House of Blues - Chicago, Illinois 3/19/05
By Dr. Abner Mality
When it comes to loud, honest heavy metal rock and roll, I don't think you could put together a better line-up than this one. The bands all seemed to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each with their own identity but having characteristics in common with the other bands. Motorhead, it goes without saying, just about wrote the book on mixing punk, metal and blues together and COC have been pounding out their own brand of Southern-fried Sabbathism for many years now. Zeke take the faster approach of Motorhead and boost it beyond sanity with an injection of blast beat ferocity. And newcomers Brand New Sin were a surprise addition to the bill, which they fit like a glove.
I once again went to the show in the company of Mistress Hydra,who was on a quest to check out the "hottest and ugliest man in the world", Lemmy Kilminster. She got her wish and more. We had quite an adventure getting to the HOB, since the train stop we planned on using was closed for the evening. We had to walk an additional six or seven blocks in the lovely and balmy March evening weather you usually find in Chicago and then stand in a long line in the same conditions. If you detect a hint of sarcasm in the above description, bingo, you hit it on the head. Only beer and Jagermeister could thaw us out once we got into the sold-out show.
We got a surprise right away when Brand New Sin appeared to kick things off. I didn't even know these guys were on the bill. They were perfect in their role, playing some hard charging metal with bluesy influences not a million miles away from COC. It was catchy and satisfying stuff that got a good reaction from the crowd. Hydra said she had a vision of Brand New Sin's beefy singer Joe dating Britney Spears. I think Joe would have more to worry about from Britney, if you ask me. At any rate. BNS was a welcome bonus and I believe they should have an album out on Century Media later this year.
Perennial Hellroute favorites Zeke were up next. All I can say is that these fuckers are FAST. I mean, really fast! We are talking Napalm Death speed actually. I couldn't tell you one damn song they played because it was all spat out like a clip of bullets from a machine gun, with almost no relief between cuts. Unfortunately, Zeke's set was marred by some pretty bad sound problems, as one of the guitars kept cutting out constantly, leading to awkward fluctuations in volume. It did hurt their set, but not in a terminal way and when the pudgy drummer stood up on his kit, threw the devil horns, lifted his shirt and rubbed his belly, the crowd went nuts. Us fat rock and roll guys gotta stick together! Zeke wrapped it up with a cover of Zep's "Dazed and Confused" played at 10,000 times the speed of the original. I'd like to see more variation in their material, but if you are looking for warpspeed punkrock and roots metal, Zeke won't let you down.
At one time, Corrosion of Conformity was what Zeke are now. But those days have long passed. I have never been a huge fan of this band and in fact, their last CD "America's Volume Dealer" was just plain weak. I'm glad to report that their brand new one "In The Arms of God" is the angriest, heaviest COC in a long time (though not back to the extreme hardcore of their earliest material) and also that they delivered a focused, strong set that got the crowd going big time. Despite my skepticism about the band, I found my head nodding along to rough and ready rockers like "King of the Rotten" and "Vote With A Bullet". Perhaps because the band was opening instead of headlining, there was none of the long winded wandering that I've seen COC do in the past. It was blunt and direct and kick ass to the max. New tracks "Stonebreaker", "Infinite War" (sung by guitarist Woody Weatherman as opposed to regular singer Pepper Keenan) and "In the Arms of God" got a huge positive reaction from the crowd. "Stonebreaker" has the bluesy metal swagger that COC had become known for, "Infinite War" was fast and thrashy and "In The Arms of God" was just goddamn heavy. Great job, COC...I think the band is definitely back on track!
Meanwhile, Hydra and I were having all kinds of fun shenanigans. A brawl broke out right next to us, with one guy yelling at another and then pointing to me and telling his opponent "If you don't move, THIS MAN AND I WILL BOTH KICK YOUR ASS!" Thanks for volunteering me, old sport! Thankfully, I was untouched by violence but had a hairy moment when security almost tossed me out by mistake. Also, some goofy drunk that looked like a cross between Kevin on "That 70's Show" and tennis star John McEnroe vaulted ineptly over our position at the bar, managing to spill Hydra's freshly bought drink. To make up for it (and to keep me from killing someone), this dude in a top hat kept buying me drinks the rest of the night. Sweet!
Now we come to Motorhead. Ageless and timeless is the only way to describe them. Lemmy looks like rock and roll personified...there's a million miles of road in that leathery face. The band played an eccentric set that went by few established rules. They opened with "Dr. Rock" and then slipped into a ripping version of "Shoot You In the Back" from the classic "Ace of Spades". Other surprises included my personal favorite "Love Me Like a Reptile" and a sizzling, slow burning "Just Cause You Got the Power"(Don't Mean You Got the Right). The real shocker was how much they dipped into the much maligned "Another Perfect Day" album. Even Lemmy admitted "this is the least popular Motorhead album ever but it seems to be getting a belated due". From this old chestnut they played "I Got Mine" and the melodic, atypical "Dancing On Your Grave". Of all the songs that the band could have played, these were two that I would have least expected.
Lemmy's banter was pretty witty. Just before the "last song" "Iron Fist", he remarked "This is the song we play before pretending to go away and then coming back in about five minutes." He also said at one point, "this next song is for four guys who are dead. Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone and that poor bastard Darrell Abbott, God rest their souls!" They then dove into a fast and furious "RAMONES".
They also managed to hit some stuff from their new album "Inferno", which sounded absolutely smoking. "Killers" was good but "In the Name of Tragedy" just about brought down the house...this may be the heaviest, fastest Motorhead track EVER! I would be remiss if i did not mention the underrated guitar wizardry of Phil Campbell. He interjected some wisecracks himself and basically comes across as a regular, unassuming guy that just happens to scorch your ass with some of the most intense rock guitar ever. Drummer Mikkey Dee fit a drum solo into the middle of "Sacrifice"...I'm not a big fan of drum solos, but Mikkey has got to be one of the hardest hitting skinsmen in the game today, if not the most "technical".
Even the encore started in unusual fashion. Phil and Mikkey both pulled out acoustic guitars and jammed while Lemmy put his bass to the side and sang out "Whorehouse Blues". The Warty One even blew some harmonica on this cut, which got a very good response from a knowledgeable and appreciative crowd. Despite this atypical song, everybody knew what was coming next...yep, "Ace of Spades" followed by the multi-megaton assault of "Overkill". You can't go wrong with these classics no matter how many times you hear them.
All in all, it was a damn cool show. I would have liked for Motorhead to maybe play "We Are the Road Crew" and "Orgasmatron" but you can't have it all. And let's face it, these guys have a 20 album career, there's no way they can do justice to it all. I didn't see any sign of age creeping into their set. Lemmy must use Grecian formula by the gallon, but his stage presence is as robust as ever. Hydra was very profuse with her thanks after the show, saying "I think Lemmy is now the coolest guy on Earth". I couldn't really say she's wrong...
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