Old People

Mötley Crüe Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away in Farewell Tour

Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper
Toyota Center
September 5, 2015

That was it, right? For real, no backsies? Last Saturday night at the Toyota Center was — according to everyone — the last show venerable Los Angeles sleaze-rockers Mötley Crüe would ever perform on stage in Houston. And this time they mean it.

Or so one would assume. Most tours of the farewell variety are bittersweet, nostalgia-laden events that allow the musicians to express their affection and/or gratitude one final time. Which is why "The Final Tour" felt like anything but, being a mostly workmanlike affair. If that's the bad news, then the good news is Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, and Tommy Lee are departing at what sounds like the top of their game.

But before the end, we have to go to the beginning, meaning second act Alice Cooper (I missed most of opening band the Cringe's set, along with 90 percent of the audience, thanks to the hour-long wait to get into the building). Cooper will never retire, I figure. His act has been honed down over the last four decades to the highest of career high points: "No More Mr. Nice Guy"; "Under My Wheels" (Decline 2 represent!); "I'm Eighteen" (was he even 18 when he wrote this?); drum solo, presumably so Alice can check the golf leaderboard; "School's Out," which tails into "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," yet another bold move by a guy who hasn't seen the inside of a school since the 1960s. 

Cooper has also, understandably, surrounded himself with younger musicians. Of particular note were longtime (since '96) guitarist Ryan Roxie, drummer Glenn Sobel, and guitarist Nita Strauss. What's up, Nita?

And then, after the unfortunate choice of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Part 2" as interlude music, it was Crüe time. Opening with "Girls, Girls, Girls," the band sounded tight and, I hesitate to use the word "professional" when talking about guys whose offstage lives have mostly consisted of sex tapes and overdoses, but the boys (all of whom are now in their fifties, he threw in for no reason) cruised through a set list heavy on cuts from their (pre-'90s) glory days.

The drag race down memory lane aspect is what made this "final" show feel somewhat less than conclusive. The band didn't even acknowledge the crowd until a third of the way through the set, and Neil's comments were of the canned variety, with no emphasis on the fact that this would be the  last time anyone would see the band perform again. The songs were well-received by an enthusiastic Toyota Center crowd, but the whole affair felt perfunctory.

And the thing is, it was a good show, especially when going by the standards set by Crüe themselves in the past decade. Neil looked as fit as he's been in years, and Mars was actually walking around the stage without too much apparent difficulty (long story short: he has ankylosing spondylitis and a hip replacement). I've been to four Crüe shows, thrice in the last decade, and this was definitely the tightest since 1987.

Can we take a minute to single out Mick Mars' performance? It's my review, so yes. Mars, the oldest member of the band (64) and unfairly enough, the most hobbled by illness — if you read The Dirt, you know he rarely participated in the rest of the group's debauchery — is either a herald of Satan or an actual extraterrestrial. Credit Sixx for writing the band's signature songs and Lee for...improving as a drummer, but Mars is simply mesmerizing whenever the spotlight's on him. His pre-encore solo was the only part of the show that felt like old Crüe: aggressive and nasty, like a giant middle finger to the soccer moms who brought their kids to hear "Home Sweet Home." May he shred forever.

I shouldn't really talk shit about Tommy Lee. The roller-coaster drum solo was pretty hilarious, if not a big surprise (gee, I wonder what those hundred feet of tracks are for?). He was also the only one who waxed emotional during the encore, sounding like the sole band member who wasn't happy to be calling it quits.

Mars' physical problems aside, I find it hard to believe this is the last time we'll see these guys. I go mostly by the example set by the band's biggest influence, but if there isn't a reunion tour or a "Mötley Crüise" in the next ten years, I'll eat my top hat.

Personal Bias: I am no longer too fast for love, but you shouldn't have to kickstart my heart any time soon.

The Crowd: Class of 1985 reunion, along with some of the townies who used to beat them up.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Vince Neil is the richest member, because he owns an arena football team."

Random Notebook Dump: [after photo bombing the selfie of the couple in front of me]: "Don't go away mad."

Girls, Girls, Girls
Wild Side
Primal Scream
Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)
Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Smokin' in the Boys' Room (Brownsville Station cover)
Looks That Kill
Mutherfucker of the Year
Anarchy in the U.K. (Sex Pistols cover)
Shout at the Devil
Louder Than Hell
Saints of Los Angeles
Live Wire
Dr. Feelgood
Kickstart My Heart

Home Sweet Home 
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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