In Nikki Sixx’s 2011 half-memoir/half-photography book, This Is Gonna Hurt, he writes: “If you obey every time someone says you can’t do this or you must do that, you will become the person you never wanted to be.” It is a mantra I say to myself every day and it is certainly a perfect way to describe how Motley Crue has lived it’s life as a band. Announcing at a big press conference in 2014 that “all bad things must come to an end,” the rebel rousers from Hollywood signed an agreement to cease touring as Motley Crue … but not before going out in the biggest, baddest, most over-the-top extravaganza they could fit into arenas around the world. On September 4, 2015, New Orleans etched their name into the Motley Crue funeral book.
With fan-filled seats up to the ceiling, everyone was looking for another good time from the Crue. With all original members intact, some better off than others, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx came out onto a mega-wattaged-up stage and kicked ass for most of the night. Some songs were killer (“Live Wire,” “Shout At The Devil,” “Dr Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart”), some songs fell a little flat (“Looks That Kill” and “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”) but for the most part, it was simply the experience of being at what is suspected to be the last Motley Crue tour ever. “Motley Crue was always about music and girls, music and drugs, and music and violence,” Sixx wrote in The Heroin Diaries. “We wanted to be the biggest, dirtiest, loudest rock band on the planet.” And for the most part, for some of their thirty-four years together they were, drawing bigger crowds than Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Judas Priest, bands known for all of the above. And if you wanted to experience all that again, for one last time, then this was the place to be.
Say what you will about Neil’s vocals, which on the last several tours have been a bit wilty, but on this night he had more pep in his step, more vigor in his vocal cords, than he has in some time. Not perfect, not horrible, but somewhere on the better side of the middle. Also, if you were a fan of Tommy Lee, wanting to keep your eyes on him all night, he was mostly hidden in the shadows except for when his drumset lurched out onto the crucifier. It was Mars who really stood out, pretty much tearing the songs to pieces in a glorious effigy of rock guitar chords as only he can do. Physically frail, Crue is not Crue without him. He doesn’t need to run and jump and surf the crowd to make his point: he just has to play. And play he did. Swathed in red during several spotlighted soliloquys, Mars followed Lee’s drum extravaganza near the end of the show with finger-pyro all this own – going from apocalyptic to blues to an almost Spanish requiem, finger-tapping and tremolo-soaring.
Opening their set with “Girls Girls Girls,” the title song from their 1987 album of the same name, Crue brought their hits with them: “Wildside,” “Dr Feelgood,” “Shout At The Devil,” “Looks That Kill,” “Live Wire,” “Kickstart My Heart” and “Home Sweet Home.” Other fan favorites included “Louder Than Hell,” “Don’t Go Away Mad,” “Same Ole Situation” and “Smokin’ In The Boys Room.” A good, greasy cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK” was most appropriate alongside all the fire, explosions and attitude.
Sixx, who utilized his flame-throwing bass on “Shout At The Devil” to the crowd’s enthusiasm, squatted down on the stage prior to “Anarchy” and told a story about him and his grandfather’s knife; a story I am sure he shares with many of the cities he passes through to symbolize the band’s story of perseverance and how much the fans were an integral part of their history: “Without you guys calling the radio, coming to the concerts, demanding the band, we wouldn’t be here today. YOU are Motley Crue.”
There were at least two BIG moments in the show that every fan in every seat went wild for, and Tommy Lee’s ride on the Crucifier was one of them. Lasting approximately nine minutes, Lee’s drumset rode along a high-rise track, turning him completely upside down, while he hammered away like the bad ass mofo drummer he is, fulfilling a life-long wish to take his solos past his wildest, craziest dreams. Although he played along to mostly EDM-tracking, it was wild and it was all Tommy, potty mouth intact.
The second BIG moment had to be the finale of “Kickstart My Heart,” explosions booming fire, smoke and sparks, as Sixx and Neil each took to a cherry picker that took them over the crowds, leaving Mars and Lee to be hydraulicly lifted in their anointed places, a fiery pentagram behind them, ending it all in a breath-taking moment of pure unadulterated, unashamedly heavy metal moment.
Not to be outdone or out-spectacled, the always entertaining Alice Cooper and his band was the perfect adrenalin shot to open a final tour for Motley Crue. A headliner in his own right, he has the songs and the theatrics to hold his own against any band; a godfather to 99% of the musicians who let rock & roll rule their lives in 2015. So what you can count on is this: Cooper will perform his hits while waving a sword, in a straight-jacket or while being beheaded by his trusty guillotine, and it never grows old no matter how many times you see him do it. Not a lot of bands can truthfully say that their shtick doesn’t become stale after one tour. Cooper has been doing this stuff since the seventies. The naughty nurse still tried to stab him and his giant Frankenstein monster still roamed the stage. You got “School’s Out,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels,” “Poison” and “Ballad Of Dwight Fry.” You got Nita Strauss, who replaced Orianthi last year, bringing a hailstorm of guitar licks alongside the equally stellar Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen, bass playing beast Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel. You got confetti and big balloons and Alice dollars. And you got to wave your arms and sing-a-long “I Love The Dead” as if it was a freak-show hymnal. I mean, what else could you ask for?
So in the end, as Vince, Mick, Tommy and Nikki stood on a rising platform behind the soundboard, in a space probably as tight as some of those old Hollywood stages they used to play in the beginning, and sang a toned down goodbye to the fans with “Home Sweet Home,” it was a simple thank you for thirty-plus years of love, of support, of rocking & rolling with them. And as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” serenaded them as they walked to the exit door past their fans, they did indeed do it their way. “We were definitely the kids doing our own thing, going against the grain,” Lee wrote in his autobiography, Tommyland. “Nikki was writing songs that were poppy and all I heard was ways to make them heavier and more rhythmic. And as much as we changed over the years, those two elements remained the same.” Indeed.