Motorhead, Royal Opera House, London

Lemmy gives us deflowered rock in the Floral Hall

By Chris Mugan
Monday 23 February 2004 01:00

Yes, you read right. The last bastion of highbrow taste has been breached and rock's domination is secure. In the same week the Darkness ruled the Brits, their hoary grandfathers took over Covent Garden.

Motorhead were there in aid of One Amazing Day, a London tourism drive that included Premiership stars playing park football and paintings by numbers at Tate Britain.

Celebrating its 24th year, the vehicle of wildman Lemmy Kilminster has given us "Ace Of Spades", an outlaw anthem up there with "Born To Be Wild". Not once since then has he deviated from his ambition to play louder and filthier than any other rock band.

With fortunate timing, Lemmy is enjoying acclaim from a new generation of headbangers. The Foo Fighter and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has a new project, Brobot, that takes its dumb rifferama direct from Motorhead and Lemmy guests on their debut single.

This is nothing new. The thrash metallers Metallica and sleazers Guns'N'Roses are two of the groups similarly inspired to keep music basic.

Motorhead actually played the Floral Hall, a 450-seat glasshouse abutting the Opera House. Lemmy emerged in white tails with freshly washed locks, fag in mouth despite constant reminders this was a no-smoking venue.

In the space of two opening numbers they laid down the template that has stood them well for all these years, either proto-thrash metal, along the lines of "We Are Motorhead", or sub-ZZ Top boogie as with "No Class". Lemmy, head forever tilted up to his high microphone, is one of rock's great icons, unlike the rest of his band. Philip Campbell, the guitarist, could have been a roadie while Mickee Dee was your typical drummer in vest and bleached hair.

Their sound though, was awesome as Lemmy's bass and Dee's frenetic patterns were lost in a steamroller sound that went through you.

Numbers from the last decade, "Sacrifice" and "You Better Run", were interchangeable with the fan favourites "Over The Top" and "Damage Case". All stuck to tried and tested themes of war and death, sex and excess.

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Motorhead played one cover, a pummelling version of the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen". A set staple since 2000, when Lemmy finally saluted the punks who also appreciated his interest in basic rock'n'roll. It would have been heart-warming to imagine he stuck it in for the lyrics, "because tourists are money''.

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