As Manchester’s Apollo began to fill up with expectant rockers eager for the annual slice of blistering energy that only Motörhead can provide it did feel as though the atmosphere had changed somewhat compared to recent years. This was partly due to legendary front man Lemmy’s recent health issues, which forced a cancellation of the last planned gig at this venue. The tough old bastard is back on his feet in typically rebellious fashion, living up to the famous altered refrain of ‘Ace of Spades’ indicating that apparently he is going to live forever. But for all of us the recent health scare proved a sombre reminder that one day we won’t get these traditional gigs coming to the Apollo anymore. For that reason it seemed like everyone had a renewed stake in having a brilliant time tonight.
The fun got underway with German cowboy rockers the Bosshoss, who brought to the stage an elaborate set-up that included a three-piece mariachi section and a variety of instruments including harmonicas and a huge double bass. The bombastic nature of the music and the pure sense of fun pervading the performance was really quite infectious, instantly nullifying any brief “what the hell am I looking at?” concerns that might have been present in the minds of some audience members. Boss Burns and Hoss Power got the crowd going really well, getting those fists raised and even inciting a good old riff sing-along. ‘Don’t Give Me That’, with inflections of Elvis and Johnny Cash proved a highlight of the set, as did a cover of ‘Word Up’. This really was great fun to watch, a pretty unique performance that quite frankly you’d have to be soulless to not enjoy.
You’d also be a tremendous cynic if you didn’t get a kick out of the legend printed on the back of Captain Sensible’s custom jacket: “OAP: Old Age Punk”. The Damned guitarist was in buoyant mood and despite the distinctive difference in sound between these guys and the headliners it seemed that the crowd was too. Indeed the mood seemed very much rock or die, with ‘Disco Man’ dedicated to “all those bastards who’d rather be at a disco than a rock and roll show”. Front man David Vanian reflected on just how old school the band is with a reminiscence of the very first time they ever played the Manchester Apollo, supporting T-Rex on February 11th 1977. Age hasn’t slowed these guys or their fans down one bit, and that visual of keyboardist Monty jumping about the place while the audience engaged in a good old-fashioned punk mosh during ‘Smash It Up’ can attest to that.
The time had come for that famous introduction: “We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll!” Kicking off with Ace of Spades classic ‘Shoot You In The Back’ the guys were certainly rocking like they always have, though Lemmy’s voice seemed to be struggling a bit. Following this up by forgetting the words halfway through ‘Stay Clean’ there was a horrible moment where it felt like the iconic bassist would not be able to perform the set to standard. Fortunately after acknowledging that he’d messed up during the Overkill number and things noticeably picked up during ‘Damage Case’.
‘Metropolis’ and ‘Over the Top’ kept things moving at a boisterous pace before a Phil Campbell solo led into the tremendously badass riff of ‘The Chase is Better than the Catch’, a profoundly enjoyable number as always. Lemmy took some mischievous pleasure in messing with the audience when he incited a cheer by announcing the song ‘Rock It’ from the Another Perfect Day album, before calling everyone on their enthusiasm by telling them that “they hated it when it came out though”. There was also a hint of spirited defiance when announcing that recent album Aftershock was “not the last album but the latest one”. Clearly this rock and metal icon has no intention of slowing down even after a near death experience.
Mikkey Dee got the chance to show off his skills in the traditional lengthy drum solo spot during ‘Doctor Rock’, effortlessly catching his stick at the end like it was nothing and prompting a vociferously loud roar from the crowd. From there further traditional fare in the form of ‘Killed by Death’ and ‘Ace of Spades’ blew the roof off the place alongside some less standard numbers like ‘Going to Brazil’. It was slightly disappointing that there was no room for ‘Orgasmatron’ in the set but as things came to a close with ‘Overkill’ it was clear that Manchester had enjoyed another night of great rock that only these important legends can provide. Lemmy’s voice may have faltered a little at times, but when it comes to rock and roll Motörhead are still in a league of their own.
Review: Michael Dodd
Photos: Craig Hutton
1) Shoot You In The Back
2) Stay Clean
3) Damage Case
5) Over The Top
6) The Chase is Better than the Catch
7) Rock It
9) Lost Woman Blues
10) Doctor Rock
11) Just ‘Cos You Got The Power
12) Going to Brazil
13) Killed by Death
14) Ace of Spades