Life after Motley Crue: Vince Neil likes the freedom

POPULAR MUSIC

July 16, 1993|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Vince Neil

When: 7 p.m. tomorrow and 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia

Tickets: $22.50 lawn seats (Sunday only)

Call: (410) 730-2424

Breaking up may be hard to do for some folks, but not Vince Neil.

Since 1991, the singer has severed ties with his old band, Motley Crue, and his ex-wife, Heather Locklear. And even though they haven't been the easiest of partings -- "We're actually in litigation," he says of his split with the Crue -- Neil couldn't be happier with the way things are going.

"It's hard to explain," he says. "It's like there's so much freedom now that it makes me more creative. I can pretty much do what I want. Whatever I want on my album cover, that's what it is. What I want the stage set to look like, that's what it is. What I want the video to be, that's what it is. Whoever I want to date, that's who it is.

"It's great. It's made my life a whole lot better."

Of course, the downside to that freedom was that it took a while before Neil was able to get his solo career on course. He did have a single out last summer -- "You're Invited (But Your Friend Can't Come)," from the "Encino Man" soundtrack -- but Neil says that was just a one-off, meant mainly to keep his name in the public eye.

"I didn't have a band when I did 'You're Invited' -- I didn't have anybody," he explains. "That's why I used the Damn Yankees, because I co-wrote the song with Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw. And so after that came out, I started putting the band together." That new band wound up re-recording "You're Invited" for "Exposed," Neil's solo album.

Although Neil is understandably enthusiastic about his new playmates, whom he unreservedly describes as "great musicians," he reserves special praise for lead guitarist Steve Stevens. "He's a phenomenal guitar player," Neil says. "He lives for his guitar. In the show, he does this really cool thing where, right before 'The Edge,' he does an acoustic solo. It's really amazing."

Ironically enough, Neil says he hooked up with Stevens through the guitarist's ex-boss, rocker Billy Idol. "Me and Billy have been friends for a long time," says Neil. "Billy heard about the split-up, and he called me up. He said, 'Hey, man, you've got to play with Steve.'

"I'd never met Steve, so [Idol] made the initial phone call to Steve in New York for me. We started talking on the phone, and Steve flew out. And he never went home."

Unlike some front men, Neil has no qualms about surrendering the spotlight to his guitarist. Indeed, on some songs, he actually encourages Stevens to stretch out. "With 'Look In Her Eyes,' the solo's like two and a half minutes long," Neil says. "And when we were rehearsing it, the solo was much, much shorter. It was half that.

"But it didn't feel right. So I went, 'Steve, just keep going.' And he did, and it felt really right. It is pretty uncommon to have a solo that long, but if it feels right, man, do it."

Currently, Neil and his new band are touring with Van Halen, playing songs from "Exposed" as well as some selections from the Motley Crue catalog. ("I am still the voice of Motley Crue," Neil says.) And so far, the singer seems thrilled with the way things are going.

"You know, Van Halen has let me play over an hour," he says. "It's more like a special guest than an opening act. They're really excited about it, and I'm real excited about it -- I've been friends with those guys for over 10 years. But the thing I think will be really cool for the up-and-coming guitarists out there is to see Steve Stevens, and then Eddie Van Halen. I mean, that is like a dream come true for some of these kids."

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