BALTIMORE — Alice Cooper and Motley Crue doled out a fun lesson in hard rock excess Wednesday night at Royal Farms Arena.
The definitively named “Motley Crue: All Bad Things Must Come to an End, The Final Tour” visited Charm City and featured a pair of legendary bands with a combined 80 years of musical history.
First, after some chilling words from Vincent Price to set the mood, the venerable patriarch of shock rock Alice Cooper took the stage, dressed as a twisted ringmaster. He delivered an energetic if predictable, outing mixing his most popular songs within his patented horror-themed show.
Why change what has worked so well for the past four decades as the 67-year-young Alice strutted across the stage and plunged into a roughly 45-minute set of the macabre.
With his familiar vocal stylings near as strong as ever, the singer ripped through such ditties as “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Poison ,” “Dirty Diamonds” and “Go To Hell” while backed by a tight and entertaining band of misfits.
Alice has always had a propensity for picking some unusual musical accompaniment. Anyone remember when he toured with Rambo-like Kane Roberts, a muscle-bound guitarist playing a machine-gun-shaped axe?
On Wednesday night, he featured a crew that one might find in a “Guitar Hero” video game.
Lots of leather, tattered jeans and metal studs were spread out among the band featuring a hair-whipping female guitarist named Nita Strauss, veteran bassist Chuck Garric and further guitar support from Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.
Drummer Glen Sobel was my favorite as his sticks became lithe acrobats during each song, as well as an extended solo, as they flipped, flew and twirled without missing a beat.
As far as theatrics, it’s safe to report that Alice is the only lead vocalist willing to cut off his noggin every night for appreciative fans. I can only hope more current singers follow suit.
He also managed to turn into Frankenstein’s monster, befriend a boa constrictor and find himself in a straight-jacketed pickle, courtesy of a psychotic nurse, before offering his premiere rebellion anthem “School’s Out.”
Motley Crue came next and, considering the well-documented history of each member’s debauched lifestyle, it was amazing to see them still standing and blasting through an 18-song set.
The packed arena welcomed the original line-up of:
• Mick Mars —The 64-year-old, riff-shredding axe master now with a Count Orloc vibe carefully moved about all night, slightly hunched over due to a debilitating spine disease (ankylosing spondylitis). What he has lost in mobility, he more than made up for in his fierce guitar playing.
• Tommy Lee — He was a Cro-Magnon on drums all night pounding away in the shadows with enough ferocity to make audience members’ pants legs vibrate.* Vince Neil — The vocalist now looks more like a professional wrestler near retirement than lead singer but demonstrated that he can still shrill out the lyrics.
• Vince Neil — The vocalist now looks more like a professional wrestler near retirement than lead singer but demonstrated that he can still shrill out the lyrics.
• Nikki Sixx — The bassist, now 56-years-old, acted like a spry 20-year-old all night stalking around the stage, wearing face paint and spitting on the ground.
For close to two hours, a fist-pumping, head-banging wave of humanity came together to honor the band as middle-aged men and women transformed into teenagers again, and they reveled in the thrilling, ear-bleeding insanity.
The band played near every hit from their 34-year career including “Wild Side,” “Primal Scream,” “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.),” “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Saints of Los Angeles,” ” Kickstart My Heart” and their higher-charting songs “Dr. Feelgood” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
Now, even if you had accidentally wandered into Royal Farms Arena by mistake and never even heard of a Motley Crue, it would be impossible not to appreciate this jaw-dropping experience.
They supplemented the jarring hard rock with explosions, fire-spewing spigots, fireworks, lasers, spinning lights, a pair of energetic female dancers, a posse of squirt-gun-wielding maniacs and Nikki using a special bass guitar that doubled as a flame thrower.
The pinnacle of performance excess occurred when Mr. Lee, literally strapped into his drum kit, took off on a slow-motion, roller-coaster ride over the audience.
The device, dubbed the “Cruecifly,” literally flipped the drummer upside down at points while he methodically moved on a track and played along to such tracks as Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” and the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
One must wonder what Mr. Lee was ingesting at some point in his life on to come up with this incredible Ringling Bros. show stopper.
Surprisingly, Motley Crue topped off the night with the subdued “Home Sweet Home.”
The band walked down an aisle, high-fiving with the lucky audience members along their path, set up shop on a mini-stage in the middle of the arena and featured Mr. Lee on piano during the ballad.
With a promise from the group that they will never tour as Motley Crue again, it proved the perfect, poignant fan-appreciating farewell to a night of excessive fun.