Motorhead, The Damned and Girlschool. Live at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend - 24th November 2009.
Concerts are like buses sometimes... I'd had nothing for ages and then four of the buggers came along in one month. This was number 3 of my November gig-fest, and to be honest was one that I didn't really expect to be going to... Y'see, the News that Motorhead were playing in my home town had been announced several months before I purchased a ticket. But it wasn't until The Damned wee announced as the support that I all of a sudden became interested!
Next up are the Damned... and the only reason I'm here really. It's over twenty years since they last played this venue (1985 and 1986 - I was at both), although lead singer Dave Vanian is the only member of today's line up that was present back then.
Some gigs can be better than you expected, others can be a disappointment. This one however panned out pretty much exactly as I expected...There used to be an old adage about giving the support act a shit soundcheck so that the main band would sound that much better. That ploy was certainly in evidence on this night, and the sound quality for Girlschool was nothing short of rotten! The lead guitarist was so low in the mix that you couldn't even hear her (how can that happen these days?), and I have to say I felt a tad sorry her, as she was obviously oblivious to the fact that she was completely inaudible... She was giving it her all whilst covering every page of the book of rock guitar hero poses and face actions. Bless. Despite the weedy mix, the gals go down pretty well and exit to very generous applause.
Their set is perhaps a little more one dimensional than when they headline, but it's completely understandable. They are, on the whole, not playing to their own audience on this tour, so have tailored the songs to suit a Motorhead audience... i.e. all the 100mph noisy ones! (New Rose, Neat Neat Neat, Looking At You, Love Song, Smash It Up etc etc). But to their credit they do still manage to slip in a couple of slower treats in the shape of 'Under the Wheels' from the latest album, and amazingly 13th Floor Vendetta from the Black Album.
As I've mentioned in a previous live review, this line-up of the Damned is quality. The Captain and Vanian steal the show (as always) but the input from Pinch (drums), Monty (keyboards) and Stu (bass) should not be underestimated. It's great to see them perform on a larger stage than they often get the chance to these days, and it gives Vanian a chance to prowl the boards like a tiger stalking its prey. Again, the set is marred by a poor mix and almost non-existent lighting, but the band themselves are mesmerising.
Motorhead are exactly what I expected... ridiculously loud (even with ear-plugs, my lug-oles are ringing for almost the next 48 hours).For someone who I have always found to be such a great and unique character, I'm surprised at the lack of stage charisma emanating from Lemmy Kilmister. Other than actually walking on stage (and walking off again at the end!) the guy literally doesn't move for 90 minutes! He's like a waxwork dummy (although admittedly one that plays a pretty mean bass!), but then I guess he is an OAP these days, so I shouldn't really complain.
However, I do find the first few songs immensely enjoyable.... then the next few songs were OK... then the next few songs sounded like the last few songs..... and then I started to drift a little. After 45 minutes I actually popped off to finally bag the beers I'd attempted (and failed) to get on 3 separate occasions earlier in the proceedings. Oddly the bar wasn't as deserted as I was expecting it to be, and even more oddly there were big hairy fellas in Motorhead t-shirts propping up the bar having a chat... Are Motorhead a little samey even for the converted these days?
One of the highlights for me was when the band come out for the encore and play an acoustic number, Whorehouse Blues (I think!). This grabbed my attention once more, and the change in pace and noise was most welcome. But it was short-lived, and we were back to the more traditional sound (and speed!) with the very next song. If you're not particularly a Motorhead fan then, like me, you are likely to only know 3 of their songs, and predictably, we had to wait until the end for the pay-off of Bomber, Ace of Spades and Overkill (Ace of Spades was a cracker though!).
The two other members of Motorhead are great value for money, and are actually much more interesting to watch than Lemmy. They smack a little of 80's ROCKKKK cliches (with haircuts to match), but it's good entertaining fun.
Over the next few weeks I bump into literally dozens of people who were at this gig (at least 6 from my office were in attendance). The one thing I heard time and time again was how impressed people were with the Damned. In fact, even a couple who went along only for Motorhead came away thinking the Damned were better.
I'm glad I finally got to see Motorhead, although I'm guessing I probably should have seen them a few years earlier for best results....