As expected, Coop kicked the Crue's a$$.
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Concert review: Motley Crue muffs 'The Last Tour' kickoff at Van Andel Arena
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John Serba | email@example.com
By John Serba | firstname.lastname@example.org
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on July 03, 2014 at 5:00 AM, updated July 03, 2014 at 5:08 AM
REVIEW: 2 OUT OF 4 STARS
What: Motley Crue with opening act Alice Cooper
When and where: July 2, 2014, Van Andel Arena
Highlight: Mick Mars' nimble opening riff to "Wild Side" can still raise goosebumps on the arms and fists in the air. Notably, it was the second number in a set that derailed during the third.
Length: 120 minutes, with roughly 20 minutes of unplanned intermissions, for Motley Crue, 50 minutes for Cooper
Attendance: Sold out (attendance number unavailable)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The crowd wasn’t saying “Cruuuuuuuue.” They were saying something else that rhymed with it.
To put it politely, Motley Crue did not have a good night Wednesday at Van Andel Arena. It was the official kickoff of the band’s 70-odd-date “Final Tour” – its last-ever go-round, they promise - and some glitches are to be expected. But the train derailed early and significantly, and it took the clearly frustrated group half the show to get back on track.
Three songs in, during “Primal Scream,” drummer Tommy Lee broke the head on his kick drum, prompting Mick Mars to fill time with a guitar solo. After five minutes of noisemaking and riffing on Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” – Mars seemed hung out to dry – singer Vince Neil took the mic and apologized, tossing in a forced laugh as he told the audience it would be a few minutes before they were ready to play again. The house lights came up, and the crowd got restless.
After a 10-minute delay, the band made a decent recovery, chugging through “Same Ol’ Situation” and “Looks that Kill.” “On With the Show” was supposed to merge with “Too Fast for Love,” but the band stopped dead in its tracks. “He broke something again,” Neil said of Lee. “The band forgot their own song,” bassist Nikki Sixx said. They restarted and powered through the number, Sixx visibly upset and off his game, and Neil looking confused. Then Mars experienced problems with his monitors and guitars. Cue another delay, and a few boos.
“Oh man. First-night (expletive). We’re breaking down. You guys can always say you were here,” Neil half-heartedly joked.
Unwisely, the Crue stuck with the setlist, and followed several minutes of dead air with an unfamiliar song, new single “All Bad Things Must End,” an ode to the band’s impending sort-of retirement. They segued sloppily into their hit cover of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” the crowd half-heartedly singing along. By the time they ran through the ballad “Without You,” it was clear they were out of sync, and songs weren’t ending as much as they were dying on stage.
The crowd animosity from paying a lot of money for a ticket – between $50 and $125 – began to wear off somewhat, replaced by another emotion: pity. You had to feel sorry for the Crue. They were trying to win the crowd back after unfortunate circumstances, some of it their fault and some of it not, and it was rough sledding.
Motley Crue is Sixx’s baby. He’s the primary songwriter, and the band’s driving force. Halfway through the show, he addressed the audience sincerely, asking them to take a seat. “I need to sit down too, the way we’ve been playing tonight,” he said, before firing up the band for a raucous cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK.”
Now, the Crue has never been the tightest live act, and compensate with volume: the guitars sound like aircraft engines, the drums thwup-thwup like helicopter blades. Sometimes, the sound was so distorted, you couldn’t tell what song they were playing until they came to the chorus, even during massive hits such as “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” and “Wild Side.” Neil tends to yowl and shout more than sing, and he often seems winded as he runs around the stage, skipping over words and phrases, letting the crowd, or a pair of scantily clad, dancing female backup singers, fill in the gaps.
None of this is new. That’s just the Crue.
They also compensate with spectacle: Flames, fireworks, banks of strobing lights, a spiked disco ball. Lee’s signature absurd drum solo is always the hotly anticipated cheap thrill. He strapped himself into the kit as it followed a rollercoaster-style track up and over the crowd, the platform spinning him upside down. He played relatively simple beats to pre-programmed dubstep tracks – a nod to Lee’s side gig as a DJ – and dropping F-bombs from the arena rafters. “The (expletive) cheap seats are the (expletive) (expletive) now, aren’t they?” he exclaimed when the rig stopped, at eye level with the upper deck.
To be fair, the Motley boys put themselves back together during the show’s final third. A spitting flamethrower on Sixx’s bass guitar during “Shout at the Devil” made up for Neil’s blatant disregard for lyrical enunciation. “Dr. Feelgood,” “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart” pleased the crowd down the stretch. Yet by the time the band encored with “Home Sweet Home,” a calculated heartfelt conclusion to their last-ever Grand Rapids show, the whole endeavor felt like an anticlimactic wheeze over the finish line. Melancholy sparks quietly showering from the inverted-pentagram lighting rig just didn’t make us cry while we said goodbye. Wednesday night, the Crue got their butts kicked more than they kicked butt.
If the world was a just place, opener Alice Cooper would be headlining arenas, with his protégés in spectacle – Kiss, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden – as the support act. But the Detroit-born legend is primarily a nostalgia act now, albeit a damn good one. His 50-minute set was all hits – “School’s Out,” “Under my Wheels,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Poison,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – and classic Alice shtick. The original horror-rocker trotted out his pet boa constrictor, had his head chopped off in a guillotine, was tortured by a naughty and ghoulish nurse and was electrocuted in a Frankensteinian contraption. Nothing new for Alice, but we love him for never breaking character, and entertaining us without fail.
John Serba is film critic and entertainment reporter for MLive and The Grand Rapids Press. Email him at email@example.com
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