Gary Carra Photo
They wore more makeup than your mother, possessed more firepower than most third-world countries. Or, as Tommy Lee so succinctly put it while exiting his drum throne to tickle the ivories of a diamond-crusted piano on an orchestrated version of "Home Sweet Home," "Motley Crue and KISS in the same fucking building—dude, are you kidding me?"
In the ultimate homage to excess, the veteran rockers ravaged sheds and civic centers the country over this summer with a tour they so astutely dubbed...well, The Tour.
The Crawler caught up with said Tour on its final night in Hartford, Sept. 23. True to form, the rock warhorses showed no signs of slowing as they trotted into the proverbial barn for a long winter's rest.
Working amidst a backdrop of fire, masked men spraying the crowd with water, and scantily clad women on stilts or dangling from the ceiling with chains, the Crue throttled through a 14-tune hodgepodge of staples ("Shout At The Devil"), chestnuts ("Live Wire") and chart toppers ("Home Sweet Home").
While failing to demonstrate a complete recall of the lyrics themselves, frontman Vince Neil proved he still has the high note. Bassist Nikki Sixx plods around the stage with all the menace and swagger of his '80s-era self, stopping off along the way to shower adoring fans with the contents of his water bottle via his mouth.
Ironically, in a band whose lead singer killed a friend while driving his Pantera sports at twice the legal alcohol limit and the bassist was pronounced dead by paramedics after one of his several overdoses, it's the relatively clean Mick Mars who looks the worst for wear. The eccentric six-stringer has sadly been beleaguered with health issues that have caused his weight to deteriorate alarmingly, and greatly affected his posture. At this point, Mars is performing entire shows with a top hat pulled down halfway over his face and hair covering the rest, and never speaks a word (think rock 'n' roll cousin It). Now the Crawler isn't saying the Crue brought in a replacement Mick this evening or any other... but should he not be up to it, it would certainly seem a faux-Mars could slip in and as long as the hand tattoos matched up, no one would be the wiser. In any event, his playing was spot on this evening.
In contrast, drummer Lee, perhaps bolstered by his recent NBC reality show Tommy Lee Goes To College, now has the most recognizable mug in the lot. It's a reality not lost on him as he worked the stage to share "Crue shots" with the fans and show off his 360-degree revolving drum set.
Enter KISS, their East Coast glam the perfect bookend to Crue's Sunset Strip sleaze.
Though now both sexagenarians, founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley still know how to rally the Army (KISS-speak for fans)—the former with his blood spitting, fire breathing and tongue wagging, the latter with his boundless energy and patented stage banter.
Although guitarist Tommy Thayer dutifully performed the guitar parts and even vocals of the man whose makeup he donned, founding member Ace Frehley, there are some diehards who will never forgive the substitution. When it comes to the curious case of Peter Criss "cat" clone Eric Singer, these same fans seem to yield a little more leeway. Could be that Criss never had quite the style or personality of Frehley? Or maybe it's because Singer is an equally good singer and much better drummer than Criss ever was.
As for the set list, tunes ranging from Creatures of the Night's lumbering "War Machine" and Lick It Up's title track have found their way into the fold among the usual suspects (including time-tested opener "Detroit Rock City," perennial closer "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite" and "Love Gun").
Both bands also debuted new tunes off forthcoming releases, too—"Sex" for the Crue, "Hell Or Hallelujah" for KISS. And while neither song may rise to the levels of either band's glory days, they were both good enough that they didn't trigger a stampede to the restroom, which in itself has to be a moral victory for any band at that stage of the game.
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