Motley Crue, Poison, New York Dolls Toyota Center June 10, 2011
See mucho pyro, "Titty-cam" requests to Tommy Lee and lots more in our slideshow.
"This drink tastes like rank hooker ass," says the man in the club-level bar, clad in an oversized Motley Crue shirt from one of the last Crue Fest jaunts in Houston. It must be a bad batch of Bud Light coming from the taps, because he ends up replacing the prostitutey brew with a Shiner and a rum.
Welcome to Friday night at the Toyota Center, starring thousands of folks yearning for a piece of ass, a good buzz, and a taste of old-school metal mania, and three bands offering three versions of the latter.
Motley Crue, the burly and freaky metal band with a penchant for controversy; Poison, buoyed by good times (nothin' but) and the pop-idol good looks of the everlasting Bret Michaels; and the New York Dolls, a band that arguably kicked down the door for glam, punk, metal and androgyny in 1971.
The Dolls, all two of the original living members plus former David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick, opened up the proceedings at the strike of 7 p.m., with "Personality Crisis" to a sparse crowd of just a few thousand.
As a vintage Dolls fan, it's always hard to recognize this version of the band, without the departed (read: dead) Johnny Thunders, Arthur Kane and Jerry Nolan in tow, as something other than a David Johansen rock project that happens to carry the Dolls' name. It doesn't diminish the remaining power of seeing lead singer Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain onstage together, but it is a defanged model of the band.
The newer material, from their last three Dolls 2.0 albums, doesn't quite mix with the older stuff like "Pills" or "Trash," as much as they let you breathe in between the proto-glam hits. As for the band converting kids over to the golden age of glam on Friday night, they are better off sticking with the first two albums and the bootlegs.
We don't want to say that Poison played louder and faster than headliners Motley Crue, but we honestly have to. Their middle set would be the most spirited and fist-pumping of the night, and that is coming from a longtime Crue fan. Fire shot from the riser behind drummer Rikki Rockett every 30 seconds, and Bret Michaels didn't act or sing like a guy who has been cheating death recently.
What was funny about this part of the night was realizing that Michaels' VH1 show Rock of Love was the best thing to happen to Poison, besides any MTV video they could have ever made in the '80s, with fans from the show making up a good section of the crowd. Wives dragged their husbands to the show to ogle Poison, while the men got to see some Crue in return. The moms rushing the stage with iPhones to capture C.C. DeVille's guitar solos were precious.
Some cougars seemed to still figure that tanned tits and tall hair still equal a backstage pass, but almost 25 years since the explosion of hair metal, that's not true anymore. A licensed acupuncturist has a better chance of getting pre- or post-show action on a tour like this - money and profits are on the line now, as the band members now seeing themselves as businessmen than roving, vagina-crazed pirates bathing in whiskey and delousing themselves with cocaine.
Motley Crue had been built up in this writer's brain so much as this bursting, deadly, vengeful rock machine for the past 15 years. When they came out with "Wild Side," beleaguered with tech problems and not playing as fast as on record, we still pulled ourselves through the muck because holy shit that's Mick, Tommy, Vince and Nikki just a few yards from us - and there are half-naked chicks, too.
The reality was that we kept telling ourselves to not fanboy the fuck out and be even-keeled about what we were seeing. The band members looked like they weren't having fun; exchanging terse glances, they almost looked aggravated at each other, while the first few songs of the set sounded almost at quarter the speed we are used to.
From our vantage point near the stage we saw everything, from Vince walking offstage after every song, to cues getting mixed up.
It took Tommy Lee to come from his Stargate-like drumming structure to play piano on "Home Sweet Home" to induce the crowd into hysterics, with a mother up front even flashing the Crue's version of Joe Walsh.
"Thank you! We haven't seen titties in Texas yet after two shows here!" Lee howled at the crowd to massive cheers. Is that what it has come to? That women in Dallas and San Antonio weren't game to flash the Crue?
Looking into the pit area we saw more men than women, everyone old enough to know better, most probably on business excursions. Where were these storied tramps swinging their silicone hardware at the stage?
After "Home Sweet Home," a fire seemingly got lit under the band and things got more frantic with "Looks That Kill" from 1983's Shout at the Devil coming full-force. Guitarist Mick Mars is a physical warrior, still being able to play the band's hits, at now varying speeds due to his ungodly arthritis, with the band more than likely modifying each song by his lead. Even seeing Lee playing a touch slower was odd.
Sixx made do by spitting water and fake blood onto his public, which was in line with the madman's MO for the past 30 years. He stopped the show to talk the crowd all on his lonesome up front, calling Mars a "a fucking robot that won't die," and marveling at the past three decades of music. They then revved up "Too Fast for Love" minutes later, bringing the old folks in the crowd back to 1981's debut. Nice save all around.
Neil tried to kick-start the imaginary motorcycle at the beginning of "Girls Girls Girls" in time with the predestined backing track but fell short of the mark, or maybe the sound guy was fucking him for another transgression. Even a song like that brings you back to the sordid truth that these men have had more sex collectively than you have time to fathom. Somewhere in that crowd Friday was someone who had done the dirty with someone on that stage, which made the venue all the more intimate.
Closing with the perfect set opener, "Kickstart My Heart," the band brought us back around, and all the tech issues that we could nitpick over for hours where all but forgiven, because oh dear Lord these guys have earned the past 30 years. They should all be dead, in jail, or rightfully opening for Dokken and Ratt at a county fair, but they climbed out of that teased hair and leathery evolutionary goo to become immortals.
Aftermath still wanted it louder and faster, but then again, that's probably almost two decades of listening to Motley Crue talking.
Personal Bias: This.
The Crowd: You know, we get you think that hair-metal is funny, random dude. We agree. It's got a white-trash vibe that you adore because you wouldn't set foot in a trailer park unless you were evicting a family, but wearing a mullet wig and fake tattoo sleeves doesn't add anything of value to the evening except your flop sweat and our own knowledge that no one in his or her right mind will have sex with you tonight.
Overseen In the Crowd: A guy in front of our party was Shazam-ing every few songs for download later. The fuck is your problem?
Random Notebook Dump: Really, really still surprised at how slow the Crue sounded. Not bad, not awful, just slow. It's almost making us cry a little, like when you see that your father needs glasses to read a menu or a receipt or must acknowledge than Bret Michaels and Poison rightfully played louder and faster than they did.
NEW YORK DOLLS SET LIST
Personality Crisis We're All In Love 'Cause I Sez So Talk To Me, Baby I'm So Fabulous Kids Like You Stranded in the Jungle Dance Like a Monkey Pills Trash Jet Boy
POISON SET LIST
Look What The Cat Dragged In Ride The Wind We're An American Band (Grand Funk Railroad cover) Something To Believe In Your Mama Don't Dance (Loggins & Messina cover) Fallen Angel Unskinny Bop Every Rose Has Its Thorn Talk Dirty To Me Nothin' But A Good Time
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MOTLEY CRUE SET LIST
Wild Side Saints of Los Angeles Live Wire Shout at the Devil Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) Primal Scream Home Sweet Home Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) Looks That Kill Dr. Feelgood Too Young to Fall in Love Too Fast for Love Smokin' In The Boys Room Girls, Girls, Girls Kickstart My Heart