Vince Neil's shoddy vocals buzzkill otherwise dumb-fun Mötley Crüe farewell in Tampa
TAMPA — We can only hope this really IS the end of Mötley Crüe, that this current "farewell tour" doesn't turn into one-more-money-grubbing-time a few hard years down Regret Road. Let this truly be the last time we all shout, shout, shout at the devil, okay? And I say that from the bottom of my suburban-dirtball headbanging heart.
Because the L.A. grunts who sold out the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre Sunday — once the world's most dangerous band, four party stars who earned the right to be dead by now — were less than flammable, less than fiery in their goodbye show, no matter how much pyro they launched into the night sky. They used to be...threatening. Not anymore. Oh, it wasn't awful; it wasn't dull for the 20,000 or so on hand, not with Tommy Lee's four-story roller-coaster drum kit and bassist Nikki Sixx, who looks like a shaved Sasquatch, keeping things profane. (Sixx's best line: "I promise you this, our music is going to haunt you 'til the [really bad word] day you die." Hooray?)
But there are serious chemistry problems in Crüeville — and, alas, not the pharmaceutical kind. It starts with frontman Vince Neil, 53, whose potbelly was far more prominent than his vocals for the duration of the two-hour, 20-song set. He's easily the weakest link, a once-shrieking pretty boy who now can barely be heard. And perhaps with good reason. When he bothered to sing, you couldn't hear him sing at all. And if it was a ballad, forget it; during Without You, confetti was dropped early and often, presumably to distract from his barely audible mumbles. It would have been better to turn UP Neil's mike, wounded chops or not, even if he sounded like a cat in heat. Too often, this was karaoke. There's only so many times you can ask the crowd to take the lead.
That's a shame, because Mötley Crüe still has two of the best musicians in rockdom. Guitarist Mick Mars, the oldest member at 63, displays as much mobility as the Statue of Liberty. That's a little disconcerting, sure. But his fingers can fly, a rousingly fluid player (underrated, too) whose solos retain the power to get you high-fiving the meathead in the next seat. Despite Neil's muddling presence, fist-pumping burners Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) and Kickstart My Heart were adrenalized slices of hair-metal goodness all thanks to Mick's magic.
And then there's Lee, the kid at 51, still banging the skins as hard as he can on Dr. Feelgood, still finding absolutely no reason to wear a shirt. "Say hello to the [another really bad word] Cobra!" Tommy hollered as he was lifted, often upside-down (but still thumping away), on a nefarious steel-rigged contraption that snaked over the crowd. (If you want to see a picture of the Cobra drum coaster, check out my Instagram page.) He's a showman, always smiling, always looking as if he's having the time of his life. Which, of course, he is. Unlike Vince, Tommy knows he's a lucky guy, and he shows it.
But back to that chemistry: Between the four of them, there's very little, just four dudes going about their business. They tried to make up for the disconnect. There were backing singers dressed as strippers (or maybe that's the other way around?), and so many fireworks and flashpots and related 'splosions went off, you'd think the effects guy was trying to burn the joint down. And yet, for all of that, the far more rewarding part of the night was opening act Alice Cooper, the 66-year-old Godfather of Shock Rock who wears a boa constrictor as a scarf. (Note to herpetologists: Maybe it was a python. I dunno, okay?)
Cooper doesn't have the songbook of the Crüe, nor does he have the budget, his bloody props seemingly borrowed from a boardwalk haunted house. But Mr. Welcome to My Nightmare sold his ghoulish delights with an earnest, carnival barker verve. At one point, somewhere between getting stabbed by a demonic nurse and morphing into a 10-foot Frankenstein puppet, Alice was guillotined, after which his executioner French-kissed his severed head. Uh, then everybody sang School's Out.
That may not sound like concert excellence, but it was transcendent in a way, especially compared to the uneven slog that followed. Here's hoping Alice Cooper comes back soon. As for Mötley Crüe, which played a smirky soundbite from The Sound of Music to open the show? Stick with your promise, gentlemen. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight.