Review: Motörhead and Anthrax at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre

"Dude! What kind of a grown man acts that way in public?!"

It was hardly the kind of commentary you'd expect mid-way through Saturday night's Anthrax set, during their double-bill with U.K. proto-thrash gods Motörhead at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre.

But, there was Pete, my suburban metalhead and dreadlocked friend of a quarter century, going Dr. Phil on the 20-something long-hair in front of us, who had clearly just double-conditioned his mane for the sole purpose of whipping it in big, circular, counterclockwise formations.

"People go to concerts so they don't have to act like adults," was my reply, nodding to the 1,500 or so '80s Cameo Theater and Button South veterans who were here taking advantage of the Amphitheatre's half-priced tickets on Living Social, most likely hiring babysitters for the night with the savings, all so they could don their darkest black and yell along to "Antisocial."

"Yeah, but, he got a hair in my beer, dude!" Pete pressed on. Fortunately, with a huffy fluff of his locks, Beavis and Butthead's biggest fan overheard us and stomped off to fly his follicles in someone else's lager. 

The rest of the row of center section seats we found ourselves in was occupied by a who's who of Miami and hardcore musicians, including most of Anger and members of DNME and FWA. They were here for two reasons: To bang their heads to Anthrax's skate-metal anthems that got them through high school, and to see Lemmy, Motörhead's singer/bassist and demigod, one more time.
Anthrax kicked their 40-minute set off hard.

Singer Joey Belladonna led the charge, all pumped fists and operatic wails — clearly enjoying his 21st-century return to the band he founded after a period of exile in the '90s. Frontman/rhythm guitarist Scott Ian was content to lay down the metal riffs and stayed off the mic, potentially still embarrassed by his role in spawning rap-metal with "I'm The Man" and the band's cover of Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise."

By songs two and three, Anthrax had already hit their marks with "Antisocial" and their faster-than-hell cover of Joe Jackson's "Got The Time," which was all over MTV in 1990. By the time they closed with "Indians," every dude over 40 in the audience had their hands high in the air. When that song ended and Anthrax took a bow, the crowd screamed in disbelief.

It had felt a bit brief, considering Anthrax is the more popular band in South Florida, having co-headlined the Miami Arena on the Clash of the Titans tour back in the '90s, as well as Bayfront Park during their Sound of White Noise alt-rock period. Motörhead, by contrast, have stayed away since they played the Button South back in 1991 — maybe due in part to a particularly violent co-bill with Slayer at the Cameo in the late 1980s, or perhaps because their booking agent doesn't like visiting his grandparents in retirement land.
The majority of the crowd looked as though they hadn't changed anything apart from their t-shirt sizes since Motörhead's last Broward visit. "Twenty bucks for two beers!" One middle-aged Mohican declared to no one in particular, apparently having not left his house since Clinton was inaugurated.

Entertaining '80s fashion statements including mullets, leather pants, and patched jean jackets were out in full force, as were a smattering of Motörhead-loving punk rockers, like yours truly. Rounding out the crowd were a few hundred younger rockers who seemed better informed about Lemmy's recent health troubles on this tour than why he's one of the most important building blocks in the Jenga game of rock 'n' roll.

Motörhead took the stage and the crowd went nuts, surging down the aisles for a better view and a more severe case of tinnitus. Lemmy was resplendent in his man-in-black cowboy attire. His movement to and from the microphone came off as hesitant at times, but once he yelled into the microphone with his rugged whiskey growl, the fans were his.

They kicked off their set with "Bomber," which launched an hour-long maelstrom rooted firmly in their early career. Six of the 14 songs in their set were from Bomber and Overkill, both recorded in 1979. Curious selections, considering Motörhead's first U.S. tour was in 1981, and that their entire career spans 40 years. But at this point, if Lemmy wants to stick to music solely from the years between '79 and '82, who am I to judge? I'm just happy he added "Orgasmatron" as a last-show-of-the-tour bonus.

One thing I will judge, however, is the quality of the front-of-house engineers for both Anthrax and Motörhead. While the music sounded fine for both bands, the vocals for the first half of Anthrax's set were buried. This was really rough in the beginning, as Joey Belladonna was doing his best to get the crowd revved up, but was instead forced into a rock 'n' roll mime job.
For Motörhead, who don't even mic their drums in favor of using generic triggers that save time (but "totally fucking suck," according to my seat mate Alex Marquez, drummer extraordinaire of Anger and Solstice), putting Lemmy low in the mix is inexcusable. Ill health or not, the man's voice is a gigantic part of their sound, and resting it just on top of the guitars, which share the same frequencies, is plain wrong.

We've waited nearly a quarter-century for Motörhead's return to South Florida, and we deserve to hear the man tell his tales at an audible volume, where one can discern his lyrics without straining. They didn't pull that shit at Riot Fest in Chicago two weeks ago, where Motörhead was one of the few bands with good sound. The fact that the sound faltered at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, where it's almost always top-notch, blows. I do hope there's a good audiologist onboard the Motörboat who can help their engineer out before he ruins the cruise.

Just as at Riot Fest, Motörhead wrapped their set with a one-two punch of "Ace Of Spades" and "Just Because You've Got The Power (Don't Mean You Got The Right), albeit in reverse order. Finally, they came out and absolutely ripped "Overkill" with three false endings before cranking back into drummer Mickey Dee's double bass salvo. Each time, the crowd roared with approval.

The Rock God known as Lemmy had delivered the goods, and we were all better for it.
KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Bowker