"The Louder the Better" - Motörhead at the Warfield

By Tanja M. Alvarez (words & photos)

It will be so loud that if we moved in next door to you, your lawn will die” is what Motörhead founder, voice, and bassist Lemmy Kilmister has reportedly said about his band's music. Last Monday, while the power trio's 40th anniversary tour stopped at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre, fans could hear for themselves whether Motörhead is truly “louder than anyone else.” The consensus was that there is no arguing with the legendary frontman who has 22 studio albums under his belt and has sold more than 15 million records worldwide. Unfortunately, there was no lawn to kill in the Warfield's immediate vicinity, but finding out exactly how many decibels the historic venue will be able to withstand appeared to be an easy second choice for Mr. Kilmister and band mates.

Needless to say anybody who wants to stand a chance of opening for the “Loudest Band Ever” needs to know how to turn up the volume. British rockers Saxon seemed all too familiar with that dial and magically catapulted the audience back in time to the heyday of heavy metal with their unique riffs, song structures, and an overall sound that now belongs to the Zeitgeist of the past. It was refreshing to see the Brits still going strong after over three decades of rocking, and many are looking forward to the release of their 21st studio album “Battering Ram” this October.

During the intermission those in attendance who didn't have their ear plugs ready yet knew to quickly get a move on as equipment was briskly moved across the stage and a huge Snaggletooth banner with the words “victoria aut morte - by victory or death” became clearly visible. Not long thereafter Lemmy, guitarist Phil “Wizzö” Campbell, and drummer Mikkey Dee appeared, and fans were welcomed with their signature greeting “we are Motörhead and we're here to play rock and roll.” With that said hands were raised in the air and bodies started slamming into each other in the large mosh pit on the main floor.

Despite the imminent release of the band's 22nd album “Bad Magic” the setlist pleased fans with lots of classics. “Damage Case” from the 1997 album “Overkill” started the auditory attack followed by “Stay Clean” and “We are Motörhead.” Lemmy, dressed in black as usual, with a black hat and red foot gear, sounded as great as ever. Just as fans have come to expect, the lead singer left excursions to the front of the stage to guitarist Campbell and stayed put behind his microphone taking an occasional sip of his beer.

Although Lemmy's larger-than-life persona often stands in the forefront, due respect must be paid to his band mates. Phil Campbell did not only relentlessly work the crowd but dazzled fans with a beautiful guitar solo. During “Dr. Rock” (Orgasmatron, 1986), Mikkey Dee, who was very strong all night, impressed with a thunderous drum solo. The three musicians worked together like a well-oiled machine, and the sound couldn't have been any better or louder.

The set concluded with more hits such as “Just 'Cos You Got the Power” (No Sleep at All, 1988) and “Going to Brazil” (1916, 1991). The most famous “Ace of Spades” (Ace of Spades, 1985) was preceded by a warning from Lemmy: “This is the last song of the night unless you make some noise.” The crowd was more than obedient and hence earned the encore “Overkill” (Overkill, 1979) and the heartfelt compliment “you've been a lovely crowd tonight!” It suddenly became quiet again in the beautiful theater which luckily remained undamaged. Motörhead will continue to make very loud music across the United States until the end of next month and then move on to kill lawns and shake buildings on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.