- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

Oh, who could complain about a lack of exposed flesh at the Crue’s self-styled circus of sin, as presented by “Evil Entertainment”?

Pornography was on the video screens. A trio of leather-clad female contortionists doubled as slithering strippers and simulated various unmentionable acts on singer Vince Neil as well as each other.

Before I break the family-newspaper barrier, suffice it to say that the night’s theme was “girls, girls, girls.”

A two-hour rock show figured somewhere in there, too. It was, like the band’s midget mascot “Mighty Mike,” mighty fine. And mighty loud. And mightily lacking in both tact and pretension.

Motley Crue, its original lineup back together for the first time in six years, was a definitive 1980s hair-metal band, but of the gritty-not-pretty school. Under the steadying influence of bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars, the Crue was more a continuation of the riff-based hard rock of Aerosmith and Kiss than a precursor of Winger and Warrant.

Sunday night’s show, not quite a sellout (a block of seats in the nether reaches of the arena was curtained off) hit all the career highlights — the drug-pusher parable “Dr. Feelgood,” the cigarette-lighter anthem “Home Sweet Home” and the misogynistic rocker “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” among them — plus prime early Crue-cuts such as “Too Young to Fall in Love” and “Looks That Kill.”

Late 1990s dreck such as “Glitter” couldn’t be avoided. A couple of new tunes off the recent compilation album “Red, White & Crue” were fair to terrible. Terrible: “If I Die Tomorrow,” a poky power ballad. Fair: “Sick Love Song,” a guttural rocker with echoes (I swear) of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

The Crue, the Sunset Strip’s deans of decadence, defiantly missed out on the anti-baroque 1990s, and there’s still no shortage of excess in its barf-bag of tricks.

The band, covered head to toe in tattoos and spewing spit and profanity, assaulted all five senses Sunday, whether it was pyrotechnical blasts that punctuated every downbeat of show-opener “Shout at the Devil” (the smoke could be smelled and tasted) or the footage of bestial nature carnage that accompanied “Primal Scream.”

After a brief intermission — tick-tock, tick-tock went a countdown on a video screen that played Claymation skits of the Crue — Messrs. Neil, Lee and Sixx rejoined the action on low-riding, hot-revving dragster motorcycles. (Mr. Mars, who underwent hip-replacement surgery last year, wisely skipped that stunt.)

Mr. Sixx waged war with a theremin synthesizer as a storm of sparks showered over him. Mr. Lee, fueled by a ceremonial shot of Jack Daniel’s, winged hydraulically from the stage to a pair of drum kits suspended in the rafters.

Accompanied by house beats blaring over the public-address system, Mr. Lee, star of home-movie porn and reality TV, played a mess of metallic-sounding percussion and electronic drum pads — generally making an even bigger spectacle of himself than during his bullying of inhibited Washington women, which bordered on mass sexual harassment.

Dial back the Crue’s volume by about 50 decibels or so, and you would notice that Mr. Neil’s pipes are done for (not that he ever was a Josh Groban, or even a Steven Tyler). Mr. Mars, however, is still as nimble a riffmeister as he was 20 years ago. A busted string briefly knocked him off his game during an encore of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

There’s no denying that Motley Crue, at least in its public pose, is a bunch of overgrown vulgarians. But there’s meat hidden within the cheese. Who needs imposters such as the Darkness when the real thing refuses to go away?

Oh, and ladies, should you wish to redeem yourselves for Mr. Lee, you’ll have a second chance Aug. 13 at Nissan Pavilion.

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