Cincinnati – Always about as subtle as a flaming, spiked sledgehammer to the sternum, Mötley Crüe mince no words with the title of their current summer tour: “30 Years of Crüe … F**k You.”
And because I somehow missed out on seeing the band in their heyday, I felt it was my duty to celebrate three decades of decadence with the boys on Sunday night at the packed Riverbend Amphitheater, because, well, you never know.
Though I didn’t pack a handy flask of Jim Beam in the boot of my jeans to bust out at just the right moment (that would be during “Dr. Feelgood,” FYI) and I was not sporting a full back tat of the Shout at the Devil album cover (I spotted three, in addition to countless massive Theatre of Pain inkings), I dutifully took my place among the masses tossing up the horns for 90 minutes of pyro-fueled mayhem.
Only bassist Nikki Sixx came out rocking the classic Native American ghoul face paint, but when singer Vince Neil raised his bedazzled microphone and stalked the stage in his sliver American flag leather pants for the set opening “Shout at the Devil,” the on-stage flame-throwers were so intense you could almost smell the layers of eye shadow being burned off the faces of the fist-pumping ladies in the front rows.
What followed was exactly what you’d expect from a Crüe show, which is to say a non-stop barrage of rock thuggery and expletive-laden exhortations from a group whose debt to punk speed and attitude and conventional hard rock has long since outstripped their early pretty-boy glam look.
There was the enormous spinning pentagram video behind drummer Tommy Lee and the two backup singers in remarkably demure floor-length dresses writhing on church pews and each other during “Same Ol’ Situation.” That is, until, of course, they ripped the frocks off to reveal tasseled black lingerie.
You had bursts of fire (“scream!”) from above followed by columns of smoke (“shout!”) from below during “Primal Scream,” and the excitable Lee – wearing white pancake makeup and bondage pants only – busting out an F-bomb-tastic monologue before sitting down at a Liberace-worthy mirror-encrusted baby grand to play the intro to “Home Sweet Home.”
The dancers/backup singers/strippers emerged in leather naughty nurse costumes a short time later for “Dr. Feelgood,” segueing into a faux lesbian almost make-out during the panty dropper national anthem “Girls, Girls, Girls” and shortly thereafter the obligatory eye-popping upside down Lee drum solo (more on that in a minute).
What you may not have expected, but which made total sense, was a grungy interpolation of Cee Lo Green’s “F**k You” in the middle of “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).” The nod to contemporary pop not only gave the tour its title, but also created one of those awesome “hey, wait a minute …” moments that brought smiles to the thousands of girls in their shredded T-shirts and micro jean shorts and their heavily inked boyfriends in black bandanas pulled down low over their glassy eyes.
About that Tommy Lee solo. This time out, Lee rocked a circular rig that looks like a mini roller coaster, which allowed the skin pounder to strap in a play his showcase while rolling up its sides like an amusement park ride chugging up the first hill, eventually landing him upside down as he miraculously kept the beat.
Even more amazing, though, was the bit where Tommy pulled a kid from the crowd and strapped him into the rig for a series of 360s that must give the band’s lawyers a heart attack every night.
Gallons of fossil fuels were burned to ignite the endless barrage of pyro and fireworks that rained down from the ceiling and up from the stage. But the other bit that must give the bean counters agita every night was the one when the two lovely backup singers finally make use of the nearly two-story stripper/fire pole at the back of the stage. They slid down the contraption during “Girls, Girls, Girls” in one of those moments that felt custom made for a “Spinal Tap”-like YouTube outtake in which one of them accidentally comes crashing down on top of the other, landing them in a heap of tasseled lingerie and unfulfilled fanboy dreams.
Oh right, there was also the inexplicable moment when a writhing, jumpsuit-wearing roadie was lowered down by his ankle during “Ten Second to Love” for no apparent reason.
And to think they pulled all that off in front of nearly 20,000 insanely screaming fans (and many of their way-too-young to be out that late hearing that kind of language grade schoolers) 30 years after first putting on the greasepaint. In the words of my new Beam-swigging pal, “F**k yeah!”