Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue performs at Jiffy Lube Live on July… (Riccardo S. Savi, Getty )
Kiss and Motley Crue performed at Jiffy Lube Live on Friday night. Midnight Sun contributor Jay Trucker was there.
Thirty years after they first toured together, Kiss and Motley Crue are back out on the road, opening their 2012 summer tour on an intermittently stormy night in Bristow. But if Crue is officially the opening act on this tour, their bigger stage show, equal-lengthed setlist and more frenzied audience suggests otherwise.
Motley Crue’s stage show is a spectacle. Working with the carnival theme they’ve been experimenting with for years, this tour includes a huge stage production incorporating all of the classic elements of arock 'n' rollcircus and a healthy dose of vaudeville.
The band entered via the aisles in a druid-style ceremony, accompanied by roadies bearing Motley Crue flags. The show began with the eponymous single off the group's latest album, “Saints of Los Angeles.” Frontman Vince Neil’s stage presence may not be impressive enough to carry a show, but he’s barely noticeable mixed in with the lights, smoke, fire, dancing backup singers, and roller-coaster drum set that serve as a backdrop for Neil’s jazzercising routine and often strained vocals.
Motley Crue is one of those rare bands in which the rhythm section’s personalities are larger than the lead’s. This was evident during Friday’s show when Tommy Lee took the spotlight for a two-part drum solo, during which he played the drums while spinning 360 degrees and later picking up an audience member to accompany him.
Lee then played piano on “Home Sweet Home,” probably one of the most touching songs ever performed by a man dressed as a court jester. Bassist/songwriter/biographer Nikki Sixx, who looks like a touring member of Nine Inch Nails these days, took center stage with a flaming bass guitar during “Primal Scream.”
Despite debuting a new song (“Sex”) midset, Crue otherwise stuck to their classics during the 75-minute production, wrapping things up fittingly with one of their biggest hits and self-laudatory tributes to their own decadent legacy, “Kickstart My Heart.”
But if Motley Crue is representative of '80s raunch and excess, Kiss is a genre in and of itself.
Though only half of the original band is represented in the current lineup, the group arrived in full makeup, platform shoes and cartoon regalia, as did many of their fans. Kiss' LED-light stage show didn’t live up to the high expectations set by Motley Crue, and it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t add more to it in order to outshine their showy supporting act.
Taking the stage at 9:45 with their traditional opening song, “Detroit Rock City,” the band front-loaded hits into the first part of the set, following with “Shout it Out Loud,” “I Love it Loud,” and “Love Gun.” Paul Stanley rode a zip-line to the middle of the pavilion for “Love Gun,” utilizing a temporary structure that brought him closer to the audience. Later, long-tongued bassist/reality tv star Gene Simmons spit blood during their new single, “Hell or Hallelujah,” released earlier this month.
Stanley and Simmons left the stage for a midset guitar and drum solo showcasing Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, current representatives of the Space and Cat Men. Highlighting their '70s roots, the band interspersed bits of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” into “Lick it Up.”
If you’ve seen Kiss before, you know what to expect from them, including the mega-hit encore “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Their show remains formulaic, but it’s a formula that has helped them maintain a legion of loyal fans and keeps them drawing as a major touring act 16 years after the band's MTV reunion and resurgent comeback tour. Objectively, however, the metal lunch box heroes haven’t stepped up their touring act to match that of their Sin City-meets-Ringling-Brothers rock-'n'-roll roadshow counterparts in the Crue.
Jay Trucker is a frequent contributor to Midnight Sun. He teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk and blogs occassionally at WNST.net. He last reviewed Def Leppard and Poison at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Wesley Case edited this post.
"Saints of Los Angeles "
"Shout at the Devil"
"Same Old Situation"
"Looks that Kill"
"Girl, Don’t Go Away Mad"
Drum solo (club mix and “Roller Coaster”)
"Home Sweet Home (Tommy Lee on piano)"
"Girls, Girls, Girls" "Kickstart My Heart"
"Detroit Rock City"
"Shout it Out Loud"
"I Love it Loud"
"Hell or Hallelujah"
"God of Thunder"
"Lick it Up ('Baba O’Reilly' splices)" "Black Diamond"
Encore"Rock and Roll All Nite"