one’s for driving. The one after that is for the money I’m gonna make selling this VIP pass.”
We’ll break the rest of the night down AA-style:
1) We miss half of Graveyard’s set. The good half. We know because we hear most of it through the wall at the Wesley Snipes bar.
2) After walking onstage to Beatles-on-The Ed Sullivan Show hysterics/applause, the first thing out of Lemmy’s mouth is, “Back from the dead, eh?” He looks vaguely embalmed, but then again he’s looked that way for years now.
3) They open with an appropriate Fuck You We’re Still Here number: “I Know How To Die” from 2010’s The Wörld Is Yours. Scott Carlson from Repulsion is the only person in the place who knows the song.
4) They follow with the killer 1-2-3 power volley of “Damage Case,” “Stay Clean” and “Metropolis.” Mikkey Dee is a superhero on drums.
5) It’s probably a bad sign when the fifth song is an extended Phil Campbell guitar solo, but it’s difficult to complain when a) you got free tickets, and b) the alternative is no more Motörhead shows, like, ever. At least Phil wore his finest baggy T-shirt and brought his neon dragon guitar.
6) After leaving the photo pit, we get a text from Holy Grail vocalist James Luna: “Move it tall guy, I’m trying to see Lemmy’s junk.”
7) We find our business manager, who’s watching Decibel’s own “Gearified” columnist (and Repulsion guitarist!) Matt Olivo singing along to anyone who will listen. He’s completely shit-hammered, slinging his arm over people’s shoulders and playing air guitar at the same time. He’s totally that guy, except he’s kept his shirt on and hasn’t vomited yet. YET. But he’s also Matt Olivo, so it’s okay.
8) Whitfield Crane from Ugly Kid Joe does his best to ruin an otherwise perfectly decent rendition of “Killed by Death.” We’ll say that again: Whitfield Crane from Ugly Kid Joe. It’s possible that Lemmy’s son Paul Inder joins them on second guitar, but we’re not sure. It might just be some random blonde dude in a cowboy hat. They’re a dime a dozen on Sunset Boulevard, and they all play guitar.
9) Slash shows up to play “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill.” Both songs sound kind wobbly, but it might just be the electromagnetic field created by literally every cell phone in the place being hoisted aloft to shoot crappy YouTube videos.
10) They don’t play “Orgasmatron.” Even though we yell for it several times from the 75th row.
11) Lemmy closes with a touching version of his usual opener: “We are Motörhead and we play rock 'n’ roll. Don’t forget us, alright?”
12) We won’t. Not ever. Because you guys rule.