Back in 1995, I had heard on the radio of an upcoming MOTORHEAD show to celebrate 25 years of MOTORHEAD and Lemmy‘s 50th birthday. But the thing that made me really want to go to the show was the fact that there were other famous rock stars expected to make an experience. My initial guess was that someone like Slash would show up since he’s always been into live guest appearances in LA, and hey, that was good enough for me.
So back then I was a senior in high school and by then, hardly anyone was into metal and if they used to be, they had moved onto punk (i.e. PENNYWISE) or something else. The prospect of going to a show alone wasn’t as bad as it could seem to appear simply because my absolute love for heavy music more than compensated. So with a recently purchased MOTORHEAD No Remorse compilation in my cassette tape deck and a Thomas Guide map to guide me, I set off for my first trip to The Whisky.
I guess word had spread about the possibility of famous guests at the show as there was a line formed outside the venue when I arrived early. So as we were all standing in line along the wall of The Whisky, you could hear a band doing sound check. Out of nowhere you hear James Hetfield‘s unmistakable voice roaring over the music. Holy fuck! I wanted to scream out in excitement. My favorite band in the world was going to appear at the tiny little Whisky! I heard some other people in line wondering out loud whether that was James Hetfield or not but it didn’t seem to stir up any outward excitement.
Once we were all let in, the first band to go on was LA’s own DEMOLITION PIT. The band had made some headway in the local LA scene, especially with their appearances on 105.5 FM KNAC (the world’s first all hard rock/heavy metal radio station). The band’s PANTERA-influenced style went over well with the packed house.
The Whisky had TV screens around the club that would announce the next band to take the stage. As the crowd waited around for the next band, the words “METALLICA” came up on the TV screens. People went apeshit! Everyone had to pinch themselves. This was a dream come true. So I did what any metal maniac would do, I fought my way to the front of the stage to get the best view possible.
METALLICA finally took the stage donning black jeans, black button down long sleeve shirts, black wigs, “Ace of Spade” tattoos, and drawn on facial hair as a tribute to Lemmy. Initially, the crowd was shocked and then broke out into laughter and cheers. Lars immediately went to the drum intro to the MOTORHEAD classic “Overkill” and the place exploded. Playing with the wig on proved to be too much so Lars ripped it off and threw into the crowd right next to me. The guy who caught it felt like a girl receiving a rose from her fave movie star.
I was standing right in front of the stage in between where James and Kirk were. To say that I was in sheer teenage metalhead bliss is an understatement. I was the happiest person alive.
After “Overkill,” James announced to the crowd that they were “THE LEMMYS” and that they were there to celebrate Lemmy‘s 50th birthday and MOTORHEAD‘s 25th anniversary. During their seven song set of classic MOTORHEAD songs, Jason Newsted threw water onto the crowd. Some of hit my face and I felt like I was blessed with the holiest of holy water. Hallelujah! Lemmy came onstage for THE LEMMYS‘ final song, “We are the Road Crew” with Jason Newsted on vocals. I always thought it was a damn crime that METALLICA never released this song on any release even though they went ahead and released the rehearsal recordings of the other six songs (with James on lead vocals) years later. Yet just another way Jason was always kept down in that band.
After their set, the crowd gave a roaring applause and I managed to get a high five from Kirk Hammett. Holy fuck, I was so happy.
There was a good 20 minute break before MOTORHEAD hit the stage and it was obvious that the crowd was more than satisfied with the show already. The buzz still resonated during the break and people just couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed. No one gave a shit that no other famous rock stars came out that night.
MOTORHEAD finally took the stage and man, they were seriously the loudest band I’ve ever seen in all my years of concert going. I was standing in front of one of the club’s speakers and my jeans were literally flapping in the wind due to the force of the volume. I don’t really remember much of the set aside from “Sacrifice” and “Liar.” But they played so well. Everyone was into it. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Lemmy. He appreciated it. After that show, I was hooked on MOTORHEAD for life just like the thousands across the planet.
I drove home that night on a natural high and it really reinforced my love for METALLICA, MOTORHEAD, and just heavy music in general. For METALLICA to do something so unique and special in order to pay tribute to one of their idols is something that few bands ever do.
A few months after the show, my friend, who was in the bootlegging business, pressed and sold a famous bootleg of that show and I managed to get a copy. Also, the top of my head is in one of the photos taken that night and printed in publications around the world. To this day, that might be my favorite concert of all time. What can really top that?