So as we headed into the Garden I looked up and took this shot announcing tonight's show was sold out. I would say it was close, but it didn't appear completely sold out, two of our crew actually picked up tickets late the night before, but hell close enough for rock n roll.
Motley Crue were my first favorite band. I got into them just as "Shout at The Devil" was released and just as I had become a teenager. It was the glory days of MTV and you could catch "Looks That Kill" or "Too Young To Fall In Love" (still one of my favorite videos ever...the kung fu...or dare I call it kung crue...scenes in the vid are awesome) on a regular basis. I bought every issue of Hit Parader, Circus, Faces, Metal Edge, etc etc and Crue remained a favorite throughout my teenage years.
To this day I still feel "Shout At The Devil" is one of those rare perfect albums without a bad cut and is easily in my opinion Crue's best album ever. A close second would be their debut "Too Fast For Love."
Then they put us to the test with "Theatre of Pain." I actually was watching "That Metal Show" this weekend and they had Vince on and asked him his least favorite Crue album and I was surprised to hear him say it was a tie between "Generation Swine" and "Theatre of Pain." He actually said it was an album of filler tunes except for "Home Sweet Home" and "Smokin In The Boys Room." I couldn't believe Vince felt the same way I have for all these years (although I do dig "Louder Than Hell" which is a holdover from their "Too Fast For Love" Days...but man do I hate "Bad Boy Boogie"). But anyway, I'm not going to go through my whole history with the Crue discography, I just wanted to lay the groundwork for my feelings going into this show.
If this wasn't announced as the final tour, I would not have gone. The reason for this is I've seen Motley Crue tons of times over the years and their setlist has become so stagnant, but as I stated above, there was a time I thought nothing was better than the Crue and after the Theatre of Pain debacle, the albums were pretty good. For me they never reached those heights of Shout, but there were definitely songs on each one as good. So I was going on pretty much figuring I knew what I was going to hear. Knew I would hear some of my favorite tunes. Knew I'd hear some tunes that I never wanted to hear again, but most of all HOPED I'd hear some stuff they haven't played in years and hoped I'd see the ultimate Crue stage show.
So let's get back to 9:00pm at the Garden as the lights come up on Alice Cooper. Well, sitting there right in front of us is the Cruecifly roller coaster drum track going out from the stage into the middle of the arena. The Crue passed through this area in the summer doing a lot of sheds, but most of those could not handle his drum set up, so it was one of the reasons we waited until the fall shows to see the band. Also, it's Madison Square Garden in New York City, this was surely the place to see them.
So at right about 9:30, the PA cranks up "So Long, Farewell" from the "Sound of Music" as the lights go down. I will say it made me chuckle and as the song ended the band came out with "Saints of Los Angeles" from their 2008 album of the same name. I guess if Crue have a modern classic, this is it. I dig it and it's fit thematically for the show.
The band looks and sounds good. Vince, who is infamous for often times having the audience sing more of the lyrics than he does, is excellent on this night. Sure there's plenty of sing a longs but it doesn't come off lazy. Nikki and Tommy are balls of energy and Mick keeps to his side of the stage looking down at his guitar and gives us all those classic riffs we want to hear.
While everyone automatically jumps to their feet when the band hit the stage, the next song, "Wild Side," is the first were everyone goes nuts (yep me too...love this one).
"Wild Side" goes right into another hard rocker with "Primal Scream" which is a big audience singalong leading into one of Crue's biggest MTV/Radio hits "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S)." Not one of my favorites, but of course I know we're gonna hear it and what I like is they did not play it back to back with "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" as it seems they have for the last decade. That's always a 10 minute block I never look forward to. So far I have to say the setlist and pace of this show are well thought out and looking at the setlist from the start of the tour, I do see the band is tweaking it as they go along. If this tour is going to go for two years as has been announced, I wonder what the setlist will look like a year from now because unfortunately I do feel it has major issues that come later, but right now "Same" just ended and what's next?
A trio of classics from the first two albums starting with "Looks That Kill." This led into "On With The Show" followed by the title track of their debut album which that came of off. Okay super minor complaint time. This is more wish list time. I love the "Too Fast" album, but man I would have loved to have heard maybe "Take Me To The Top" or "Piece of Your Action" even more. I hope if the band comes back through the area in a year, they trade out for some of these tracks, but again, it was a cool surprise to hear "On With the Show" live.
So far the show is pretty killer. We're about a third of the way in and I'm digging it and next up comes their cover of "Smokin' In The Boys Room". I have to say I never really dug this, but it's a toe tapper and they morphed it into a cover of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2" which was great and had the whole audience shouting along. Nice!
Now we hit the rough patch.
Dear Motley Crue - drop "Without You" from the set. This was a show killer! The crowd was hyped up to this point. I was second level at about the three o'clock position and everyone was standing up until this point. Everyone either sat down or went on a beer/bathroom run for "Without You." The boys tried to bring the energy right back up, but should have played a classic and instead played "Mutherfucker of the Year" off of "Saints of Los Angeles." This just doesn't have the ability to grab an arena full of folks and there is not enough familiarity with the track on this tour which is probably bringing out many more casual Motley Crue fans who have not heard anything the band has done since the early 90's. Then things got worse.
Instead of building on the rock of "Mutherfucker", Nikki came out and told everyone to sit down for story time. He wasn't joking, he made everyone sit down while he spent about 8 minutes telling the oral history of Motley Crue. Nikki needs an editor or needs to break this story time up throughout the show. He lost the audience after 3 or 4 minutes even though the story was actually entertaining, it just comes at the least energetic point in the set and goes way too long. By the time he finished the story, there is a full 20 minute lull in the show that starts so strong.
Also during his story, he at points individually introduces each member of the band and when he does, a spotlight shoots into the darkness and that member is lit up and waves to the crowd. When Vince is announced, I don't know if he missed his cue or what but he just kinda turned like he was being bothered and turned back and walked off stage. It was odd and at no other time during the show did there seem to be any attitude like this, but it really stood out during this story time.
So does the show ever recover? Well as Nikki finishes the band's story in which he talks about the bands mixed influences of glam and punk, the band launches into their version of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." This was not the song to bring the whole audience back into the fold. I love punk and the Sex Pistols and have never really been a fan of this version of the song and it appeared most of the audience felt the same way. I dig the fact that they want to do a cover of one of their influences in this spot, maybe this part of the set just needs to be moved to flow better.
At this point it was almost an emergency, so thankfully there was a doctor in the house to fix things - "Dr. Feelgood" (see what I did there...oh how I love me a bad pun.) Now THAT got everyone back up on their feet and led into the highlight of the show...
An abbreviated recorded version of "In The Beginning..." led into "Shout At The Devil" which had probably the most pyro I've ever seen at any show including Nikki's flame thrower bass! Kick ass!! We are back on track boys!! Then "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" hit. Okay, I'm not a fan, but this kept most of the crowd singing and dancing along.
We're about two thirds of the way through the show and it was finally time to see the Cruecifly in action. About eight or nine minutes of Tommy SLOWLY spinning and riding out above the audience while playing basic tracks to a mix of rock/rap/EDM. It's so weird how this looked so much cooler on youtube. A lot of the complaints I heard were the fact that it's not a drum solo at all and Tommy is a great drummer and this shows none of his skills. I was just kind of bored...it's so slow. It's weird that in theory it's seems like it should be the coolest thing ever, and it didn't suck, it was just kinda whatever.
Then Tommy gets back to the stage and it immediately goes into Mick Mars' heavy dark guitar solo. These solos should be broken up. It becomes 15 minutes where again you're looking for one of those classic Crue tunes to either headbang, air guitar or sing along to.
Mick's solo goes into the riff from "Live Wire" and all is good again in the Garden! It gets better when this is followed up with another classic track from "Shout" in the way of "Too Young To Fall In Love"
We know the show has to be approaching the end at this point so you can pretty much figure out the songs coming next and we get "Girls, Girls, Girls" and the set ends with "Kickstart My Heart"
The boys gathered together and the crowd stood and cheered. The lights went down and after a few minutes we see them being walked along the side of the crowd to a small stage in the middle of the floor. Tommy starts playing those keys to "Home Sweet Home" as the mini stage rises on a hydraulic lift towards the ceiling. The arena is dark except for the few lights on the mini stage and everyone sings along. It's the right way to end the show.
So overall, the show was good, but it definitely has pacing issues at those two points. It start strong and ends strong, but a band like Motley Crue, with their history and catalog, should not have any lulls on their final tour. I hope they continue to tweak the set over the next year and I hope they pass through this area again so maybe I'll have one more time to see them and be blown away.
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