After Lemmy croaked, nobody could hope to fill the warty one’s cowboy boots. So that was the end of Motorhead. Mikkey Dee quickly found a gig drumming for the Scorpions. Guitarist Phil Campbell has chosen a more challenging path, striking out on his own with his allegedly illegitimate offspring Todd, Dane and Tyla, plus vocalist Neil Starr.
Even though this is the most ridiculously crowded of gig nights for rock and metal enthusiasts in Bristol (rival attractions include Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash at the Tunnels, Lacuna Coil at the Marble Factory and Earth at the Fleece), there’s no shortage of Motorhead fans at the Bierkeller eager to cheer on the 20th greatest Welsh hero (source: National Library of Wales online poll).
Phil’s in his familiar stage right position, the variously bearded bastards are squeezed onto the other side, and Mr. Starr’s located in the middle like a referee. The show starts magnificently with Shut Your Mouth – a punky, bratty rock anthem infused with the spirit of Motorhead but sufficiently different not to sound like a calculated facsimile. More please! Alas, that’s pretty much all they’ve got. Of the five tracks on their debut mini-album, which isn’t even released until next week, they play just three.
That leaves, by my reckoning, ten career-spanning Motorhead songs. Beginning with Deaf Forever and Nothing Up My Sleeve, these are at least not too obvious choices, though Ace of Spades gets an inevitable outing. Starr gives good growl on Orgasmatron, Going to Brazil showcases Motorhead’s rock’n’roll side and R.A.M.O.N.E.S sees them at their punkiest. Rock Out from Motorizer reminds us of the late Lem’s lyrical playfulness (“Rock out, with your cock out/Impress your lady friends“). And reviving the rarely played Eat the Rich is a nice touch.
The set is also peppered with other covers. ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man is solid enough, and it’s hard to go wrong with Sabbath’s riff-tastic Sweet Leaf. Alas, Silver Machine sounds a bit ploddy without its space rock accoutrements, but Bowie’s Heroes (“for absent friends”) proves unexpectedly excellent stripped of Robert Fripp’s distinctive guitar drone and repurposed in purist-enraging metal format.
This is all enormously entertaining, but as they finish up with Killed By Death it’s hard to shake the impression that we’ve just experienced a superior covers act. It’ll take a lot more original material to determine whether these bastards are real contenders.
Read more: Metal & Prog picks: November 2016