Thursday, August 30, 2012

KISS and Motley Crue: A Night of Rock and Roll Excess

“The Tour”, as it was christened at a press conference a few months ago, pulled into the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 25. The crowd, despite the heat and humidity, was ready to experience two of the biggest spectacles ever in the history of rock and roll. Tonight, they were sharing the same stage and promised to bring a full production, 90 minute set of maximum rock and roll.

The Treatment, heralding from the U.K., opened up the show with a brief, yet power packed mini-set with selections from their debut album This Might Hurt. After a short break, the curtain covering Motley Crue’s stage dropped and the house lights went down. Scantily clad girls holding Motley Crue signs marched their way across the walkway from one side of the amphitheater to the other. In the middle of this precession were both Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx from the Crue. They made their way to the stage and the show began with a pyrotechnics bang.

Motley Crue’s show was filled with theatrics including stilt walkers, scantily clad female back-up singers, girls suspended by tapestries above Tommy's drum kit and a ton of pyro. The band sounded tight even though poor Mick Mars can barely move around the stage because of his ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine and pelvis. Don’t let that fool you though; the guy still plays like a beast. Speaking of playing, drummer Tommy Lee brought along his roller coaster drum kit from last summer’s tour. He even took a lucky fan along for the topsy turvy ride.

Motley Crue’s set was hit filled and included such Crue classics as “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Home Sweet Home”. They even included their new single “Sex”, which got a decent reaction from the rowdy crowd. Speaking of reaction, bassist Nikki Sixx and his newly found syndicated fame thanks to his radio show The Sixth Sense got the biggest crowd reaction of all the Crue members. It seemed as if every time he spoke, the crowd would cheer wildly.
The Crue exited the stage and the tear down began as the road crew attacked the stage at a fever pace. They were tearing down the Crue’s set and clearing things out for the huge KISS stage show. After a brief period, the big, black curtain with the KISS logo on it dropped down covering the front of the stage and the crowd was brought to its feet. Then, the anticipation stated to build.

Then, the intro known to millions worldwide began to bellow over the PA system. “Alright Charlotte, you wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world….KISS!!!!” The curtain dropped and “Detroit Rock City” began to ring out. The guys were lowered down from the ceiling. Yes, we have seen this stage intro before, so that part was a small disappointment.

The band stuck close to the original make-up days playing such KISS classics as “Black Diamond”, “Love Gun” (during which Stanley flew out into the audience) and “Firehouse” (which saw Simmons breathe fire). They did include their new single “Hell or Hallelujah”, which sounded really good, and one non-make-up classic “Lick It Up”. Simmons also did his blood spitting routine and then flew to the rafters to sing his trademark song “God of Thunder”. "War Machine" sounded almost as menacing as the looks Gene was directing towads the cameras throughout the song.

Stanley and Simmons were particularly animated on this night in Charlotte, NC and seemed in great spirits. Guitarist Tommy Thayer, who is still receiving criticism for wearing the Spaceman makeup even though he has now for almost ten years, sounded just as sharp as ever, although not as animated towards the crowd. The band included all their trademarks including lots of pyro, cherry pickers that raised Simmons and Thayer almost to the top of the amphitheater, Stanley smashed his guitar in half and drummer Eric Singer’s drum kit was raised high in the air also. Oh yeah, “Rock and Roll All Night” was the finale and the confetti covered everyone as far back as the eye could see. No matter how many times I experience that, it never gets old.

Now, for the bad stuff. Vince Neil of Motley Crue still manages to mumble his way through songs. KISS have been coming out at each show and mentioning a curfew that won’t allow them to play any longer. It seems the truth of the matter is that it’s taking much longer to tear down the Crue’s stage to get ready for KISS to come out. This has cut into each band’s playtime with each one clocking in, on average, 75 minutes. That’s not exactly the 90 minute sets that we had been promised. KISS’ set list has become somewhat stale and needs to change up a bit. There are so many non-makeup songs that could be included into the set that would go over big with the crowd. “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Forever” are just two examples.

Overall, it was a great show. You had one up and coming band that sounded great and two legendary bands that have been doing their thing for 30 years (Motley Crue) and 40 years (KISS) and show no signs of slowing down. These two bands definitely know how to throw a party when it comes to a concert. It was a rarity to see anyone sitting down on this eventful night, unless they were just catching their breath. On this hot and humid night in Charlotte, KISS solidified why they are still called the hottest band in the world.

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