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Concert Review: Motley Crue with Poison and New York Dolls

In 1971 a new generation of rebel was being born; the hippie ideal of peace and love had met a swift and violent end at Altamont and Kent State. Young men were dying in a jungle half a world away and in California a man who fancied himself a musician would gather his "family" and deliver the final killing blow to an age of quixotic optimism. The streets of Gotham, once home to beatniks and artists, would turn mean, and turn on itself, as a tidal pool of anger, discontent and anarchy overflowed its British banks. The anger of working class punks and the rigid world of conservative repression met head-on creating tensions that needed little provocation to turn into violence. And any target was fair game.

Concert Photos: Motley Crue - Poison - New York Dolls
Concert Photos: Motley Crue - Poison - New York Dolls
Tricia Weight
MOTLEY CRUE Rocks Atlanta!
MOTLEY CRUE Rocks Atlanta!
Photo (c) Tricia Weight

It was a dangerous time to stand out from the crowd. It was a dangerous time to be different. And like most dangerous times, it was also an important time to do exactly those two things--someone had to take a stand.

Enter the New York Dolls.

In 1973, with Todd Rundgren at the helm, David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Arthur "Killer" Kane and Jerry Nolan: the New York Dolls, would create what is arguably one of the most important American punk albums ever produced, New York Dolls. Embracing the best that the music world had to offer, from the glam pop of Marc Bolan and the cocky, libidinous strut of The Stones, to the soul and driving rhythms of America's earliest R&B pioneers, the Dolls seemed to drink it all in, but what they spit back out left no doubt... they were their own entity, with a spirit and attitude that defied comparison.

It is that same attitude that today is the trademark of glam rock stars regardless of genre: metal, punk or pop. They have bad attitudes and even worse reputations. They're blissfully unaware of their own excesses, always looking for more. They have big mouths with mercifully small filters. They're self-absorbed, egotistical and spoiled rotten. And that's what we love about them. That's what makes them cool. They have a natural magnetism for drama; always the center of attention.

Even if you've never heard their music, don't know a single song they play, you still know who they are. You know their name, know their reputation. They might be a lot of things, but what they won't ever be is ignored or forgotten.

This year marks the 40th anniversary for the New York Dolls. The 30th anniversary for Motley Crue and the 25th for Poison. Having all three bands appear on one stage promised to be an incredible experience both musically and historically.

Motley Crue's headlining position and fierce performance was a not-so-subtle reminder of their place in the musical evolution between the Dolls and Poison; the band who bridged the gap between glam and metal. Perhaps not the first band to glam up metal, but without a doubt the biggest. They moved the genre out of obscurity, packing arenas around the world and selling millions of records. Without Motley Crue there would never have been a Poison... or Twisted Sister, Marilyn Manson, Murder Dolls, Black Veil Brides--Motley Crue marked a place for them; blazed that trail...

As Motley Crue hit the stage in Atlanta on their headlining tour with support from Poison and special guests The New York Dolls expectations were high. If there's one thing you can count on with Motley Crue it's that they are going to make it a special, and memorable, night.

For three decades Motley Crue have proven themselves to be one of the hardest rocking, hardest working, bands in metal. And one who consistently packs not only ass-kicking music, but an innovative, theatrical show that guarantees their audience is going to get their money's worth... and then some.

The addition of Poison to the bill made this a very special night for veteran metalheads and new fans as well; a chance to experience first hand the debauchery and pure, kick-ass, metal madness that have kept both of these bands in high demand over decades. And they didn't disappoint... One thing that was clear from the moment they hit the stage was how much their fans love them and how much fun both bands are still having on the road. And can they still rock? You bet your ass they still rock!

Over the years Motley Crue have had more than their fair share of ups and downs. Whoever said that there's no such thing as 'bad press' obviously didn't have to weather the criticism that Motley Crue fans have had to withstand during the darkest times. But weather it they have, standing firmly by the band through thick and thin. And that die-hard loyalty is one of the things that made this concert stand apart from others.

One element that most deserves note is the fact that Motley Crue is one of the few bands out there who still understand that a concert should be an event. So many bands are content to jump up on stage and rely on their setlist to carry them through, but not Motley Crue. They put a lot of consideration into their show, delivering a whole package; a spectacular package, every time they hit the road. You can count on the Crue to consistently blow the doors off the competition.

Motley Crue isn't just serving up luke warm renditions of former hits, they're re-packaging and breathing new life into the music of their past; melding it fluidly with their later offerings.

Most importantly, Motley Crue understands that a concert is an investment that hard-working fans make in the band--some people only see one concert a year. Motley Crue makes sure they get a night to remember--the sort of show that people talk about for years to come; an unforgettable experience. Sadly, they're setting a performance bar that's hard to beat. For those of us who see a lot of concerts it's probably going to prove to be a very anti-climactic summer after seeing Motley Crue, the only other band who can even come close to them in the performance category is Avenged Sevenfold and that is certainly a sad indictment considering the number of veteran bands touring right now.

Motley Crue rolled into Atlanta ready to kick ass and their fans met them head-on. Unlike most bands who, unsure about fan turn-out, opt for smaller venues, Motley Crue immediately showed their faith--taking on Aaron's Amphitheater at Lakewood. Lakewood is a monster when it comes to outdoor concerts. Usually home to large festivals Motley Crue definitely proved their mettle, filling the same venue that has become the home of Mayhem Festival. They managed to fill the same seats that last year saw Korn and Rob Zombie co-headlining Mayhem--not that anyone was actually sitting. No way. Not at this show!

The band had allowed fans to choose the songs for this tour through a poll on their website and Atlanta fans were ready, singing along to a wide variety of music that spanned from early Crue days to their later, better known hits like "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Dr. Feelgood."

The one thing that Motley Crue accomplished on this tour with their mixed variety of songs was introducing people to songs that they might not have been as familiar with. The fact that Motley Crue's last album was released in 2008 was actually an advantage to this show. Instead of having a few "classics" mixed in with lesser known new releases, the whole show was like one big Motley Crue celebration. Fans who came on-board during the early days are definitely getting everything they ever wanted in a Crue show, from the bad-ass, bitch-slap of "Too Young to Fall in Love" to fuel-injected versions of Crue classics "Shout at the Devil" and "Looks that Kill."

Motley Crue laid down an absolutely ass-stomping version of "Saints of Los Angeles" as well. I had forgotten what a great song this was until I watched them perform it live. I was so impressed that I actually moved "Saints of Los Angeles" to the top of my "Recommended Listening" playlist; like finding a hidden gem (again).

The stage set for Motley Crue is incredible: one part carnival, one part Holy Roller Revival: from the roller coaster drum kit and flying trapeze to Nikki Sixx's sermon, made all the more hedonistic as he reminded us that it was Sunday, and this is the Bible Belt, in the words of Sixx, "Even the strippers are going to church today!"

Vince Neil proved that he has lost none of his charisma as a metal frontman, taking the stage with his undeniable rockstar attitude and a wicked grin. The band immediately began ripping out a meaty version of "Wild Side" that brought the crowd to their feet. And that was just the kind of fuel Vince Neil needed to get the show rolling... within seconds he clearly had the audience under his spell and he proved one thing for sure. Vince Neil still has the power to totally mesmerize.

Female fans adore him as much as ever, male fans still consider him to be one of the greatest frontmen in metal. Regardless of age, across decades of music and changing trends, Vince Neil had the crowd on their feet from the word go and he didn't let loose the reins until the show was over.

Mick Mars has always been the rock that has kept the Crue rolling all these years and he was magnificent, laying down the guitar riffs that are universally recognizable as signature Crue.

From the very beginning, that absolutely killer opening riff on "Live Wire," the first track on Motley Crue's debut album, Too Fast For Love (1981), Mick Mars has distinguished himself as one of the most distinct guitar "voices" in metal. 30 years later and he is still tearing it up just as fiercely as he ever has.

That's no small feat considering the hammering he has faced over the years against the dual onslaught of Motley Crue's brutal rhythm section, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx. Most guitarists would be doing well just to hold their own with those two beating the shit out of them nightly, but Mick Mars is definitely the man in charge, holding it all together; the backbone that keeps this train from jumping its tracks. And through the decades he's always come across as a stand-up, no bullsh*t kind of guy. One of the toughest soldiers in the metal army.

Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx are absolutely ferocious holding down what some refer to as Motley Crue's rhythm section, which is sort of like someone holding a jackhammer to your head and telling you, "Yeah. That's what we call a rhythm section."

They're an incredible team, just brutal in tandem. I was watching for cracks to appear in the walls. Seriously. They have to be hitting about an eight on the Richter scale. Thought they were, literally, going to bring the house down.

Nikki Sixx is Motley Crue's audience stalker. He is 100% aware of everything going on and everyone in the audience. When he starts talking to the audience it's not one of those canned "chats," he points to people in the audience, thanks veteran Crue fans and welcomes the young kids to the Crue family. Want a Nikki Sixx guitar pick? A sweat and make-up smudged towel? Want to be pointed out during his chats? Just keep rocking. Keep singing along. Nikki is watching. And he's fast to walk over and lay down some ass-spanking bass just for the rowdiest fans in the crowd.

Tommy Lee's latest drum kit, the 360 roller coaster, is just amazing. And, as always, Tommy Lee's solo is just incredible; an expletive filled, rocket-fueled powerhouse drum solo that is made all the more crazy as Tommy's entire set-up starts swinging back and forth, gathering momentum just like a "Flying Dutchman," ride until he's up and over... making full loops.

And just like the Flying Dutchman rides at carnivals there's a certain torturous suspense as Tommy gets to the top and just hangs there--upside down. The audience is holding their breath, waiting to see if this is it, will he actually go over? But no. He goes flying back down and up again, you hear him holler "Oh sh*t!!!" as he hits the top--and hangs there... until he finally goes all the way over! The audience goes crazy as he loops around over and over. After a few loops he hits the top and hangs there again, waiting... and comes back down looping the roller coaster in reverse.

But that's not the end--shouting that his set has two seats Tommy then pulls someone from the audience to ride with him. Definitely one of this year's greatest concert moments as they go looping around in tandem, Tommy screaming out a string of expletives as he pounds out a rocked up version of the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster."

That is just one of Motley Crue's show highlights. Honestly, there's just so many things that made Motley Crue's show rise to the top of my "Must See" concerts for this year that I couldn't possibly list them all--and Motley Crue will definitely rank high on my end of the year "Best Concerts of 2011" retrospective.

Three decades in and Motley Crue is still setting the bar for kick-ass rock concerts.

If Motley Crue is coming anywhere near your town I'd definitely recommend that you get your a$$ out to the rock and roll show. Motley Crue rocks!

Motley Crue Setlist:
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
Girls, Girls, Girls
Smokin' In The Boys Room
(Brownsville Station cover)
Kickstart My Heart

Visit Motley.com for tour dates and information.

Poison is definitely kicking ass on this tour as well.

For many years the music press have treated Motley Crue and Poison as competition for one another, yet it was Motley Crue's fans' requests to see them perform together that brought Poison on-board for this tour. It made a huge difference, knowing that this wasn't going to be a concert that pitted Crue and Poison fans against each other. Everyone was allowed to rock the night away without feeling compelled to choose a camp.

The audience greeted Poison with full-on enthusiasm as C. C. DeVille and Rikki Rockett got the ball rolling, slamming out the band's opening number, "Look What the Cat Dragged in" and Bret Michaels rose up behind them on a motorized riser.

The crowd showed their appreciation, celebrating Poison's 25th year anniversary by singing along as the band rolled through their setlist which included most of their past hits (my personal favorite, "Cry Tough" was not included) and also a killer version of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band."

Poison was definitely in top form, looking great and having a blast. C.C. DeVille and Bret Michaels were a tight unit as they amped the crowd up and Bobby Dall spent most of the show playing with the audience. They proved Motley Crue fans right in choosing them for this tour, they had the crowd revved up and ready to rock, not an ass-warmed seat in the house when Motley Crue took the stage.

Poison Setlist:
Look What The Cat Dragged In
Ride The Wind
We're An American Band
(Grand Funk Railroad cover)
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

Visit PoisonWeb.com for tour dates and information.

The New York Dollsare proving that they've lost none of their ability to rock on this tour as well. Original Dolls David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain have brought on board some amazing musicians to fill out their line-up and together they're creating a raucous wild time that showcases the awesome music of early Dolls and incorporates offerings from their later albums. The Dolls also released a new album this year titled Dancing Backwards in High Heels and they included two songs that proved a perfect blend of past and present.

Through the decades the New York Dolls have maintained a loyal following that continues to grow. And little wonder when you see them live, they are still packing the kind of energy and attitude that first made them stand out on the New York punk scene amongst contemporaries like the Ramones and the Dead Boys.

David Johansen can still sing his a$$ off and he's still got a killer strut, still packing the trash mouth and b!tch-slap wit that is the foundation of the glam rock star attitude. It's his absolute flagrancy and tendency to say whatever he thinks; one part punk, three parts rapier tongue, that makes the film All Dolled Up one of the greatest punk documentaries ever produced.

Sylvain Sylvain's name has been popping up all over the place, not only has he been playing and touring with the Dolls, but he's also a founding member of the band Batusis with Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome. I interviewed Cheetah Chrome a few months ago and we had a long discussion about the strong connection that the Dead Boys and New York Dolls share. You can check out that interview here Who Says Dead Boys Tell No Tales? A Conversation with Punk Rock Living Legend Cheetah Chrome.

Sylvain Sylvain is still rockin' and he doesn't seem to be letting up at all. If you get a chance to see him perform in any of his projects I'd definitely recommend checking him out. He's just an amazing musician and it's a blast to watch his antics on-stage.

The latest additions to the Dolls line-up features an all-star cast of rock and punk alumni: Kenny Aaronson (Bob Dylan, The Blackhearts) Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Lennon) and Jason Sutter (Foreigner, Smash Mouth), needless to say this is definitely a dream team as far as musicianship is concerned. And a team that promises to keep the Dolls rolling over the long haul. Amazing to watch them perform live.

New York Dolls Setlist:
Looking For A Kiss
Dance Like a Monkey
Cause I Sez So
Who Are the Mystery Girls?
Talk To Me, Baby
Kids Like You
Pills
Trash
Personality Crisis

Visit NewYorkDolls.org for tour dates and information.

For more concert reviews check out Avenged Sevenfold Rocks with Seether and Alter Bridge, Buckcherry Jagermeister Music Tour, The Scream Tour - Slash and Ozzy Osbourne and A Thousand Suns - Linkin Park.
Coming up: Mayhem Festival, Godsmack and Art of Dying.

Photos © tricia.weight@gmail.com
New York Dolls photos courtesy of A. Barkwell - Go Ask Alice at PlaygroundsMag.com

A condensed version of this was first published as: Motley Crue Rocks with Poison and the New York Dolls

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