Motley Crue/Poison | 6.22.11

All three bands successfully proved that their legacies were secure and their passions were alive, well after decades of drama and decadence.




Bret Michaels of Poison – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – June 22nd, 2011 Inocencio Boc Photos

The Lollapalooza of 80’s glam bands hit the Verizon Wireless stage Thursday night like a glittery neutron bomb, much to the delight of a venue packed with rockers young and old.  The press has been playing up a competitive rivalry between headliners Mötley Crüe and Poison, but there was no sign of real or manufactured animosity from either band.  Helping start the night out on the right track were openers, the resurrected New York Dolls. 

David Johansen, all raggedy bones and plastic soul, confidently laid down his bluesy vocals in a bubble of charismatic cool.  The only other original member of the Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain, kicked out his classic rhythm guitar licks on such classics as "Personality Crisis" and "Pills".   Joining Johansen and Sylvain on this tour were bassist Kenny Aaronson, drummer Jason Sutter, and famed guitarist Earl Slick, who was taking the space previously occupied by longtime Doll Steve Conte.  Slick was in top form, burning up the fret board on the band’s newer material like "Cause I Sez So" and "Dance Like a Monkey".  Even the songs from their latest long-player, the doo-wop influenced "Dancing Backwards in High Heels", had the appropriate amount of hangover grit and swing to get the point across.  Though the "most famous unknown band in the world" was playing just as the punters were finding their seats or buying popcorn and beer, they no doubt made plenty of new fans who were smart enough to take notice and acknowledge the real thing.    

New York Dolls at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

Celebrating their 25th year of talking dirty to us, Poison hit the two-tiered stage with all four original members, and probably the slickest set of the night.  While the band played all of the expected tunes, and hit all of the marks they’ve been hitting for years, it’s difficult to knock what they do.  Singer and reality TV star Bret Michaels played the role of grateful troubadour to the hilt, continually thanking the crowd for sticking by the band, and repeatedly reminding the near sold-out crowd that he was indeed there "to party".  I doubt that the gathered throng needed to be reminded of this, as the band had them wrapped around their rock-star fingers, plowing through an impressive list of classics with more energy and focus than they had in ’86.  CC DeVille strutted across the stage like he owned the real estate, as bassist Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rocket made sure the revelers had a beat they could dance to.  From the opening crunch of "Look What the Cat Dragged In" to the closing raunch of the KISS-riffic "Nothing But A Good Time", Poison left the fist pumpers and body-bumpers wanting more. 

After a brief set change, the lights suddenly went dark and an unexpected barrage of explosions signaled the out-of-the-blue arrival of Mötley Crüe.  It was a hell of an opener, and set the tone for a night full of musical and theatrical surprises.  The band kicked off the set in high gear with "Wild Side" and continued to crush it with "Saints of Los Angeles", “Live Wire", and “Shout At The Devil".  Mick Mars continues to be Motley’s musical center of gravity, and his tastefully nasty solos and covered-in-mud-and-blood rhythm work continue to make the band as unique sounding as they did when they first crawled off the Sunset Strip.   

The ringleader of these music biz survivors, bassist Nikki Sixx, locked in nice and tight with Tommy Lee’s explosive drum work, and the duo continue to be one of rock and roll’s most solid and pulsing rhythm sections.  Sixx emanates a sort of detached but slightly unpredictable stage persona, which he had on full display as he stalked the stage, occasionally breaking into a smile that would have made the Cheshire Cat proud. 

Musically, the band had quite a few surprising tricks up their leather sleeves; they mixed Cee-Lo’s "F**k You" into their 1989 hit "Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)", and book-ended their cover of Brownsville Station’s  "Smoking In the Boys Room" with Gary Glitter’s "Rock and Roll".   Vocally, Vince Neil was much-improved, as the last few tours found him barely getting through a song without skipping more than half the lyrics.  This time around, Neil seemed to be up to the task at hand, though songs like "Dr. Feelgood" and the aforementioned "Live Wire" still had to rely on the audience to fill in the lyrical blanks.  Assisting Neal on the vocals were two sexy backup singers/dancers/acrobats that looked like refugees from Planet Thunderdome.  As they posed seductively across the post-apocalyptic theme park stage, their vocals made the songs sound much better than would have if they band relied on Neil alone.  


Vince Neil of Motley Crue performing at Verizon Wireless

The pièce de résistance of the current tour was the much blogged-about Tommy Lee drum solo.  A large circular roller coaster was the centerpiece of Mötley’s stage set, the middle of which Lee occupied for most of the show.  When it was time for his electro-house infused solo, Lee banged the beats as his drum riser swayed back and forth, and eventually did 360 degree loops.  It was an amazing spectacle to behold, and is right in line with Lee’s penchant for doing something wildly different each time the band hits the road.  He even had a roadie grab a fan, strap her into his mad lab of a drum kit, and took her for a ride on the Mötley coaster as he played.  

The band still plays the unpredictability card with much skill, from Sixx conducting "church" and cheekily reprimanding a woman for not sitting down as he asked, to a crew member "accidentally" falling from a lighting truss and hanging by a rope tied around his ankle.  By the time the band slammed into show-closer "Kickstart My Heart", complete with crew members armed with flamethrowers and water rifles, the audience was exhausted and thoroughly rocked.  

Far from being washed up has-beens, all three bands successfully proved that their legacies were secure and their passions were alive, well after decades of drama and decadence. | Jim Ousley

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