If this really is the end – and, considering the elaborate press conference and “cessation of touring agreement” signed in January by the band, it seems more sincere than the empty words of Kiss and Cher – then Motley Crue wrapped it up right.
With a nearly two-hour barrage of muscular hits, blinding pyro, a couple of lingerie-clad backup singers and a spiked mirror ball that shot flames, the quartet said goodbye Saturday night the Motley way: Loudly, aggressively and with plenty of shameless fun.
The only thing missing from their Atlanta farewell was another mesmerizing drum solo from Tommy Lee (file Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park as one of the venues on the tour
unable to support that didn't get to experience the massive “Cruecifly,” a roller coaster-like setup that is having some issues).
But that disappointment aside, the Crue – Lee, singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars – bulldozed through highlights of their 33-year career, from the sleazy, gritty rock perfection of “Wild Side” to the more-cowbell-please “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” to the raw, kinetic energy of the title track of their 1981 debut, “Too Fast for Love.”
While the band sounded taut and fierce, Neil’s tinny voice often was overwhelmed and muddled. Either that or he was breathlessly playing catch-up with the lyrics or having the crowd provide heavy assists (c’mon, man, you couldn’t even sing the “rocking in Atlanta at Tattletales” line of “Girls, Girls, Girls” one last time?).
Sixx and Lee, however, remain one of rock’s most potent rhythm sections and even Mars, who has endured health woes in recent years, unleashed a torrent of riffs and solos while maintaining his funeral director stoic-ness.
So many of the band’s songs contain that intoxicating combination of serrated guitars and air-punching choruses, and live, bashers such as “Looks That Kill” and “Shout at the Devil” thrived.
While Neil made a couple of references to the band’s history, the deepest reminiscing came from Sixx, who had the sold-out crowd sit down for Story Time with Nikki as he recalled – with vivid details and colorful language – how the Crue originated. It was also one of the few times during the concert that Lee’s puppy-dog-like enthusiasm was given the spotlight, as the Twizzler-thin sticksman popped up behind his kit with a giant grin when Sixx reminded fans that Lee was wearing women’s spandex on the night that they met.
It seemed odd to go from an account of the band’s history into a cover song, but the Crue’s version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” was completely convincing, and its pairing with the thick, crunchy undertones of “Dr. Feelgood” formed a bracing combo.
While Neil’s voice wavered mightily on “Livewire,” he found a comfortable shriek zone for “Kickstart My Heart,” but by then, it hardly mattered.
Motley Crue has stated several times since announcing its retirement that the band wants to end on its own terms and with original members intact. That is a sentiment to be celebrated, and frankly, a decision that happens far too infrequently in the music world.
So thanks, guys, for the three decades of gut-punching music, for “The Dirt” and for knowing when to say goodbye.
One legend not quite ready to retreat from the stage is Alice Cooper, the special guest on the Crue’s farewell tour and the man who taught them a few tricks about theatrical rock.
During a nearly hour-long opening set, Cooper and his band, like the Crue on their last visit here with Kiss, had the misfortune of playing during daylight.
That is just wrong.
But ever the pro, Cooper rolled through his pop metal classics with menacing glee in front of a backdrop of his trademark raccoon eyes.
After a few lines of “Hello Hooray,” the familiar riff of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” kicked in and the generation-spanning crowd filled with John Deere tractor hats, Falcons jerseys, black leather and faded rock T-shirts, joyfully shouted along.
Most of Cooper’s songs included some kind of prop for him to wave around – a crutch for “I’m Eighteen,” a lance for “Billion Dollar Babies” – and his set squeezed in several nods to his past onstage shenanigans, including the guillotine and the sparking contraption during “Feed My Frankenstein” that “turned him” into a hulking monster.
Cooper’s voice was in fine growly form as he creepily drawled the glam-rock-awesome “Poison” and reveled in the gloomy glory of “Welcome to My Nightmare.”
But it was the set-closing “School’s Out” – with an expertly crafted snipped of “Another Brick in the Wall” plopped in the middle – that reminded us to always treasure the Cooper catalog.