Aerosmith, Motley Crüe | 10.15.06

Fittingly for the Midwest, this was the rock ‘n' roll spectacle writ XXXL. And almost as fun/scary as the crazy dude in the parking lot who randomly yelled, "What, are you from fuckin' Israel or somethin'?" to a less-inebriated and somewhat frightened passerby.

 

UMB Pavilion, St. Louis

Walking in a few minutes late to the St. Louis stop of the Aerosmith/Motley Crüe Route of All Evil Tour was literally an explosive experience. Blinded by Motley Crüe's already-underway flashpots and flame-throwers spitting Hummer-sized fireballs—and deafened by said flashpots' stinging BOOMS in the three opening numbers, "Dr. Feelgood," "Shout at the Devil," and "Wild Side"—was a scene reminiscent of being "in the shit." Or, more precisely, a B-movie scene set "in the shit." Fittingly for the Midwest, this was the rock ‘n' roll spectacle writ XXXL. And almost as fun/scary as the crazy dude in the parking lot who randomly yelled, "What, are you from fuckin' Israel or somethin'?" to a less-inebriated and somewhat frightened passerby.

Bookended by a pair of waist-high coiled cobra statues (with red glowing eyes and spewing smoke and dirty water 30 feet into the air, natch) and surrounded by a stage design best described as Soft Core Thunderdome, '80s hair metal heroes Motley Crüe performed like a band with something to prove—if that something is teaching the longhair-holdouts of America that the following things are indeed still rocking: middle fingers, dirty talk, half-naked skanks, fireworks, roadies in skull masks, fake satanic imagery, writhing "ladies" swinging from chains in locked iron cages, tossing lit, barely smoked cigs at your fans, supplying sickly sweet hooch for your little brother's scuzzy friends, and getting fuuuucked up. But not necessarily in that order.

Throughout a tight but muddy-sounding 75-minute set hindered by a mix favoring drummer/reality TV whore Tommy Lee's kickdrum over, well, everything—I'm still not sure if bassist Nikki Sixx's shit was plugged in—the band members wisely focused on showcasing/exploiting their larger-than-life personas by giving each a little face time to "bond" with the audience (minus frail axe hermit Mick Mars, who preferred to let his fingers to the talking). In a "Here's Nikki!" segment, Sixx stroked the drunken masses by screaming, "You fucking people in St. Louis love the classics!" and listing way more examples of "classics" than necessary, including "Led Zeppelin!" and (of course) "Aerosmith!" before bellowing "the Dr. Feelgood album!" to introduce their hit "Same ol' Situation (S.O.S.)." Entertaining, sure, but this writer would have much preferred to hear more chatter from fellow concertgoers, especially that scary drunk fiftyish guy in the beer line who managed to say, "You heard of John Holmes? That's my cousin in real life," "Here I thought I was grabbing my wife's ass-but I ain't never seen that chick before! Ha!" and "2-2, TOP OF THE FOURTH!" all in one breath.

Although appropriately sleazy onstage antics were innumerable, highlights included a half-naked, barely-there-underwear-clad biker blonde delivering a flame-top acoustic guitar and some gross tongue wrasslin' to Vince Neil (but here's the funny part: Neil then pretended to play! Those guys!) and when Neil rode a motorcycle onstage to introduce their ubiquitous strip-club anthem "Girls, Girls, Girls." During the latter, two grotesquely made-up dancing "ladies" danced off with their pants off. Hey guys, are you sure that one on the left isn't a boy, boy, boy? And let's not forget the inevitable half-naked lady, um…gymnast? Climbing two long white ribbons from center stage to the light rig way up top, the contortionista writhed and tied herself up in knots (literally) while the band got all sensitive and shit on their classic piano anthem sing along "Home Sweet Home." OK, maybe that wasn't so inevitable.

After the final chords/explosions rang out on raucous set closer "Kickstart My Heart," Tommy led the crowd in some lame crowd interaction, pulling out ye olde "When I say Motley, you say Crüe!" "Motley?" "CRÜE!" "Motley?" "CRÜE!" before offering a king-sized bottle to the all-ages crowd with, "Who wants a shot of Jagermiester? I'm passing it around, so make sure it gets all the way to the back. And be careful!" Ah, Tommy, it's sweet the way you mother-hen those kids! You're totally the "cool dad."

Aerosmith's singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry wasted no time during their raucous set opener—a smoking take of their '70s classic "Toys in the Attic"—before bounding into the crowd on a runway that nearly connected center stage with the first tier of box seats. Although their stage design wasn't as elaborate as Crüe's, it became apparent in that first number that it simply didn't need to be—these guys are show biz pros who know how to command an audience. Explosives experts need not apply.

While Aerosmith spent much of the '90s easing into sappy-ballads-for-shitty-soundtracks territory, they've kept their stage personalities true to their scrappy '70s origins—remaining just as vulgar and juvenile as when they first asked audiences to "suck on [their] big ten inch…record" way back in 1975. A modern electronic percussion loop might have intro'd their third number, "Eat the Rich"—backed on an oversized video screen by images of shrunken heads, feeding lions, and seal-eating sharks—but the rocker ended with a hearty, junior high school-issue belch. Pre-recorded? I hope not! And after acknowledging a scantily clad female fan later in the set with the charming bon mot "I see you down there, baby. You got some big fat beefies!," Tyler introduced one of their biggest hits by continuing the super-hottt dialogue, "Baby, I'm looking at you and you know what I'm thinking? [pregnant pause] Dream on." Once again proving that Tyler—tonight adorned in a long, thin, and fancy tee completely covered by a large, anime-ish face—still has a mysteriously hypnotizing power over Midwestern hoo-ers.

For an abbreviated set (just over 75 minutes), the band performed an unusual number of covers. A few songs after Rufus Thomas' "Walking the Dog," Tyler and Perry slowed down the pace with a short sit-down semi-acoustic set on the runway under a shower of glittery fake snow—an image probably reminiscent of the band's backstage life circa 1980—for covers of Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" and  Fleetwood Mac's "Stop Messin' Around." Neither versions being a recognizable KSHE ClassicTM, several hundred people turned to their significant others en masse, saying "Honkin' on Bobo. I'm hittin' the shitter."

Although Perry's sweet leads on a white hollow-body guitar during the radio/video fave—and only concession to their '80s-and-later string of hits—"Cryin'" and Tyler's soaring falsetto ooh's in the chorus of "Devil's Got a New Disguise," one of two new tracks from the latest hits compilation of the same name, served as high points, the band was decidedly focused on their '70s heyday.

"Where were you in 1976?" Tyler asked the crowd (in all fairness, the crowd, holding high their guitar-shaped souvenir beers, didn't seem to remember) before launching into the swampy groove of "Last Child." During that song's final choruses, Tyler dragged his mic to the side stage (offstage but still visible onscreen) to allow Tommy Lee, who was shakin' it with a bevy of honeyed hoochies, to contribute inaudible yet entertaining Jager-vocals. (At this point, a crystal skull sitting atop the bass rig was showcased with several video screen closeups, prompting this reviewer to repeatedly yell, "CRYSTAL SKULL!" Now you know.)

"I just talked on the phone with Tom Hamilton," Tyler said, referring to the band's longtime bassist, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer, "and he says ‘hi,'" before introducing Hamilton's fill-in, David Hull, for the famous snakepit bass intro to "Sweet Emotion." As powerful today as it was 25 years ago—and probably more so—Perry kicked the overly familiar melody in the pants with an extended coda featuring a knockout theremin/guitar combo solo.

Drummer Joey Kramer shares an affliction with the St. Louis Cardinals' Scott Spezio—an unfortunately long "soul patch" under his bottom lip. It didn't bring Spezio's team much luck that night—the Cards were currently having "their asses handed to them," according to the guy at the urinal wearing army fatigues and a hunter's cap. At least Kramer has the good sense to not dye the fucker red.

Main set closer "Draw the Line" was another high point, with a preternaturally posing Tyler rubbing glitter in his hair and shaking it onto the audience below as Perry stole the show by dropping his guitar on the catwalk, removing his silky red shirt and using it to whip the strings in time with the song.

After a short break featuring an animated video of a rock 'n' roll demon racing dangerously down dusty desert highways (eventually reaching a sign that read NEXT EXIT: ST. LOUIS), one of the most recognizable beats of the last few decades, "Walk This Way," lit the crowd on patriotic fire as the video screens (and even Perry's guitar) bled as right, white, and blue as a Toby Keith red-state hoedown. But don't let a little flag waving turn you off-before their set, "Joe and Steven want you to see An Inconvenient Truth" flashed on the mondo video screen, followed by a loud and proud screening of the film's full trailer.

Thirty years into their career, Aerosmith shockingly remains an energetic and youthful rock outfit onstage, with a teleprompter being their only noticeable concession to age. And, while one can understand that Tyler has a lot on his mind while traipsing across the stage and winning the hearts and bosoms of ladies worldwide, does he really need prompting to remember lyrics like, "Hey diddle-diddle with your kitty in the middle"?

The show ended with a sweet, personalized touch-as the band left the stage, the video screens showed a clip of Tyler singing the national anthem at Busch Stadium for the previous night's Cardinals game. Between attending that game, meeting Chuck Berry for lunch, and Perry's joining Berry on stage three nights later for his 80th birthday show at the intimate Duck Room, these "punk[s] in the street" might have found a home sweet home away from home. | Brian McClelland

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