[ATTENDED: September 18, 2012] Mötley Crüe
Back in 1998, I saw Aerosmith and Monster Magnet play a set at Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA. It was my first time seeing Aerosmith and I was a little bummed that Stephen Tyler had broken his leg. He was amazingly limber and nimble for a guy in a leg cast, but I’m sure he could have done a lot more if he was unhampered by injury.
Fourteen years later, I’m back on Montage Mountain to see Kiss and Mötley Crüe. And just a few days before this show Vince Neil broke his foot. While he’s not quite the acrobatic showman as Stephen Tyler, he was definitely hampered amidst the excitement of their stage show. It didn’t affect his voice though.
I liked Mötley Crüe’s first two albums quite a lot. I liked Theater of Pain a lot less–even if “Home Sweet Home” was the biggest song in the world at the time. What is it about a piano ballad that drives hard rocker people crazy?
Since then the Crüe have released some 5 albums and have had a half-dozen or so hits (some pretty massive). Of course, I never liked the glammier or even the more “rock n roll” sound of their later albums. I had pretty much given up on them altogether. So I didn’t really care much that they were opening for Kiss at this show.
But I will say this–Mötley Crüe put on one hell of a spectacle. And that’s what some concerts are all about. There were scantily clad women swinging on ropes and walking on stilts and bringing guitars to the band and dancing abstractly (that’s got to be a very hard job–pretending to dancing rhythmically and sexily to Motley Crue for an entire song). [If you object to the exploitation of women, this is not the show for you–I sure hope they are well compensated]. There were guys with firehoses shooting the audience (which I assume was a wet T-shirt extravaganza), there were bottles of champagne poured onto the crowd, there was fire and more fire and more and more fire. And there was Tommy Lee’s drumset–more on that.
So I knew probably 2/3 of the songs they played. The newer songs fared better. Vince Neil’s voice still sounds great–he can really hit some high notes, boy. Although on “Shout at the Devil,” he sounded dreadful and on which ever song that was from Too Fast for Love I could barely understand him at all. But songs like “Dr Feelgood” and “Girls Girls Girls” (which I never especially liked but which I’ve heard a million times) they sounded just as good as ever.
Some stray observations. I didn’t know that the four original guys were still together. Of course, it wasn’t apparent than Nikki Sixx was playing anything. There were one or two songs where the bass was alone, but I couldn’t hear him at all. Mick Mars was doing some impressive guitar stuff throughout the set, although when he got to his “solo” section I realized it was more effects and noise than actual virtuosity. I was kind of impressed by him until at the very end of the show when he mentioned that it was the 42nd anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’ death and he did a tribute. It wasn’t great and Hendrix would have dismissed it with one hand. Even with a broken foot Vince Neil has good stage charisma and was entertaining. And man, he really could hit high notes. But the show belongs to Tommy Lee. Whether it’s playing the mirror covered piano for “Home Sweet Home” or his outrageous drum solo–he even looks like he hasn’t aged a day–it’s all that good living.
The actual drum solo itself was nothing–he may have only hit the cymbals, snare and bass drum–it was more like drum karaoke–there was different music playing throughout. I’m not sure if Tommy was triggering the music with his drums (like Neal Peart in Rush does) or if they were just playing it and he was playing along. But the real excitement of the drum solo was the roller coaster. Twenty years ago, Tommy’s drumset went upside down. Now, the drum set (and the screen behind it) is on a giant circular track. And as the solo starts, Tommy’s set goes up to the left and then up to the right and back and forth until it goes all the way around. It pauses at the top and then goes back. It is ridiculous, and superficial and so not about talent and it is totally cool. When the solo is over a lucky fan gets to ride with him. They strap the guy in, Tommy makes some jokes, the speakers play The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Roller Coaster” and Tommy plays along while the guy goes upside down with him. Now that’s how you please an audience.
The set was too long (that’s the problem when your opening act may actually be bigger than you) and the last song went on for like 15 minutes of lasers and fire and water and feedback and everything, but it was fun show. The one thing I want to point out is just how very very different Mötley Crüe is from Kiss. They seem like a natural fit, but they approach the topic of sex very differently. My friend brought his 7-year-old son who loves Kiss and there were lots of kids in the audience. Kiss is sexual, no doubt about it. But they are all metaphorical and are very clean. Mötley Crüe on the other hand is explicit, explicit, explicit. Every other word is fuck, they talked about and flashed the word Sex (who out there likes sex? who wants sex tonight?). And all those half naked women. Obviously twenty years ago I wouldn’t have even thought about it, but it was really uncomfortable for me thinking about the kids out there.
Nevertheless, it’s a show I won’t forget any time soon.