Sunday, 6 February 2011

775 MOTORHEAD, THE DAMNED, Girlschool, Swindon Oasis, Sunday 15 November 2009

I was amazed when Rich texted me about this one earlier in the year. How often does a bona fide rock legend come to Swindon? Fuck Morrissey, Lemmy Kilminster of seminal heavy rockers Motorhead falls squarely into that category, having seen it all and done it all, all no doubt at ear-splittingly extreme volume. With a bacchanalian appetite for, erm, recreational pharmaceuticals, which would make even the likes of Keith Richards blanch, it's a wonder the man's even still standing, yet at 63 years old, he's still rocking, so despite my lack of familiarity with Motorhead's output (I've only got their "Essential Noize" best of CD), we had to book tix for this one. And an anticipated noise-fest was subsequently made more attractive by the addition of original punks The Damned as support!

So, I donned leathers and rock boots, and met up with Rich in the Oasis foyer, getting a drink before going in to check out first support Girlschool. A late 70's all girl heavy rock band, they'd seemingly all turned into soccer moms playing leather and lace dress-up, and their music hadn't aged well, apart from their final number "Emergency", which saw the guitarist throwing Phil Lynott shapes and strafing the audience with her guitar neck.

Moved further forward for The Damned's entrance, running into an old punk friend in the process - Paul Kent, Mr. Damned himself, whom I'd not seen for decades! Amazingly, he recognised me too, recalling I was way shorter in my early teen punk years!

Then, the original cartoon punk rocker himself wandered onstage, clad in red beret and goony sunglasses and said, "Hi, I'm Captain Sensible, you may have seen me on Top Of The Pops. And we just want to say..." as, on cue, Vanian strolled casually onstage and softly asked, "is she really going out with him?", the classic intro to their debut single "New Rose". The crashing drum and growling riff intro heralded a brilliantly taut version of the first ever punk single, now 33 years old but still sounding as raw and fresh as ever.

The Damned were a revelation. I felt quite ashamed that they'd slipped through my punk rock revival calendar, as they were up there with the likes of the best of Fingers, Killing Joke etc. in terms of their not having allowed time to take its' toll on their performance or the music. And Vanian looked great - apparently 53 years old, he looked 20 years younger, having shed the fat goth image he wore in the 80's in favour of a 50's rock'n'roll leader of the pack, all black leather and slicked back hair. "Welcome to the Anti-Simon Cowell tour," the Captain announced to huge cheers before a jagged, hectic "Neat Neat Neat". "You won't see Jedward jamming with us tonight!"

"History Of The World" was a real surprise, a keyboard led sweeping epic, with Vanian's stately baritone a feature, as he prowled around the stage like a panther, wielding his 50's radio announcer style mic. The gothy pop "Eloise" followed, better than I expected, and an impressive double punch closed a splendid set - the superfast crashing shambolic "Love Song", and a groovy swingalong "Smash It Up". A surprisingly great set, and definitely not the last time I see The Damned!

I grabbed a set-list, and Rich and I bumped into facebook friend Debbie the punk for an entertaining chat before the main event, the lights going off at 1/4 to 10 and Lemmy leading Motorhead onstage with the proclamation, "we're called Motorhead and we play rock'n'roll". Hell yeah!

Motorhead were relentless, cranking out one noisy metallic onslaught after another with the metronomic frequency of a medieval cannon. "This is called "Rock Out With Your Cock Out"", Lemmy announced before one number, and I realised this was a little different from my last Oasis gig (Morrissey)!

No, this was loud, fearsome, heavy riffery rock'n'roll, the Motorhead template an amalgam of the superloud riffs of heavy rock and the energy and brevity of punk, all topped with Lemmy's Tyrannosaurus-like vocal growl. A set to be endured rather than enjoyed, a real relentless trial by noise, thankfully though largely lacking in the self-indulgence endemic in so much heavy metal stuff (apart from the mind-numbingly overlong drum solo, which made us think Lemmy was offstage, "otherwise occupied" in some way!).

After an hour or so, they played a song I recognised! The dramatic, superfast "Bomber", my favourite Motorhead number, which was also the set closer, the band subsequently returning for a bluesy, acoustic (!) "Roadhouse Blues", the ubiquitous "Ace Of Spades" and a stretched "Overkill". "Remember us, we're Motorhead and we play rock'n'fucking roll", Lemmy proclaimed before he and the band took a bow. We're not likely to forget!

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