Plug me in, I'm alive tonight -Live Wire
"How was the Motley Crue show last night?" or so went about thirty-plus emails, phone calls and in person questions, the likes of which have not been asked since U2's triumphant post 9/11 shows in North America three-plus years ago. Here was my usual response:
"The entire show was surrounded by a Circus atmosphere, opening with a movie of the Crue in clay-mation from the guys who gave us Celebrity Death Match, followed by 2 hours and 20 minutes of Crue hits. There were three sexpot women dressed to the nine's in full dominatrix mode danced and did ridiculous gymnastic feats from wires above, there was a midget who breathed fire, there was enough fire on stage to please even Beavis, loads of silicone in the audience, pyrotechnics galore which would have made the biggest 4th of July junkie twitch his lighter, a crew (including techs)who were dressed in circus gear with masks enhancing the insane atmosphere, Nikki Sixx blew himself up, Tommy's solo was performed two drum kits near the roof, motorcycles were driven on stage after the intermission, more circus so lei feats from the dominatrix dressed women, fire breathing midgets...and oh yeah, music too, which included twenty-three classic Crue tunes. By the way, did I mention the fire breathing midget?"
Motley Crue's 2005 tour is sick, repulsive, vile, sexist, insane, non-PC and god
it was great to see this band be at arguably their zenith from a live perspective. In terms of a "show", only Kiss' reunion tour in '96 comes close. I love all types of music and concert experiences but I will say that it's refreshing to see a band deliver on their promises by giving a show that blew my expectations out of the water. Motley Crue's 2005 show is arguably more ambitious than even their "Dr. Feelgood" jaunt from 1989-1990. It's wild, over-the-top and you can see where most of the top ticket price of $75 goes into.
The show opens with a brief clay-mation movie where an asteroid named "The Planetory" is heading for Earth to destroy it. The Crue come up with a plan to stop the "Planetory". When the silicone plan fails, the circus drapes covering the stage come into full view as a mini clown appears from a box in front of the stage. Following him were two women clad in full blown dominatrix outfits. From there, the fire from behind the curtains could be more than seen, but felt and the anticipation of the audience reaches deafening heights as the curtain rises and Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee (decked out in clown make-up) and the miracle that is Mick Mars are jamming away to the intro of "Shout At The Devil '97". Vince Neil rises from below the stage as they lead the chant..."Shout, Shout, Shout"...the crowd is engaged, alive in unison with hands in the air, and when the chorus kicks in the fire and flames incinerated more than eyebrows and the big hair of the sold out crowd. Yes, Motley Crue is back in a colossal way. What occurred over the next fifty minutes was nothing short of astonishing. If I were a consultant for the band I could not have picked a better set list. Following the raucous opening, the band immediately kicked into "Too Fast For Love", the title track of their debut album. It was at this moment I realized this was going to be more than a "hits" show, but one the fans would eat up as it would encompass all aspects of their career as the entire crowd sang in unison with Vince. "Ten Seconds To Love" followed with the three leather clad women prancing around the stage, climbing the ladders on opposite sides and swinging from the upper rafters. Yeah, anywhere else in this world you would probably be in a strip club, instead the Motley Crue brings the sleaze to you.
Before the fourth song, Nikki proclaimed to the crowd, "Can you believe we finally got out s**t together?" I for one, can not. I never in a million years really figured they would go out on a tour this scale ever again. As Nikki asked for the fans who grew up with Motley to raise their hands, he then tested them by screaming "Red" and waiting for the crowd to return the chant, which they did proudly by chanting back "Hot"", Tommy's drum roll kicked inn and the nest thing we knew the pyro blast knocked me back. It was like 1989 all over again as the band delivered the performance to perfection which included Vince hitting the screeching high note at the end. Of the first nine songs performed during the first 50 minutes, eight of them were from the bands first two albums-"Too Fast For Love" and "Shout At The Devil". Only "Louder Than Hell" was not from these first two albums, but was originally recorded for "Shout" under the title of "Hotter Than Hell". "Too Young To Fall In Love" and "Looks That Kill" brought back forgotten recollections for many in the audience and for the others the memory of these songs will be forever tattooed in their head from what they saw from this very performance. The highlight of the first set was also the tour's biggest surprise, "On With The Show". Of all the songs I have ever wanted to see Motley perform live, this is it. "Frankie died just the other night, some say it was suicide, but we know how the story goes..." The crowd sang along to every word of the epic masterpiece from the very beginnings of Motley...before the arenas, pin-up wife's and platinum records there was a band with determination, anger and a will so strong that they believed in themselves and made it happen. "On With The Show" and set number one closer "Live Wire", had the arena shaking to sounds of reverberations. The same aggression heard on their debut album twenty-four years ago could be seen in the flesh on stage in 2005.
During the ten minute intermission, clips were shown from "Disaster: The Movie" (www.disasterthemovie.com). As the clock counted down to 0:00, Tommy, Vince and Nikki drove onto the stage with their choppers revving full force for round number two. They were led out by the midget, Mighty Mike on his own mini bike. As they got off, they ripped into the opening riff of "Girls, Girls, Girls" pushing the frenzy into another stratosphere picking up right where they left off ten minutes before. The trio of women reappeared from the rafters and performed circus so lei bits while the band was cranking away and led into "Wildside". The Circus So lei bits were fun, but distracting at the same point. In some odd way, you were torn as to what to watch, the band or everything that was going on around them. "Don't Go Away Mad" led into the band's pinnacle track, "Primal Scream". Nikki's driving bass line and Mick's shredding guitar defined this song in 1991 and redefined it again in 2005. It sounded as primal as ever as the audience chanted the chorus "scream-shout!" back to the band.
The band carefully placed a trio of ballads and while I thought it may drag, it did anything but. "Glitter" gave the crowd a brief breather as one of the athletic women swung from the upper sanctums of the arena in a glitter outfit, which led right into the band's top-ten smash "Without You" which ended after just one verse but the silence was soon gone with scream of appreciation as Tommy played the piano intro to "Home Sweet Home". This was the first music video to replace Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on MTV's greatest video of all time lists on MTV in 1985 and 1986. The lighters were waving, arms flying and grown men crying as Vince and the band paced the song beautifully allowing for the crowd to relish in the moments. As Vince hit the last chorus and the words "Home Sweet Home"
left his lips, his voice was drowned as that last "Home" was sung by the entire sold out arena.
After the trio of ballads, Nikki Sixx was stage left with his bass and a keyboard looking like a mad scientist for his solo, which was not a bass one, but one where he fiddled with a keyboard, reverb and had a female assistant attempt to saw off her own bra. As absurd as it sounds, it's true. It eventually led into a slew of fire and pyro ending in one gigantic explosion. While he may not have lit himself on fire like he did for the "Live Wire" video close to a quarter century ago, he did come close to blowing himself up. As the smoke cleared the band soared into their biggest hit, "Dr. Feelgood" to roars of approval.
Tommy Lee was known for reinventing the drum solo in the 80's by playing it at a 90 degree angle, having the kit spin and having a kit go to the upper rafters of an arena so those in the cheap seats could also get up close and personal. The solo began with Tommy on the main kit playing over loops of dance beats. As it ended, he came to the front of the stage, toasted the crowd and was lifted to two kits just below the ceiling. One was mostly a percussion set (gas cans, etc.) and another had keyboards for him to elaborate his solo, both drum kits reminded me more of Sheila E than Tommy Lee. Both were alluring and kept the audience's attention, especially when a wire held Tommy as he would fly between them, but otherwise they were monotonous. I would have preferred to see Tommy play a track off his vastly underrated solo album, "Never A Dull Moment". However, the theatrical aspect of the solo kept the sold out crowds rapt attention. As he was lowered he and the band went full force ahead into "Same Ol' Situation", enhanced by a silent movie in the background where Mighty Mike gets married only to have his wife leave him right at the altar for her maid of honor. Shortly after the Motley men took a homemade video cam, which Tommy mounted and did his best to get the women in the crowd to show "appreciation" for the band. Since my mother reads my writing, I'll leave it at that.
Before the introduction of the to newer numbers, "If I Die Tomorrow" and "Sick Love Song", Nikki spoke to the crowd giving his thanks for selling the place out and told the crowd that the Cue has finally got everything together and that they are "not breaking up this time". He then went on to say "the lifeline of any band is new music" and went on to proclaim that the band would record a new album as soon as the tour is over. The irony of this comment is that the band has released three new studio albums post 1990 and a total of six compilations. I hope the new music comment is true, as "New Tattoo" is a vastly underrated, underappreciated and underrepresented album in the Motley cannon. However, both of the new songs from "Red, White & Crue" were the least receptive numbers of an otherwise explosive evening.
If I were to give a suggestion to the band it would be to bridge Nikki and Tommy's solo's together and play these newer songs earlier in the second set. They should be building momentum as the main set comes to a close. The irony is that one of the greatest fist pumping speed anthems of all time, "Kickstart My Heart" took about two minutes before the crowd was at the level of insanity they were at during the first set, because of the two new songs that led into it. However, the triumphant finale of "Kickstart" was heralded by fire, pyrotechnics and the band being in complete control of their instruments.
Please allow me to digress from the show as one of the men of Motley heralds special mention. Throughout the entire evening, I could not help but notice what a miracle Mick Mars is. He prowled the stage with a top hat and long lanky tattooed arms like a war torn veteran. Since the publication of the band's autobiography, "The Dirt" in 2001, the world has come to learn that Mick suffers from a life threatening bone disease that makes it near impossible for him to move. It was rumored that the end was near for Mick just a few years back. Plus he just had a hip replacement surgery in October. To bear witness to him on stage shredding that guitar is more than just a miracle but a sign from up above. Apparently the man above does not feel Mick has done everything he was set out to do on this earth, just yet. For 150 minutes, Mick Mars played every riff perfectly, gave 110% and moved around the stage, not like a handicapped man, but one who was put on this earth to entertain. Looking at him, you feel that the slightest breath would knock this fragile stick thin man over. But he moved the stage gracefully and better than most rockers half his age. Mick gets a bad reputation as a hack guitar player, but he is anything but. He is not a virtuoso, but he's not dire either. I sat in awe as I watched him play immaculately, not missing one note, and making anyone who ever had a bad word about Mick, eat their own words. What people don't realize is with one guitar Mick provides the same sonic elements most other bands get with two guitarists and a keyboard player. Mick has to solo, play rhythm and more times than not, is the defining sonic force, most notably on "Dr. Feelgood" whose sound is defined by the whammy bar. Whereas guitar virtuosos' use it to show off, Mick uses it as an instrument. He does not use it unless it will enhance the song, no other reason. His talent is showcased marvelously on the new Crue compilation-"Red, White & Crue" with the track "Bittersuite", a stunning bluesy instrumental. Mick draws more attention for his look of age more than anything else, but he's metals hybrid of Jeff Beck and Keith Richards. Say what you want about Mick and my comparison, but when it comes to rocking, hope you can keep up with the metal madman who is playing the best he has ever played on this tour.
The encores brought about two hellish covers-"Helter Skelter" and the out of control "Anarchy In The UK". During "Anarchy" the crew (dressed in full circus regalia) shot water guns into the audience, Mighty Mike rode a mini bike onto the stage and was playing with fire (literally and breathing it) and the three dominatrix's had their extended finger nails on fire. Yes, it was as over the top as any finale could ever be. Then again, it's Motley Crue, should I have expected anything less? As the show ended, the band and crew took their bows. As people were breathing in the smoke from the explosive finale, one thing was very clear, like the song "Kickstart My Heart" says, Motley Crue is "still kicking ass".
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