We wanted the best, we got … KISS. We also got Mötley Crüe last night at Bridgestone Arena, where we took in “The Tour” — a Dr. Feelgood-meets-Dr. Love arena-rock double-shot that was like a 10-story-tall gilded middle finger to subtlety.
This wasn’t The Spin’s first rodeo when it comes to KISS’ storied, cliché-by-design concert experience. When we caught the band’s Bridgestone 2009 performance, our biggest complaint (besides suffering through tragically tuneless, shirtless openers Buckcherry) was that Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and their hired-hand impostors opened with “Deuce” into “Strutter.” An awesome one-two punch to be sure, the set-topping pairing of the band’s two best songs meant, at least musically, the show was all downhill after its first eight minutes.
Last night, the band — performing a truncated version of its show to accommodate Mötley Crüe’s dumbfounding carnival of sleaze and BDSM, which we’ll get to in a minute — played neither “Strutter” nor “Deuce,” resulting in a performance that was comparatively lacking by default.
KISS might wanna rock ’n’ roll all night, but they only rocked and rolled for about an hour-and-a-half last night. The band at least made each of those 90 minutes count, turning in a trim, déjà vu-inducing rehash of the same campy gimmicks we saw last time — gimmicks that the band has probably rendered time and time again at arenas across the globe for the last four decades. Gene spit fire during “Firehouse.” Paul zip-lined his 60-year-old ass over the crowd during “Love Gun.” Gene spit blood. Shit blew up during almost every song. (That never gets old.) And they played a new song titled “Hell or Hallelujah” while thousands took a piss break. And of course, the band levitated toward the rafters, performing “Rock and Roll All Nite” as a blinding storm of steam and confetti rained over the crowd as a finale.
Minor variations included “Detroit Rock City” as an opener, the inclusion of the Creatures of the Night cut “War Machine” — complete with vague, onscreen, anti-fascist animation — and Gene singing “God of Thunder” instead of “I Love It Loud,” from a B-stage atop the lighting trusses.
Also, the band once again pinned the needle on the bullshit meter by letting Ace Frehley stand-in Tommy Thayer sing “Shock Me,” which, this time, gave way to an extended guitar-and-drum solo/jam between Thayer and Peter Criss stand-in Eric Singer. Sure, these guys are good soldiers doing a good job filling (literally) big shoes. And truth be told, they nail “Black Diamond” and “Shout It out Loud” way better than Criss or Frehley probably could these days. But who cares about that? It’s fucking KISS. And when Gene and Paul left the stage to Singer and Thayer, it was like watching a glorified cover band play dress up for an arena-sized crowd.
OK, now let’s talk about Mötley Crüe. Arriving late (yes, we know), we only caught the last five songs of the band’s 14-song set. And that was more than enough Crüe to last us a lifetime, even if we missed Tommy Lee “soloing” on a drum set looping upside down on a 360-degree, vertical roller-coaster track by mere minutes. Not to say that it wasn’t exactly what we came to the concert for: pure, mindless entertainment. But sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, as the Crüe’s stage production was like an Affliction shirt come to life in a Juggalo’s wet dream and set inside the foundry Sara Connor killed the Terminator in.
Granted, every time we looked away from the stage to take notes, we felt as though we were cheating ourselves of another hair-raising, jaw-dropping cock-rock cliché. Another blinding wall of laser lights. Another deafening explosion. Or a cartoonish sneer from Nikki Sixx. Or, courtesy of Tommy Lee, another haunting vision of a what a meth-addled, rapidly aging Travis Barker would look like. Another wet surge shot from an onstage water gun turret to duck and cover from. And another instance of Vince Neil raising his mic to the air only to receive a sympathetic crowd response falling far short of the sing-along he was obviously anticipating. The set was a was an overwhelming factory of tactless flare to behold. Watching it certainly killed more brain cells than our $10 beers did — and it was mostly hilarious, except for one aspect.
Lately there’s been a lot of talk of a Republican war on women. Well, the Republicans ain’t got shit on Mötley Crüe when it comes to misogyny. The band had dancers onstage. And not the kind of dancers David Byrne had at Bonnaroo, but the kind the Crüe featured in their classic video for “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Strippers, but without the stripping. In a move that would make Todd Akin green with envy, these dancers, all female, were at times suspended high above the band by chains. One was even hoisted into the air kicking and screaming while bound in a straitjacket.
While Mötley Crüe obviously thinks that watching scantily clad women being tortured from 50 yards away is Nashville’s idea of a boneriffic good time, the egregiously boneheaded spectacle was, if not totally offensive to the not-so-easily-offended Spin, ultimately a distraction from the joy of pumping fist to full-throttle rockers like “Live Wire” (a definite highlight), “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart” and, of course, “Girls, Girls, Girls” — the set’s penultimate number. As the band dropped into the hair-metal gem, a middle-aged woman, in what appeared to be an almost knee-jerk reaction, hopped onto an empty seat next to us to flash the band. We couldn’t help but think it ironic that, while she was not wearing a bra, she was wearing ear plugs.
At this point The Spin has seen our share of ornery arena-rock crowds at nostalgic glam-metal happenings like this. But we’ve never seen a crowd as shit-hammered and prone to shouting out loud double-negatives as this debauched bunch. “Piss in them sinks!!!” we overheard one concertgoer yelling in the bathroom line. This after witnessing the tail end of a near fist fight in the smoking area. That’s all well and good. But what is so striking about these crowds is how they represent an odd nexus of cock-rock nostalgia and Ed Hardy-endorsed, post-apocalyptic dread. When it comes to fashion, they tend to fall in one of two camps: Either they’re your garden variety, hold-over hesher — rockin’ the wrinkled face and concert T — or they’re rocking some post-modern, bedazzled, tight-fitting Affliction gear, True Religion trousers, pencil-thin facial hair and religious jewelry.
Of course, in addition to Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, there were other people there dressed up as KISS members. We also noticed that a lot of dads are hellbent on having KISS be their son’s first concert. Luckily, Mötley Crüe’s show is child-appropriate. Oh wait …