Monday, August 31, 2015

Motorhead Live 
at the Shrine Expo Hall Los Angeles
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Two years ago while I was writing for Black Glove Horror Entertainment and Culture Magazine, I thought I'd contact my old friend, TS, manager for Motorhead, and see if he could get me an interview with Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, ex-Hawkwind and Motorhead leader. He notified me that Lemmy was retired from giving interviews, but that if I put some questions together, he’d get them to Lemmy and see if he’d answer them. I titled this questionnaire, The Last Interview of Lemmy. I notified my editor, Nick Cook, that I had sent out the questions to Lemmy and was awaiting a response. Nick was so thrilled that he planned an all Lemmy issue. 

We waited and waited. I contacted TS again and again. Nothing. Lemmy was not responding. I re-sent some new questions that required only a few words in response. Still nothing. About a year went by and TS told me to contact him when Motorhead was in town for a concert and he would organize some VIP passes. Too bad I got this email just after a Los Angeles show, so I had just missed my chance to meet Lemmy. I'd seen the band a few times, back in the day when he worked a few Hawkwind songs into the set, but I had never met him in person. And according to the Motorhead calendar, the band wouldn’t be back in the area for about a year. Well, that year rolled around quickly.

I waited again until August 22nd, 2015. And finally the night came. Lemmy was in town.

All-Access Pass

The show was at the Shrine Expo Hall, the south half of the Shrine Auditorium. I am well-acquainted with the Expo Hall: it is used for conventions, primarily the Science Fiction and Comic Book Convention, which houses signing events by movie stars, comic book artists, and TV stars on the main stage while the open floor is covered with tables for the memorabilia dealers selling items from Star Wars toys to the latest comic books. For concerts, the stage is for the band, and the open area is for general admission standing room only. (The auditorium is usually used for concerts: I've seen King Crimson and the Strawbs, Genesis on their Lamb Lie Down On Broadway tour, and Uriah Heep in their heyday). But with the general admission area, there's plenty of room for mosh pits and slam dancing, two common traditions at a Motorhead concert. 

The VIP pass was an all-access pass, which meant I could go anywhere in the confines of the concert, backstage as well as the dressing room area and the buffet room. I went in the balcony and positioned myself above, to the left of the stage, behind the main amps. I put in my ear reduction plugs (36% reduction) and watched the opening band CROBOT who started promptly at 8:15 pm. They played a tight version of an early 70s style of arena Rock not unlike FOGHAT. And thank heaven for the earplugs. I could hear the music without the after-effect of ringing in my ears.

SAXON came on at 9:00 pm and played a solid hour of music from their 40 year career. I only recognized the older music as I haven't kept up with their new material. 

After SAXON, TS gave me the grand tour of the backstage, the dressing area, where Lemmy emerged from his dressing room, complete with mirror and sofa, guitarist Phil "Wizzo" Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee walking behind him as he headed for the stage. TS paused to let them by, and then he showed me the buffet area and told me to meet him there after the show. He'd come and get me. But I couldn't help but notice that Lemmy looked weak and fragile and had to walk with a cane to get to the stage. I shook it off, waved to TS and scooted up the stairs to my spot in the balcony. It was gone--crowded with other VIPs. I had to sit in front of the amps. Again, thank heaven for the earplugs.

MOTORHEAD started their show promptly at 9:20 pm. Every band was right on time according to our VIP schedule. They opened with "Damage Case" from the 1979 "Overkill" lp. The mosh pits started up immediately. And they were violent. Twice two real fights broke out. From overhead, I was treated to a great view of the audience as well as the band on stage. In total the band played 14 songs, with a guitar solo and drum solo; these seemed to be timed to give a break to Lemmy, who disappeared behind the rear amps to rest. Throughout the show he was stationary at the microphone, a large fan to his left. Even though the Shrine had the air-conditioning on, the body heat and mosh pit humidity must have made the stage feel like a rainforest in summer. Lemmy looked exhausted throughout although the speed metal sound of the music made him appear younger to the crowd. 

Campbell took over the role of host, introducing the songs, while Dee engaged the crowd in clapping and other noise making. Lemmy punctuated his band-mates' exhortations but rarely addressed the crowd himself, except for the final song and encore, "Overkill", to introduce his son Paul Inder on back-up guitar. Almost as if reading from a cue-card, Lemmy told the crowd before the next to the last song, "Ace of Spades", that this is the last song, but then you [the audience] would make some noise and then we'll be back to play one more song. And with that the band bolted into "Ace of Spades". Just another routine concert. Right on time.

But this was more than just a concert, of course. This was an evening with Lemmy--at this stage of this career. He started with Hawkwind in 1972 and exited in 1975 after being late for a show when he was stopped at the Canadian border on drug possession charges that were later dropped. He formed Motorhead, using the title of the last song he had written for Hawkwind to name his new band. When asked about his break-up with Hawkwind, Lemmy expressed anger. He was told that Nik Turner still "wants to be friends" and that Dave Brock speaks highly of him, and actually calmed down long enough to ask, "Really?", hoping it was true. After that, the subject of Stacia came up. Lemmy said that she and another dancer whose name he couldn't remember used to do the early to mid 70s shows when he was with the band. He sighed when he said that she was married now and had a grown daughter with a rock band of her own. Before the question of his diabetes was brought up, he went into his dressing room and closed the door.

As a crowded after-party raged, TS said he couldn’t disturb Lemmy while he was locked in his room. He made light that he might be in there with a babe. Maybe. Maybe he was asleep. He’s been fighting diabetes since 2000. He changes habits, but doesn't eliminate them. He switched his drink from Coke and Jack Daniels to orange juice and vodka. Someone will have to explain that change for me. I received shrugs when I asked a few people at the buffet about his switch in drinks. During the show, Campbell stopped for a drink and told the crowd it was only water as he drank from the red plastic cup. Lemmy drank from a similar cup but bragged to the audience that his glass wasn’t water. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. But into his dressing room he went.

I waited until two in the morning, as did the dozens of other fans and reviewers awaiting their turn for an more in depth talk with the Rock legend. But it’s about that time that my age started to show. It was time to go gome. I’ve waited two years. I could wait for their next show. Problem is, will Lemmy and I be around for the next time? Motorhead cancelled their Utah and Colorado show, blaming the high altitude and Lemmy's trouble breathing the thin air. According to Motorhead's Facebook page, Lemmy couldn't sing with such thin air, but that things should return to normal for the tour and his voice when the band plays Texas next month.

Facebook page post: 
The people are great, but the air is just too thin. The high altitude makes it difficult for breathing, and that’s what happened with Lemmy tonight in Salt Lake City. He feels very bad to have cut the show short, but being that high up, he had some trouble breathing well. Lemmy appreciates everyone’s concern. The fans always rally round!

I hope that's all it was. TS told me that it was possible that Lemmy had a lady visitor in his dressing room, so he would not be knocking on his door. You know, I hope he was in there with a fine young thang, and that the 69 year old Rocker was prioritizing time with the ladies over interviews. But I worry that he was exhausted and locked himself in his room to get some sleep. I told TS to put me down for the next Los Angeles Motorhead gig. As long as Lemmy keeps touring, I'll keep attending his concerts. We're bound to cross paths again more than briefly. Rock and Roll is such a small world. 

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