Better Than: Seeing them on most of their other tours from the past 15 years.
“If this didn’t work out, I don’t know where you guys would be,” said Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx in the middle of his band’s final NYC show. “Maybe you’d be at a Mumford and Sons concert.” Sixx’s quote and the audience’s subsequent boos were all in good fun, but that’s the nature of a Mötley Crüe show. Amid the fire, the dancing girls, the moving stages, and the Mumford jokes was three decades of good cheer and memories. For a packed Garden audience, the ’80s hair-metal heroes closed the book on their time together. For Crüe, it’s only fitting that the final chapter was an excessively debauched party that went out with a series of deafening bangs.
Out first on stage, and just in time for Halloween on Friday, was the still-ghoulish and -creepy Alice Cooper. The veteran of shock rock came equipped with more prop, costume, and set changes than the majority of pop stars around now. Decades of getting his head chopped off by a guillotine have served Cooper well; though the shock has worn off, his spookiness is as timeless as the Halloween movies and specials on heavy rotation right now, just in time for the holiday.
Once the props were cleared, The Sound of Music‘s “So Long, Farewell” bled over the PA system. It was a cute, delicate pregame just before Mötley Crüe dove into the heavy, raucous “Saints of Los Angeles.” Such a new-ish song in terms of their timeline felt briefly like a weird choice, but Mötley Crüe was hellbent on celebrating every last moment of their career, from their start to their finish, making every year seem like a golden one.
Of course, there’s no shortage of memorable tracks for the band to choose from for their setlist. Soon “Wild Side” helped soundtrack the arrival of the two female backup singers/dancers/roadies who did some Rocky Horror-esque moves while gradually slipping into less and less clothing over the course of the show. As their clothes disappeared, the number of cues for fire and explosives increased; the Crüe pulled out finale-level flames for every song, only trying to beat themselves.
By the time we reached Nikki’s speech on how the band was brought together in Los Angeles 33 years ago, they had already pounded through “Same Ol’ Situation,” “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” and a confetti-heavy “Without You.” Sixx forced the entire audience to sit down for his story, an expertly regaled tale of a boy from Idaho slowly picking up his future bandmates from various dives and magazine ads across Hollywood. With every introduction in his recounting, the Crüe of today revealed themselves from the shadows they were lurking in during the storytime. By the time Sixx finished, the audience was anxious to get back up and dance some more, and in honor of the punk influences he’d cited, Sixx and Co. ripped a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” before sliding into “Dr. Feelgood,” followed by the night’s highlight, “Shout at the Devil.” What made the latter so particularly incredible was the flame-shooting contraption attached to Nikki’s bass that allowed him to set his hanging microphone aflame while still hitting the bassline.
Moments like that are an example of how the concert, while a collective celebration of all they’ve accomplished together, also took pride in allowing each to take a few moments to show off his skill and let fans bask in his individual personality. Eccentric drummer Tommy Lee took to the skies for his moment, as his drum kit was transported above the crowd in a rollercoaster-looking contraption that spun him upside down and carried him back-and-forth across the stadium to a megamix of present-day rap and EDM like Jay-Z and Disclosure. Mick Mars followed suit directly after with a dark and heavy guitar solo.
Leave it to Mötley Crüe to embrace so much excess in their final moments on stage before bringing it all back for a surprisingly emotional finale. The main set was capped off by “Kickstart My Heart,” which had more cues for ear-shattering explosives, flares, and flames than anyone’s heart could possibly handle. Luckily, everyone had a moment to recover between that and the encore. On the smaller stage at the back of the general-admission floor, Mötley Crüe set up shop with a piano for power ballad “Home Sweet Home.” Vintage videos and clips of them in their youth and heyday. It was surreal to watch them back then as the Crüe of now bade farewell, and the song they performed to bid their fans adieu was designed to pull at every heartstring. As they walked through the crowd afterwards and lifelong fans grasped for one last touch of a member of Mötley Crüe, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played, reminding us that for the last 33 years, we have gotten to know a band who were always brazenly and unapologetically themselves with each and every one of us.
Critical Bias: The genre of hair metal was one of the top producers of accidental boy bands.
Overheard: “I love Nikki.” “I know.” “NIIIIIIKKKKKKKIIIIIII.”
Random Notebook Dump: I didn’t live through the Mötley Crüe heyday, but the entire show was still SUPER emotional to witness.
Saints of Los Angeles
Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
Looks That Kill
On With the Show
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room (Brownsville Station cover)
Mutherfucker of the Year
Anarchy in the U.K. (Sex Pistols cover)
Shout at the Devil
Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Too Young to Fall in Love
Girls, Girls, Girls
Kickstart My Heart
Home Sweet Home
See all of our Mötley Crüe in NYC photos.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 29, 2014