Well folks, this is it.
This is the end.
This is the farewell tour for my summer at SurfRhythm.
And what better way to finish up the summer reviewing what I believe to be the single greatest show of all time.
Mötley Crüe’s Final Tour: All Bad Things Must Come To An End.
If you haven’t realized by now that hair metal is my not so secret guilty pleasure, I would be amazed. While my experiences opening my mind to the ways of the surf, something I genuinely enjoyed and hope to continue doing, there is something that really resonates with me and hair metal. It just strikes the right chord, if you will.
Puns aside, let’s get to the good stuff.
But first, an anecdote.
The first time I saw Crüe was during the first leg of this same tour, almost exactly one year ago in Camden, New Jersey, on my 21st birthday. I truly believe that I can say this, and with the utmost confidence: I had the greatest 21st birthday of all time. From breaking the legal, alcoholic seal on Friday night at midnight, to waking up at 8 AM to get my new license from the DMV, which could not have been any more moronic of a decision on my part, spending the day feeling like death, and road tripping up and experiencing the show with one of my closest friends. Oh, and I got with a cougar from Camden. Or Philly. I don’t really know. I think her name was Candy, or something like that. She looked so good, and get this – it was even her birthday too! She was forty. I didn’t go all the way by any means. I think her boyfriend or something was there with her, which was bizarre as hell, but whatever! I WILL BE YOUNG FOREVER!!!
Man, that whole day was so great. I was definitely afraid that I was going to catch some kind of disease and get all my money stolen, but she was so nice and cool. Gotta love that. Rock and roll, baby.
You know, I tend to amp things up pretty hard. That is who I am. I can understand when readers look at my work, and think, “Ah, this guy, he is too excitable.” That’s pretty true. But when I saw Crüe on my 21st, I don’t think I can emphasize this enough.
My mind was BLOWN.
That was the best stage show I have ever seen, by a mile.
Even better than Paul McCartney. Paul FREAKING McCartney. A Beatle. A BEATLE.
From the lights, to the sound, to the set, the performance, and the excessive pyrotechnics (that is an understatement, it really was an… explosive show), I think it is safe to say that no one will be able to come close to the party that is Mötley Crüe’s final tour for a very, very long time.
Fast forward one year and through another lifetime of new experiences, and I was catching them again with another one of my closest friends. Almost one year to the day, Crüe had a show set up for a thirty minute drive from my house. I would have been an idiot to not go.
Because it was absolutely amazing, again.
Playing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, headbangers of all ages and walks of life came to see this final tour, and it was a solid turnout. The overall attitude seemed good. No fighting or excessive drunken idiots wandering around, with a mix of ass kicking rockers and their hot rocker wives. I did see a noticeable amount of Steelers gear for the heart of Baltimore, and it definitely made me think, “man, these guys have balls.” I would have been a little too nervous to rock my own Steelers cap, but my hair (and Jack Daniels tank top) looked too good. No harm, no foul.
Opening the show was none other than Alice Cooper himself, who put on a 45 or so minute set of his biggest hits. Accompanied by a stellar band, including Nita Strauss of the Iron Maidens, as his dynamite, bombshell lead guitarist, Cooper served as the perfect first act. Performing hits such as “Feed My Frankenstein,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and his most popular song as his own finale, “School’s Out For Summer,” Cooper, as an opening act, could not have set the stage any better. Not only was his music great, but the use of props such as a ten foot tall Frankenstein monster coming out and joining on a chorus or two, guillotines for Alice’s daily beheading, swords, balloons, and snakes, presented the quintessential Cooper that we have come to know and love. Alice, age 67, still had all of his charisma and a nice rock voice to match, again serving as the perfect opener for this tour. Truly, a great decision to invite him to play throughout every leg of the tour.
Using some of the most famous songs that reference the word “Goodbye”, such as “Hello, Goodbye,” by the Beatles, and “So Long, Farewell,” from the musical, the Sound of Music, a special kind of tongue and cheek really sat well with the crowd. Only can a band that ignites a flaming pentagram and sings “Shout at the Devil” could open a show with classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes.
Erupting immediately, it was clear that the party business was to be taken care of. The set list was so packed with Crüe’s biggest hits from the past forty years, I almost don’t want to even try and name everything. If you are familiar with any of their work, you could think of the first few Crüe songs to come into your head. “Girls, Girls, Girls.” “Dr. Feelgood.” “Kickstart My Heart”. “Wild Side.” “Live Wire.” “Home Sweet Home.” And they were all there, every single one. And then some more.
As if the spectacle itself didn’t cover the price of the ticket and then some, the actual sound of the band, instruments and mixing, could not have been any better. The members of Mötley Crüe might not have the same kind of musicianship and technical expertise as a group like Rush, or a classical orchestra for that matter of comparison, might have, but the band still kicked serious ass. From Vince Neil’s vocals, Nikki Sixx holding everything together with the bass, Tommy Lee truly outdoing his wildman reputation on the drums, and Mick Mars, who may be the secret weapon in the group, shredding it on the guitar, these men performed beautifully. Again, for 50+ year old guys who literally overdosed, died, and was given two shots of adrenaline to come back to life in the ambulance, Nikki Sixx’s true life inspiration for arguably Crüe’s biggest hit, “Kickstart My Heart,” I don’t think they could have played any better. Great hard rock tone, bumping rhythm, good vocals, everything was pretty much at the height of their talent.
Oh – and one more thing. It would seem pretty hard to steal a show like this, but Tommy Lee may have done so. Doing something he proclaimed he wanted all his life, the drum solo took a different turn, literally. Built 40 feet in the air and maybe more, going across the length of the arena was the Crüecify rocking roller coaster: a mechanical set up that featured a fully spinning Tommy Lee harnessed into his drum set moving across the length of the arena. Forget that this abilities aren’t quite at the level of guys like Bonham, or Keith Moon, or Neil Peart, the greatest of all time. Tommy Lee obliterated his drums to fifteen or so minutes worth of rap, pop songs, electronic music, and rock on a roller coaster over the crowd. The sea of cell phones taking pictures and video light up the faces of the crowd, and words can’t really describe in full what it looks like. An amazing feat of engineering even for a band synonymous with grand spectacle, and the most creative drum solo I have ever seen.
Going into concerts now, I seem to have put myself in an odd position. While still being the life of the party, I am seeing so much more through the eyes of an objective critic than just a normal observer. I thought that it may have been put to rest after dropping out of Musical Theater School (and thank whatever made up deity you believe in that I did that, because I sure as hell am), but it is truly clear how much I am able to observe, almost to a fault.
From the critical standpoint of a decently trained reviewer and someone who had seen this exact show before, there were only few small things that I caught that were not as strong as the rest of the overall picture, the first of which was the state of Vince Neil’s voice. Neil was not quite able to reach his highest screaming notes in some of the songs, but thinking about his age, past lifestyle habits, and the fact that it was a show on a Wednesday night, I would be surprised to find a singer around that could do that. Aside from that, he still sounded fantastic, no complaint there, even though he may not be as an explosive a showman as my main man David Lee Roth The second thing was the state of the pyrotechnics and the explosions. While there was still a heavy usage of pyrotechnics along with the light show, a honestly beautiful feat of rock engineering, I definitely noticed that there were one or two spots that did not make use of the full firework effect, seeing it a second time. I think I can correctly attribute that to the fact that they were playing in an arena designed for 20,000 people. Not the usual, massive outdoor show. You can’t totally burn down a venue. I’m pretty sure it says that somewhere in their contract.
But aside from those two little things?
Sheer rock perfection. Everything about the 1980’s excess, focused into a two hour performance. You could feel the heat coming from the fires on stage. Explosions were so loud, they shook your whole body. Lights were so meticulously arranged and programmed, that they have easily outdone any performer I have ever seen, and by a long shot at that.
Now, just for the record, I don’t really feel like making any comments on some of the darker parts of Crüe’s timeline, as some pretty bad things have happened over the years, and they can’t really be defended. But as a fan here for the music and the show? They couldn’t have done any better.
While driving home after the gig, I thought a lot about this style of music, and what makes bands like these succeed to such an extent still. Forget about the nostalgia and living in the past for a moment, and think about the music itself – what really matters. One could almost make an argument that this specific style of music, hair metal, is as close to pop music as it is rock and blues, from which anything with an American, electric guitar is based. With the flashy riffs, catchy lyrics, and great image, bands like these put on anthemic shows that keep crowds energized and singing along for the whole night. While listening to two hours worth of anthemic rock on a car radio or an iPod might be a little draining, going ballistic in an arena to two hours worth of the best live music you could think about has no equal.
After signing a “cessation of touring agreement”, according to Rolling Stone’s initial reports, I think it is all but certain that this truly is the end. Listening to this music even now and watching concert videos days later, I couldn’t be any more content knowing that I was able to see this group and tour before it is finished forever. I am so glad I could witness this before it is gone forever.
And thus, like my summer at SurfRhythm, I could not be any more happy to have stumbled in and been able to do what I did. I’m not really a sappy person, and I won’t begin to do so now, but I will say that it has been a pleasure doing this all summer. While my content will not be as regular as it was over the last few months, I will be back irregularly for a few more reviews and interviews. I am going to see The Who in November, and expect to see that shortly after, as well as a few more deep conversations with local artists that I did not get a chance to meet with this summer. Still, I hope you as readers enjoyed catching up with us and taking a look at some of my Hunter Thompson – esque adventures over the last few months. I can tell you from my end, they sure were fun.
Thanks one more time for keeping up with everything. It has been a pleasure.
I bought the ticket, and I am definitely still taking the ride.