It’s hard not be skeptical when any band says it's on a “final” or “farewell forever” tour. So when Mötley Crüe announced theirs in 2014, they felt the urge to let us all know they really meant it. You may remember that each band member signed a “Cessation of Touring Agreement,” effective at the close of this tour, which began in July 2014 and concludes … well, it was supposed to be on New Year's Eve at Staples Center. But now there's talk of an intimate show at the Whisky in late January as well.
Whenever they actually hang it up, there’s a legally binding piece of paper that says it'll be the last time. So it’s gotta be true! Right? “All Bad Things” must come to an end, but bad things also find a way of creeping back, and when it comes to rock & roll, nobody places too much blame, especially fans.
Last night, on the first of their “final” three-night stand at Staples Center, the Crüe gave L.A. a somewhat anticlimactic last hurrah. I wanted to succumb to the giddy excitement and the big deal–ness that was obviously felt by the crowd surrounding me. Dudes in gaudy concert tees and Nikki Sixx warpaint, moms in spiked belts and mini-skirts, and a notable new generation of hesher babies hankering for the kind of fist-pumping, pyro-popping arena spectacle that only an aged rock band like the Crüe can provide these days — all seemed both giddy and heavy-hearted, shelling out big bucks for merch such as leather jackets and signed guitars in the Lakers store turned temp “pop-up” Crüe shop. One gal I chatted with paid $2,000 for a five-minute meet-and-greet with the band. And she didn’t go away mad.
The shamelessness of the money grabs everywhere was kind of gross, but OK, I get it. If they truly are breaking up, why not rake in all they can, right? I’ll give the band — who deserve props for putting L.A. metal, and not just “hair” metal, on the map — that at least. But the show itself, at least the first half, didn’t live up to all the hoopla. Part of this was the sound quality, which muffled Vince Neil’s already depleted-sounding vocals. Neil at least looks trimmer than he did at the Hollywood Bowl last year, but he was phoning it in big-time during the first half of the set, and same goes for Nikki Sixx. Mick Mars is always pretty motionless, and until Tommy Lee gets his roller-coaster moment, he’s largely a backdrop. So it’s really up to the singer and bassist to bring it onstage and set the tone for the show. Even with fiery effects pretty much from the get-go, it took way too long for both to warm up.
The set list was much the same as it was at the Bowl and has been the entire tour. Yes, that’s often how it’s done, but knowing that hard-core fans would be back to see them again, why not concoct an auspicious finish and change things up for us? Opening with “Girls, Girls, Girls,” then going into “Wild Side” was predictable and uninspired. Longtime, hard-core fans were in the house and we would have appreciated a nod to where it all began right off the bat; something off of Too Fast for Love or Shout at the Devil (which they got to eventually). Opening with “Girls” is like the Stones opening with “Start Me Up”; it’s a good song, but it’s tired and just done.
A few songs into the show, Neil spoke of Lemmy Kilmister’s passing, which seemed like a cue for some spontaneity. A few riffs of “Ace of Spades,” perhaps? Instead, he said a couple quick words and it was back to the same ol' set list. A proper tribute to their bad-boy comrade would have not only been classy, it would have surely killed.
'Cause here’s the thing: Despite their age, Mötley Crüe are still a badass band. They don’t even need the pyrotechnic overkill or backup singers in Daisy Dukes doing stripper moves, as they’ve had on this tour. Their songs are powerful and ferocious and poppy and fun, and not every rock band pulls off all of those things at the same time. The band’s chemistry is still there, too. Each member brings something unique, and lashed together, it just works. It always did, even when the partying and egos made them sloppy back in the day. Back then, at least they were dangerous.
To be fair, by the end of the show, the bombastic bells and whistles and arsenal of banging hits did win me over, in some ways more than their other “last” show at the Hollywood Bowl a year and a half ago. Lee’s crazy flying drum-kit contraption, which was scrapped at the Bowl, was in full effect, and it was fun to watch him take a ride while attacking his kit to a prerecorded mix of funky grooves. His enthusiasm is still contagious for the crowd and obviously for the band, too. The numbers Mötley busted out after Lee's aerial solo were decidedly more rousing. And the “Home Sweet Home” encore, done on a smaller stage amid the floor seats, was poignant and kinda perfect.
Whatever Mötley Crüe’s individual members decide to do next, they were right to tout this tour as an “end.” It’s the end of an era, an era in which rock & roll still attracts a big enough mainstream audience to fill an arena. Yes, there are glimmers of hope for the future — bands like last night’s glammy openers The Struts, for example — and a few powerhouse acts like Foo Fighters who can still do it. But most of the bands who can create epic moments of head-banging, devil-horns-throwing, top-of-the-lungs sing-alongs are nostalgia acts these days. And soon, more of these greats will be leaving the stage.
I wanted more from the Crüe’s final shows, but I'm glad to see them going out on top (no county fairs in these guys’ futures). We fans are grateful for all that they gave us the past 35 years, and even if it wasn’t as great as it could’ve been, we appreciated the grandness of their goodbye.