Mötley Crüe/Alice Cooper: Genting Arena Birmingham
When Mötley Crüe crashed into the hard rock scene in the early 1980s, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that over 30 years later they would be packing out arenas across the world. Bringing all the glamour of LA, the girls, the hedonistic lifestyle, the drink, the drugs, the ink and the occasional fiery rock tune, to a 15 year old finding his way in life, they were from a different galaxy, let alone planet. Mötley Crüe were the epitome of Ian Drury’s sex and drugs and rock n’ roll and it was rare for a rock magazine not to feature the latest exploits of messrs Neil, Mars, Sixx and Lee.
When the band rolled into Cardiff in 1986 on the Theatre Of Pain tour, I was among 2500 crazy metal fans who witnessed some of the most over the top action that St David’s Hall has ever seen. Yes, Vince Neil couldn’t sing but the show was so captivating that it didn’t matter. Nearly 30 years later and Mötley Crüe speed towards their much publicised conclusion. Hooking up with old pal Alice Cooper for one of their four UK dates, the evening presented good value for money with two of rock’s heavy weights shaking their stuff. Of course, the final opportunity to see Mötley Crüe was also a draw.
I've seen Alice Cooper (8) several times and each time I see him I remind myself how damn good he actually is when you remove the pantomime part of his show. Tonight, heavy as hell and stripped back to the basics with a conservative number of theatrics and props, Cooper rolled out an hour of classics from his back catalogue. Our Alice nut Brett had earlier informed us that this show was part of Alice’s Raise The Dead tour which has been on the road for some time. Cooper has assembled a formidable band to support him. Long standing members Glen Sobel and bassist Chuck Garric are currently joined by the impressive fretwork of Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.
Opening with the eerie Vincent Price narration, the band tore into Black Widow before a triple hit of No More Mr Nice Guy, Under My Wheels and I'm Eighteen got the already pumped crowd singing along. The dollars were scattered during Billion Dollar Babies and then it was time for full sing-a-long as fan favourite Poison increased the temperature. A couple of less well known tunes followed; Dirty Diamonds and the Ballad Of Dwight Fry which contained a bass and drum solo (yawn) before Nita showed her guitar prowess.
As always, no Alice show is complete without him being killed at least once and the guillotine was brought into action to take his head off as the band segued into I Love The Dead. Feed My Frankenstein saw the appearance of the monster; hammy, corny and such great entertainment with sufficient edge from the band to keep it heavy. The inevitable School’s Out with snippet of Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 brought the set to a roaring finish and a huge ovation.
Bang on time the house lights dimmed and with that the cue for one of the most ridiculously excessive stage shows ever witnessed. For the next two hours the lighting and almost constant pyrotechnics ensured that visually at least, there was not a dull moment. Mötley Crüe (9), like Kiss, have never claimed to be brilliant song writers but bloody hell do they put on a show.
Girls Girls Girls got the arena set to boiling point and Wild Side stoked the capacity crowd to even greater heights. The first pyro pots hadn't even cooled and already Nikki Sixx was stalking the stage every inch the rock star. It was feared that the other real driving force behind the band, drummer Tommy Lee might be forced to sit out some of the gigs due to his recurrent tendonitis but happily he was there, larger than life and beating the crap out of his custom kit.
An average Primal Scream led into S.O.S. with lots of singing from the crowd, as a bloated Vince Neil, supported by the rather attractive Crüe Girls Allison Kyler and Sofia Touta, crooned his way through it. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) followed and then it was time for Brownsville Station’s Smokin’ In The Boys Room. Despite his dodgy voice Neil remains a captivating frontman.
A bit of real riffage next with oldie Looks That Kill, the focus on the zombie like Mick Mars who maintained his ghoulish position stage left all evening apart from his venture into the centre of the stage for a truly awful guitar solo. The set pace dropped with a pretty lousy Muthafucker Of The Year, after which we were treated to a brief monologue from Nikki Sixx, greeted with a roar from the delirious crowd. A rather pointless cover of Anarchy In The UK was at least followed by the ball shattering Shout At The Devil, a track that Neil’s voice always struggles with but hey, nothing new there.
Cue Carl Orff’s O Fortuna; time for the much anticipated Tommy Lee roller coaster. I’d say that it was a drum solo except that it really wasn't but impressive and outrageous, oh yes. Lee drummed along to various rock tracks as his platform edged its way along the rails, twisting up and down, over and under. Obviously the crowd went bat shit crazy for it. The dire Mars solo followed, but then things really improved with a trio of blistering songs. First up Live Wire, then a devastatingly good Dr Feelgood and finally set closer Kickstart My Heart, which saw Neil and Sixx propelled high about the audience on separate hydraulic platforms. The set closed with an astonishing amount of pyro and the crowd ecstatic.
The encore saw Crüe decamp to an intimate set up directly behind the sound desk and complete with Tommy Lee on piano, the band closed down the evening and their last visit to Birmingham with an emotional Home Sweet Home.
Mötley Crüe has never disappointed live. I’d rarely listen to them out of choice (although they feature regularly on the play list of Planet Rock so I get more than sufficient) and I think it is fair to say that they are not in the same league musically as many of their peers; however, this was an unforgettable evening full of the over the top histrionics you’d expect. One where I am happy to say I was there.