West Valley City • Mötley Crüe is a band known almost as much for its excesses on and off the stage as it is for its music.
Thus, in its "All Bad Things Must Come to An End" farewell tour, it only figures that the group came up with an over-the-top stage show with enough fire, bangs and booms to send a noise-averse dog into hiding. It also sent a sold out USANA Amphitheatre crowd home happy once it navigated the post-concert traffic jam that proved West Valley City police are much better at busting underage quarterbacks for drinking beer than they are at directing traffic.
When the final chapter of the final tour is written, what most people will remember will be Tommy Lee’s drum solo that was, literally, over the top. Late in the show, the house lights dimmed, leaving only Lee on his drum platform. It was slowly lifted to the top of the USANA stage on a roller coaster-like contraption. It seemed all 21,000 fans stood and shouted in unison as Lee at first played sideways and then, reaching the top of the stage, continued playing while upside down.
It was that kind of night for the Crüe. Of course, all of this was just fine with most of the adoring crowd.
This isn’t to say it was perfect. Anything but.
The sound mix was perhaps the worst I’ve ever heard after seeing dozens of concerts at this venue. During portions of the opening two songs, front man Vince Neil (whose real last name by the way is Wharton), had his mic obviously turned off. The rest of the night, only sporadic words could be heard above Nikki Sixx’s loud bass guitar and the guitar playing of the very talented Mick Mars who, though hobbled by some physical issues, has lost nothing as a top musician. In fact, watching and listening Mars’ guitar licks was more than a little satisfying.
Try as he might, the energetic Neil could never quite overcome the deafening instrumentals provided by his three bandmates, much less explosions, tongues of fire, and a light tower dominated by a pentagram. There were even bubbles, lots of bubbles.
The muddled sounds seemed a bit strange since Alice Cooper, who turned in a typical bravura performance in a 50-minute opening act, sounded great. It was possible to hear every word of songs such as "Eighteen," "School’s Out," "Feed My Frankenstein," and "No More Mr. Nice Guy."
And Alice is no slouch in the special effects department either. He was electrocuted, had his head cut off by a guillotine, and was upstaged by a 30-foot-high Frankenstein monster. Cooper seemed to feed on the enthusiasm of the large crowd and was certainly a worthy special guest to the main event. Cooper, who is 66, seems ageless. He has a crack band, his voice hasn’t lost a thing and he looks and moves 20 years younger than he is. His stage show doesn’t change much, but it’s always entertaining.
Other than Lee’s outrageous drum solo, there was little in the way of breaking new musical ground at this show. Mötley Crüe seemed content to play what basically amounted to a career retrospective of its hits, which seemed just fine with the crowd.
Songs such as "Shout at the Devil," "Live Wire," "Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," "Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room" and, of course, "Girls, Girls, Girls," had fans singing along, something that Neil encouraged throughout the entire evening.
Sixx took time to tell the story of how the southern California band formed in January of 1981, a bit of history that worked surprisingly well, even for fans that knew the story of the hard-rocking big-hair metal band that defied the New Wave music trend at the time.
Thus, in a poignant encore of "Home Sweet Home," performed on a high riser stage in the middle of the arena that kept going up and up, the band seemed genuinely touched by the adulation of its fans, who also enjoyed the retrospective video on the screens at the side of the stage.
The band, especially Neil and Mars, looks as if 33 years of touring have taken their toll. But, all things considered, this show was a spectacular special effects send-off to one of rock’s classic groups. The sound could have been much better but, in the end, few were complaining.
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