Live : MOTORPSYCHO at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo

I must admit this review is strongly biased, as I consider Motorpsycho the best band in the land. I have all their albums, and before this show I’d seen them 45 times since first discovering their music back in 1994. But that doesn’t matter. Because after witnessing the crowd chant the chorus to “Nothing To Say” before the band brought the world down on them, I knew how strongly we all felt this night.

The gig at the Rockefeller Music Hall had sold out, so more than 1,300 people cheered as the band went on stage at 10:00 p.m. They opened with one of my favorite songs written after drummer Kenneth Kapstad joined the band in 2007: “Year Zero (A Damage Report)”, a slow and brooding metallic masterpiece. The band’s founding members, Bent Sæther (bass/vox) and Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan (guitar/vox/keys), locked well into Kapstad’s percussive grooves for their rock-solid harmonies. As the set explored sonic territories both new and old, it seemed like we were seeing a “new” Motorpsycho leaving their song catalog behind in favour of further experiences. Motorpsycho is one of the few explorers in the twilight zone between seventies icons like King Crimson and Deep Purpleand contemporary visionaries like OM and Grails.

One of the reasons that Motorpsycho have established themselves as one of the premier European hard rock bands is their passion for improvisation, successfully remodeling their work. They’re not scared of stretching a song that lasts 5-6 minutes on record into a 35 minute beast of sound on stage. Tonight they fused the new track “Starhammer (feat. the Electric Psalmon)” with “The Wheel” from Timothy’s Monster (1994). Sadly, this was the only song from that album; probably because they played that album from start to finish at last year’s Øya festival in Oslo. They also did a rather different reinterpretation of the set’s lone breather, “Close Your Eyes”, turning the song’s piano-driven melancholy into psychedelic heaven rich with riffs.

I was at first surprised by the lack of classics; they played no material released prior to 2007. But the second half of the show did a lot to satisfy those in the audience awaiting some ‘golden oldies’—songs like “Greener” and “Kill Devil Hills”. But “Pills, Powders and Passionplays” surged the cheering crowd, and included an inspiring, transcendental section of guitars beautifully looped with the bass of Bent, and Kenneth’s drum rolls right at its back.

New songs also surfaced. “Leslie’s Vest” is reportedly an old, unreleased tune [Ed: a probable nod to Leslie West] and “Neonderthaz” is fresh from their space rock opera(!) which they said should be released in the fall of 2011. If the album is anything like the track they played at Rockefeller, it will rival the best of Hawkwind.

Motorpsycho returned to the stage to play an encore, as they always do, and this was a scorcher. They rediscovered the monumental “Mountain” from their breakthrough album Demon Box, and blew our collective consciousness as their rock thundered through us all, only to then fuse it together with that album’s hit single “Nothing To Say” which, as it always does, brought the singalong choir for a capella chorus. But luckily it didn’t end there, as Bent announced they had one more song to play, adding: “Take it easy, it’s a long one—it’ll feel like four.” And it certainly was. The gargantuan twenty-minute anchoring track “Gullible’s Travails” from their latest epic Heavy Metal Fruit. A four-part suite, it’s the kind of song they do better than most: loud rock, drones, jazz atonality and pop harmonies all wrapped up into a delicious mind explosion. I always drift of into headnodding bliss during these songs, and so I did again. Can’t wait till next time!

Setlist (120min):
01. Year Zero (A Damage Report)
02. Leslie’s Vest
03. Whole Lotta Diana
04. Starhammer (feat. the Electric Psalmon)/The Wheel
05. Neonderthaz
06. Greener
07. Pills, Powders & Passionplays
08. Close Your Eyes
09. Kill Devil Hills
10. Hallucifuge
11. The Alchymist

Encores (35min):
12. Mountain
13. Nothing To Say
14. Gullible’s Travails

~Mats Johansen

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