Friday Night: Kiss & Mötley Crüe at The Woodlands

Kiss, Mötley Crüe Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 3, 2012

"I used to rock and roll all night and party ev-er-y day. Then it was every other day. Now I'm lucky to find half an hour a week in which to get funky."

-- Homer Simpson

Getting old can be a drag, to paraphrase some guy, but how you've treated yourself to that point can affect how well you manage the inevitable descent into decrepitude. Those who find acceptance in their station in life also tend to weather their autumn years more gracefully than those who cling to past glory.

And that intro would've worked great if Mötley Crüe had put on as half-assed a show as Rocks Off was expecting on The Tour with Kiss last Friday night. Truth be told, they were better than anticipated, giving us probably the second best of the four Crüe shows we've seen (the first being 1987's Girls, Girls, Girls concert at the Summit), making a swampy August evening in the Woodlands a little more tolerable.

Oh, and Kiss was pretty damn good, too.

Don't get us wrong, Mötley Crüe has still lost... several steps in the years since their '80s heyday. But that's to be expected; we're all more bloated (tattoo sleeves do wonders to hide lack of arm definition, by the way) and lacking in stamina these days. Talk-radio commercials blame something called "low T," we blame decades of alcohol and heroin abuse.

But you've gotta hand it to them, even with a mercury that must've topped out at 120 degrees onstage (and that's not even counting the pyrotechnics), Vince, Nikki, Mick and Tommy were noticeably enthused. Even Mick seemed to be getting around better, which is encouraging given his condition.

He still walks with difficulty, but his solos anchored most of the band's set. He's rock's Crypt Keeper, and we love him for it. We almost felt bad for Tommy, stuck back there with the pyro and no ventilation, until we realized he's one of those genetic freaks who can unendingly abuse his body and still look like a dude in his mid-20s. Provided you don't squint too hard.

So maybe we didn't really feel that bad for him. The backup singers (do they still call them the "Nasty Habits?") on the other hand...leather outfits? In August? In Houston? Someone in promotions needs a firm finger wagging.

And the shortened set probably helped their attitude (Neil was able to make it to the third song -- "Shout at the Devil" -- before letting the audience provide the bulk of the vocals). The only unknown quantity in the Crüe's repertoire was the new single "Sex," which only served to heighten the dissonance caused by a bunch of fiftysomethings (going by average: Tommy is 49 and Mick Mars is 61) singing about fornication.

Between that and Neil's "I Support Single Mothers" vest, complete with stripper pole graphic, it really warmed our heart that so many folks decided to bring their children to the show. We hope they were able to fully participate in Tommy's "When I say 'fuck,' you say 'you'" routine at the end.

For Mötley Crüe, there's little danger left in a bunch of grandfather-aged dudes posturing like rock and roll badasses, and the capacity crowd at the Pavilion honestly didn't appear to give a shit. And a good thing too, considering who was coming up next.

What can we say about the Knights in Satan's Service? Now winding up their fourth decade in existence, the band has come full circle, from '70s superstardom through difficult transitions in the '80s and '90s (including multiple personnel changes) to more or less embrace their status as a nostalgia act that still releases the occasional album (Monster drops next month). Folks coming to a Kiss show don't want a deep exploration of Sonic Boom, though, they want the hits, and we (mostly) got them Friday night.

The only new cut was "Hell or Hallelujah," off the upcoming album. Other than that, the set consisted mostly of cuts from the band's salad days (1974-77), with the other most recent song being 1983's "Lick It Up." It says something about both a band and their audience when they can consistently ignore ten entire albums' worth of material during their shows, I'm just not sure what that is exactly.

Familiarity often breeds contempt, but after a while you have to hand it to a couple of (again) old dudes (Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are both over 60, and Stanley still rides a zip line out a sound booth platform to perform "Love Gun," two hip replacement surgeries be damned) who put on that make-up and strap on those platform boots every night just so a bunch of gibbons from H-Town could hoot along to "Shout It Out Loud."

And for the record, that was us screaming "YOU GOT TO HAVE A PARTY" during the chorus.

One gets the impression the foursome could perform most of these songs in their sleep (and reportedly did on tours in the late '80s). Do we miss original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss? Do most people realize it's been Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer behind the Starman and Catman make-up for the last decade? Would they care?

Singer's been behind the kit for as long as Criss ever was (and is a better drummer besides), and Thayer is as competent as he needs to be, and also takes over Frehley's vocal duties on "Shock Me."

And while we'll always take musicians' statements of love for any city their in with a fist-sized grain of salt, Stanley really does seem to have affection for Houston (or as he pronounces it, "Ha-Yew-Ston!"), fondly recalling past shows at the Summit. And if you needed proof we really are America's Coolest City, they whipped out "Cold Gin" for one of the only times on this tour. Take that, Dallas.

Are they cheesy? Uh, hello, they spit fire ("Firehouse") and blood ("God of Thunder") and dress like the Knights of the Round Table by way of Fetish Factory. Even so, you can't help listening to a solid rock track like "Black Diamond" (from 1982's Creatures of the Night their eponymous 1974 debut album) wondering if, in their quieter moments, they wonder what life would've been like as a straightforward blues-rock outfit.

Yeah, probably a lot fewer groupies.

But a lot of comfort food has added garnish, and Kiss at this point is pretty much rock's mac and cheese: Not really healthy for you, but it tastes good and takes you to a happy place. And you only regret it a little bit the next day.

Personal Bias: Destroyer was the first album I bought with my own money, though my Kiss Army credentials weren't enough to get us back backstage, alas.

The Crowd: The usual crowd of aging heshers, plus offspring. Far be it from me to tell you how to raise your kids, but before bringing them to rock shows, consider two things: First, they may be exposed to more profanity and lewd behavior than you might expect (and that's just in the audience); second, you may hear things like, "Daddy, maybe if that blond gnome lost some weight he wouldn't need his heart kick-started."

Overheard In the Crowd: "Crüe's opening for Kiss? It should totally be the other way around." -- My apparently brain-damaged guest for the show.

Random Notebook Dump: "Mick shreds while half-naked chicks dangle overhead. In America."


Saints of Los Angeles Wild Side Shout at the Devil Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) Sex Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) Home Sweet Home Live Wire Primal Scream Dr. Feelgood Kickstart My Heart


Detroit Rock City Shout it Out Loud I Love It Loud Firehouse Love Gun War Machine Shock Me Hell or Hallelujah God of Thunder Lick it Up Black Diamond


Cold Gin Rock and Roll All Nite

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar