Thirty years after the blood and fire of Motley Crue debuted on the streets of Hollywood, fans are still flocking to see the spectacle, even without all the theatrics (Tommy’s drum-coaster excluded).
And spectacular they are. Not many have the songwriting skills and ballsy delivery that have pushed Motley so far into the mainstream in the 80’s. Many “hair metal” bands (damn, I hate that phrase), lost their spotlights when Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam destroyed real rock and roll. Some bands, like Poison, deserve to have lost their pull of the mainstream (let’s not get started on singer Bret Michaels’ tv show “Rock of Love”). But others who had actual talent and still deliver (i.e. Cinderella, Tesla, RATT, WASP, Twisted Sister, Lita Ford and others), somehow became more of a fad joke to mainstream pop conspiratorialists. These other bands have the same what-it-takes to be where Motley is now. But what sold Motley to the public was the band’s angst and rebel-youth “charm.” We don’t see Tom Keifer or Warren DeMartini threatening to fight other rockstars in a public forum. We don’t see members of Tesla constantly bashing each other in books, TV and radio shows. We love Motley because they lived it. They were the guys who lived above the Whisky, did what and who they wanted, fucked for rent money and drugs and fighting anyone who got in their way. They made it because they had to. If they hadn’t, they’d probably all be dead.
While we are all anxiously awaiting the film version of The Dirt, we can at least take comfort in Motley’s recent resurgence (with all four original members, that is). We are able to still see them, which is rarer for some of the other bands (I just saw Cinderella play for the first time in years and years a couple weeks ago). And the moral of the motley story I learned on June 14 at the Hollywood Bowl is that good music bonds people.
Vince Neil is normally less-than-subtle about his displeasure of his bandmates and their past treatment of him. Even onstage at the Bowl, his voice was nonchalant but truthful when he declared, “We haven’t killed each other yet!……Yet.” But when he’s onstage, he doesn’t care! He doesn’t give a shit about the perianal conflicts and fighting. We all know what it’s like to “fire” friends from our lives, (I know I do it when necessary), so imagine having to work alongside them onstage for 90 minutes in a party good-time environment. Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy all swallow their pride when grouping together to kick some serious ass. Did you ever think there would be such professionalism from such a famously unprofessional, raucous and rude crue? And you know what? They sound better than ever.
I don’t know how many of the guys are still sober or whatnot (I know Vince dealt with house-arrest after another DUI last year), but the product is stellar. Opening with “Wild Side” got the rockers in waiting on their feet. “Live Wire” is always a huge pleaser as were oldies “Looks that Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love.” All the hits were done well and, while I normally don’t care for much of what is paid of the Billboard topping Dr. Feelgood album, they still sounded sorta edgy and rocked. I think many of us hardcore Motleys would have preferred they leave off some of the poppier hits and played more obscure heavy-hitters. Biggest complaint: not one surprise obscure song. I recommend every rock star taking a cue from Alice Cooper and throwing in obscure tunes in every show to please the really serious fan. “Primal Scream,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Saints of Los Angeles” and even “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” displaced any bored thoughts and when Tommy brought a fun onstage to ride his drum-coaster, well, we knew we were in for something we haven’t seen before. “Home Sweet Home,” one of the greatest power ballads ever written, started as usual with Tommy on the piano, running back and forth between piano and drums. But when Lee played the intro on the piano, Mick and Nikki played along with him for a subtle yet different take on a classic.
Vince’s vocals were dead on for the most part. I’ve seen Motley when he sound like shit and I’ve heard him hit the notes with perfect abandon. This show was a killer-Vince show. All the notes we expected were hit, and then some. As is the norm, some words were lost during “Shout at the Devil” and “Kickstart My Heart.” But then, he is running and hopping around a huge stage all night. That’s tiring even to look at. Mick’s sound scorched too, which is great news because at the last Bowl show with Aerosmith, we couldn’t hear Mick at all. There were some complaints that Nikki’s bass couldn’t be heard, but I think it was dependent on the location of the viewer. Still though, that’s a regular problem for rock bands playing the Bowl. The fans were a little upset at a tease of an encore without any actual encore, but that is normal for these guys. They play all the way through. OK fine, but…well, can ya’ turn off the lights when you’re done so we know to go home? OK, thanks.
Tommy Lee’s drum-coaster is a loop coaster track that allows his drumkit to fling around and upside down. The chosen fan was able to ride with him, strapped in, to the tune of “Rollercoaster of Love.” Watching the video on the screen, one woudn’t even notice what the kit was doing had it not been for this female fan’s hair rising and lowering. Despite constant reports that Tommy is a dick to his fans in person, he sure plays the role of wanting to please the fans with stunts like these. Course, who wouldn’t wanna’ ride a rollercoaster all night while playing drums?! What is pretty impressive again about Tommy’s solos is how adaptability and fighting of gravity to seamlessly finish his solo.
So yeah, Motley’s done it again. And the band continually rises to the challenge of keeping its separate personalities in tow to produce a kick-ass evening of rock and roll. Nikki proclaimed in a church-going moment, when he asked every fan to sit down as if to prey (which they actually did), that he loved Vince and that he is probably the best rock singer there is. That might be true but if he felt that way, well…maybe he doesn’t remember Operation: Corabi Crue. Here’s hopin’ for another new Crue album in the near future. The guys are playing this year’s Sunset Strip Festival (a true return to their home), so we’ve got that to look forward to. But after 2008’s thrill-inducing “Saints in Los Angeles” album, we for def need some nue crue. Bring it, boiz! See you on Sunset!
Kerr Seth Lordygan is a freelance rock and roll writer, an award-winning playwright, actor, director and rockstar. Well, rockstar in his own mind… at least for now! www.lordygan.com