It was hard not to think of a scene from The Wrestler at Mötley Crüe’s Monday night (March 16) performance at a packed Madison Square Garden. In the film, Mickey Rourke’s character, Randy, and Marisa Tomei’s Cassidy yearn for ’80s-era Mötley Crüe and Guns ’n’ Roses and proclaim that “the ’90s sucked.” Cassidy asks, “Like there’s something wrong with just wanting to have a good time?” Don’t worry, Cassidy. The answer is no, there’s not; Mötley Crüe is still touring for you, for everyone else who filled the arena that night.
At one point during the show, bassist Nikki Sixx proclaimed, “We’re still alive!”—something nearly miraculous, after the band survived substance abuse and near death in the ’80s, as well as infighting and the grunge explosion of the ’90s. Yet Sixx, singer Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee always seems to have prevailed for nearly three decades—seemingly the result of talent, persistence, fan loyalty and a big dose of luck—to become rock/metal deities. When Sixx tossed his water bottle to an audience member in one of the front rows and the recipient sprayed out its contents, like a faithful disciple sprinkling holy water, it seemed an apt moment in a tour named for The Saints of Los Angeles album.
It’s a long story, but this Agit writer faced some challenges getting into the show. (Hence the stock photo above.) By the time I got into the Garden proper, some drunken, but compliant fans were already getting kicked out for rocking a bit too hard. Missed were some of the classics: “Shout at the Devil” and “Live Wire” (from Too Fast for Love); they opened with always crowd-pleasing “Kickstart My Heart.” I did arrive to see a very drunk woman running down the arena’s hallway and slip in a puddle of what (hopefully) was beer. An employee who was in the process of cleaning at the time looked as if she was going to simply mop up the whole mess: spilled drink, woman and all.
The rest of the set included “Motherfucker of the Year, “ after which frontman Neil was joined by members of Charm City Devils, Drowning Pool, Theory of a Deadman and Godsmack, as a preview for this summer’s Crüe Fest 2. Songs such as “Don’t Go Away Mad” showed the band at its best—Neil still hitting the high notes, Lee and Sixx providing a flawless rhythm section and Mars playing guitar as if it were an extension of his body. The giant screens during “Same Ol’ Situation” showed adult film snippets spliced with news footage, images of world leaders and phrases like “stay asleep.” It’s as if Fight Club’s Tyler Durden put it together—or what we imagine it’s like inside Mars’ head, after reading the band’s autobiography, The Dirt.
The band then launched into “Primal Scream” from 1991’s Decade of Decadence and “Looks That Kill” from Shout at the Devil. After ending with “Dr. Feelgood,” the band gathered around a piano for a brief encore of “Home Sweet Home.” A montage of band photos throughout their career played on the screen, and the audience was doused with confetti. After the band finished, Lee energetically thanked everyone profusely and lay across the piano.
This Mötley Crüe show was a bit stripped down from their past spectacles. Well, as simplified as a show can be while still having pyrotechnics, giant screens and a background of giant letters spelling “Los Angeles” backwards—you can imagine what’s been involved in other concerts. This simpler set was most evident in “Girls, Girls, Girls”—while the song’s subject was on the screens, the usual scantily clad, gyrating dancers onstage were conspicuously absent. A few years ago, aerial silk acrobats were lowered from the ceiling. (Though the coolest female to grace the stage with the band, however, was Samantha Maloney, who played drums on tour in 2000 and who also has played with Hole, Peaches and Eagles of Death Metal.) But no girls? Is this a sign of the recession? Or are these dancers all on reality shows these days? Either way, it must be a sign of the times. Or the apocalypse, which the band will probably survive.