MOTLEY CRUE’S DISASTROUS FIRST NIGHT
The slogan for Motley Crue‘s “final” tour is “all bad things must come to an end” — it could not be more appropriate. On opening night of their alleged last tour, Motley Crue, or rather guitarist Mick Mars, provided a shockingly subpar and unprofessional performance to the sold out crowd at Grand Rapids, Michigan. Such a bad performance will hopefully not be repeated because if so, Motley Crue should just pull the plug now on their “final” tour. But I am getting ahead of myself… let’s start at the beginning.
Given that I would not be able to attend Motley Crue‘s August concert in Toronto, I set out to recruit my friend The Meister for a little road trip to Grand Rapids to see Nikki Sixx and company start their goodbye tour. Even though he already had a ticket to the upcoming Toronto show, The Meister was likely going to be an easy sell given that he had already been to the Sweden Rock Festival and Monsters of Rock Cruise this year. What is a six hour road trip when you are readily willing to travel overseas to catch a rock festival? The fact that we were still able to obtain floor seating in the cozy Van Andel Arena for $108 US and $138 US respectively a few days prior to the show was certainly an incentive. We arrived in Grand Rapids on the day of the concert by 4:00 pm and met up with a couple (Sammy, who I had met at a Steel Panther show about a month before, and Kristi) who were coming from Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian side. Everyone was anticipating an awesome show — after all, not only was Motley Crue presumably pulling out all the stops, they had brought with them one heck of an opening act — the one and only Alice Cooper.
Although our concert tickets indicated that the doors would open at 7:00 pm, we made our way to the Van Andel Arena for 6:30 pm. There were already huge line-ups of people and they were getting into the arena! The merchandise booth had the most selection of band t-shirts and paraphernalia that I had ever seen. To give you a comparison of just how much stuff Motley Crue was selling, I would say that the band had about the same amount of merchandise as what I saw this year at the M3 Rock Festival, which had 19 different bands playing. Although we were all in the venue by 6:50 pm, we could hear that a band was already playing. Luckily it was not Alice Cooper, but rather a group that I had never heard of called The Raskins. The band members, aside from the drummer, looked like the second coming of the Ramones with their haircuts and leather jackets. There wasn’t a whole lot of movement from the band despite the big stage that they had to work with. I could not tell if they were playing cover songs and/or originals, but I assume that at least a few originals were thrown in. Before long The Raskins‘ set was over, and I wonder how many people missed out them simply because everyone’s tickets presumably indicated that the doors would open at 7:00 pm.
Next up at about 7:40 pm was the ageless Alice Cooper. Sure, he is now 66 years old but you really cannot tell by the spirited and energetic performance that he puts on night after night. It helps of course to be backed by a much younger cast of musicians, which should really be considered all-stars. For instance, bassist Chuck Garric has also played for Dio and has his own band Beasto Blanco, that semi-recently released a debut album called ‘Live Fast Die Loud’. New guitarist Nita Strauss has played for a variety of artists/bands including Femme Fatale and the popular all-female tribute act The Iron Maidens. The concert performed by Alice Cooper and his all-star band was simply flawless. The sound was excellent and clear and everything was timed perfectly. A good portion of the shock-rock veteran’s major hits — albeit sometimes in shortened fashion — were played and all of his trademark stage gimmicks were displayed, including a huge boa constrictor, a guillotine (I am still wondering how Alice gets his head out in time), and a sword with money attached to it and shaken into the audience.
Alice Cooper opened up with a shortened version of “Hello Hooray” before launching into “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Having seen him perform many times before, with my first show dating back the ‘Raise Your Fist and Yell’ era in 1988, I always enjoy when Alice plays more obscure songs from his back catalog rather than his most popular compositions. Given that Cooper had a shortened set this time around as an opening act, I appreciated that most of the songs played would likely be the more popular ones. However, Alice did throw in some surprises including one of my all-time favorites, “The Ballad Of Dwight Fry”, from the classic ‘Love It To Death’ album, and the newer “Dirty Diamonds”. I also appreciated that he varied his setlist quite a bit from the last time that I saw him open for a more popular act two years ago (click here to read that review). All in all, Alice Cooper put on an excellent, professional, and well executed performance.
The one drawback of bringing along a well-established opening act that is firing on all cylinders is that there is a lot to live up to and the chance that you might get “blown off the stage”. This is exactly what happened to Motley Crue on opening night of their “farewell” tour — Alice Cooper blew them away. Motley Crue‘s set started with so many lights, pyro, and explosions that in the first thirty seconds I could not even tell what song that the band was playing — the muffled sound did not help. By the time that the chorus came, I knew that I was hearing “Mutherfucker Of The Year”, which is not one of the best songs by any means from ‘Saints Of Los Angeles’ and accordingly, one weak opener. Motley Crue‘s stage set was somewhat puzzling with its “connect four” backdrop. I did not see any big screen TVs, meaning that if you had one of the “cheap seats” — and there really wasn’t any from a price perspective — the band members would look miniscule the entire night. However, upon viewing a few YouTube videos after the concert, I noticed that there was indeed one big screen all the way at the top over the stage lights. The whole show looked cloudy for most of the night due to all the smoke and lights emanating from the stage.
The concert definitely picked up when Motley Crue launched into their second song “Wild Side”, which would have been a much better opening song. “Primal Scream” was interesting in that, for one of the first times, I thought that a stage show overshadowed a song. Every time the word “Primal” was sang, huge balls of fire shot into the air, while every time that the word “Scream” was sang, huge puffs of smoke would come billowing out. Oddly, after “Primal Scream”, guitarist Mick Mars came out to play a less than memorable solo. A guitar solo? After the third song? Why? The solo was pretty poor and ended with Mars simply playing some basic riffs. Eventually it became apparent that the band was experiencing some technical difficulties as frontman Vince Neil explained that there was a hole in drummer Tommy Lee‘s bass or kick drum. Mars had likely been sent out to pass some time, and that would explain the “quality” of his guitar solo. Once Mars was finished, Neil indicated that the band would be back in three minutes — but another ten minutes passed by with nothing happening. What a momentum killer.
Eventually Motley Crue were back and tried to recapture their momentum with some good versions of “Same Ol’ Situation” and “Looks That Kill”, along with a meek version of the oldie “On With The Show”. The unthinkable then happened when Mars completely screwed up the intro to “Too Fast For Love”. Perhaps his bandmates were frustrated with him because Lee, or was it bassist Nikki Sixx, threw him under the bus by declaring to the crowd something along the lines of, “Mick does not remember how to play the song — the song is only 35 years old”. Ouch — that hurts. It was somewhat obvious when listening that Mars was off, but now it was public knowledge. This then led into an approximately 20 minute break where the house lights — yes, the house lights — were turned back on. Another huge momentum killer. I would have thought that a veteran band such as Motley Crue would have weathered the off-time by entertaining the crowd, but apparently not. This would have been an opportune time for the very charismatic Tommy Lee to go out and shoot the shit with the audience, but instead fans had to wait with the show interrupted for quite a long time.
You would have thought that Motley Crue would then try to get the crowd going right away with a big hit. Instead, they decided to do the world premiere of their new song “All Good Things Must Come To An End” — or whatever it is called. The band could not even get that one right, as Mars screwed up the intro of that one as well! The band should have soldiered on even with Mars‘ misstep since, presumably, few in the audience knew how the song went — but perhaps the guitarist was so off course that his bandmates could not recover. Whatever the case, it became quite obvious that Mars was having a terrible night and could have used quite a few more rehearsal sessions before embarking on this tour. Technical difficulties are one thing, not being able to play your own songs is another. Eventually, the new song was played in its entirety, and on a first listen, it sounded average. I would have preferred another classic from ‘Shout At The Devil’ then test drive a new song for the first time.
After two good songs — “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” and “Saints Of Los Angeles” — sandwiching the lackluster ballad “Without You”, the comedy of errors continued when Sixx came out to address the audience. At one point he likened the concert to a funeral and asked the entire crowd to sit down. I suppose that he was hoping to have everyone jump out of their seats for the next song, a cover of the Sex Pistols‘ “Anarchy In The U.K.”, but it really had the opposite effect and was another momentum killer. “Too Young To Fall In Love” followed and it looked like the band was finally back on track.
But yet again, another momentum killer was about to happen. There were some overhead “train tracks” from where Tommy Lee was, leading to a small stage in the middle of the arena. You just knew that Lee and his drum set would be taking a ride to that small stage along those “train tracks”, and that is exactly what happened. However, rather than play a real drum solo, Lee‘s 10 minute round trip along the tracks was performed along with some techno and hip hop beats which included a snippet of Rage Against The Machine‘s “Take The Power Back”. The drummer did show glimpses of his very charismatic self when he declared from the small stage to the crowd in the “cheap seats” something along the lines of, “the fucking cheap seats are the fucking shit now, aren’t they?” Rather than stick around on the small stage for a song or two, Lee made his way back to the main stage via the “train tracks” with his questionable techno and hip hop accompaniment. It was a missed opportunity, and yet another momentum killer.
Next up was the band’s well known intro “In The Beginning” followed by the classic “Shout At The Devil”, which would have been the perfect opening intro and song. Even “Shout At the Devil” was botched a little bit at the beginning when the guitar intro was apparently repeated an extra time, presumably due to a Mars miscue. To me, the worst part of the night came when the guitarist screwed up yet again during the intro to the classic “Live Wire”. That song has likely been played at every single Motley Crue show, but there was Mick Mars faltering so badly that his bandmates had to stop the song. I even saw what was likely an exasperated Lee with both of his arms raised as if to say, “What the fuck is he doing?” The band did recover and ended with a bang by playing all of their remaining faster hits including “Dr. Feelgood”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart” — but by that time the damage had been done and people couldn’t forget what had previously occurred. Neil commented before “Girls, Girls, Girls” that the band could play “all night”. Clearly, that was not the case as only three songs were performed after that point. The Motley Crue members ended their disastrous night by walking from the main stage to the smaller stage and playing the obligatory “Home Sweet Home”. While Neil was singing I had to take a close look to see if he was wearing a dress, but it turned out it was simply a long overcoat. Motley Crue‘s evening ended on a whimper with the band members walking back from the small stage, but this time to their dressing room.
After the show I could just imagine Alice Cooper feeling quite empathetic with, and perhaps trying to console, the Motley boys from their pathetic first night — as I am sure that Alice has had his share of terrible performances during his blurred and alcohol filled years in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I have never thought of Motley Crue as being a strong live act, and their show at Grand Rapids has certainly cemented that feeling. Although Neil apologized to the audience for Motley Crue‘s many mishaps, the band should really consider returning to Grand Rapids and playing a free show to everyone who attended on July 2nd to make up for what they did. If it wasn’t for Alice Cooper playing such a great set, I would have felt completely ripped off leaving the venue. After the show, I found out that I was not the only one disappointed with Motley Crue‘s performance, as The Meister, Sammy, Kristi and I had a fun debriefing for almost two hours about what went wrong with Motley Crue!
Alice Cooper setlist:
01. Hello Hooray
02. No More Mr. Nice Guy
03. Under My Wheels
04. I’m Eighteen
05. Billion Dollar Babies
07. Dirty Diamonds / Drum Solo
08. Welcome To My Nightmare
09. Feed My Frankenstein
10. The Ballad Of Dwight Fry
11. I Love The Dead
12. School’s Out w/ snippets of Another Brick In The Wall (Pink Floyd cover)
Motley Crue setlist:
01. Mutherfucker Of The Year
02. Wild Side
03. Primal Scream
04. Guitar Solo
05. Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
06. Looks That Kill
07. On With The Show
08. Too Fast For Love
09. All Good Things Come To An End
10. Smokin’ In The Boys Room
11. Without You
12. Saints Of Los Angeles
13. Anarchy In The U.K.
14. Too Young To Fall In Love
15. Drum Solo
16. In The Beginning
17. Shout At The Devil
18. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
19. Live Wire
20. Dr. Feelgood
21. Girls, Girls, Girls
22. Kickstart My Heart
23. Home Sweet Home