This writer retired several years ago, but had to come out of retirement for this mammoth summer event.
September 1st will mark the 20th anniversary of the infamous Dr. Feelgood album. This is the record that cemented Mötley Crüe's fame. In celebration of this event, the Crüe have decided to play the entire album from top to bottom during their opening set of this year's Crüe Fest. But I am getting ahead of myself.
This year's CrüeFest is comprised of Charm City Devils, Drowning Pool, Theory of A Deadman, Godsmack, and the infamous bad boys of rock and roll: Mötley Crüe. I had heard of all of these bands but never seen any of them live. Mostly I was only familiar with their single releases on the radio - not much background on them, no fun filled facts. But the Crüe... The Crüe I knew intimately. I had all their albums as a kid, their posters adorned the walls of my apartment, and I wanted to live as they lived when I was far younger than I am today. My knowledge of the boys grew with the release of The Dirt, followed by the New York Best Seller The Heroin Diaries. My appreciation for the band and the individuals that had helped to shape my youthful musical taste grew immensely through these books, but alas, I had never been privileged to see them live.
Charm City Devils hit the stage while we were attempting to make it through the front gates. (On a side note, if you plan on attending, hide the camera's well or you have to go to the end of the line.) Once we got to our seats, I asked the folks surrounding us how the band did and everyone gave them a favorable review, saying that they harkened back to the 80's metal/glam rock that made bands like Mötley Crüe so famous.
Dallas' own Drowning Pool soon took the stage. At these festivals it is important to understand that the stage only gets larger as the bigger names appear. Therefore, Drowning Pool's stage was not very large. But the guys made great use of what they had and made sure to include the locals in the show. No pyrotechnics were used during their set, but they rocked the house nonetheless.
I was privy to a very intimate on-air interview with the legendary Cindy Scull from 97.1 The Eagle and Drowning Pool prior to their set. I had an appreciation for their library of work prior to the interview, but after the interview I was incredibly impressed with the band as a whole, as well as the individuals of the band. This is a band that has worked very hard from meager beginnings and truly believes in what they are doing. More importantly, this band has made several trips into harm's way to entertain the troops deployed to protect our safety, and each band member carries a very special memory of these shows with them. They are humbled to have the honor to play for our soldiers and look forward to doing more events like that.
Drowning Pool worked the growing crowd into a frenzy for the following act, Theory of a Deadman. I was less impressed with this act. They did everything they could to get the crowd involved, and the crowd in the mosh pit responded accordingly, but the masses in the rear of the venue were less responsive. Which almost bordered on, "Really guys, please just hurry up and let the other acts have the stage." Theory worked hard to get everyone involved, but perhaps it was a day's worth of 100+ degree weather, or maybe the crowd was pacing themselves, or perhaps the band simply didn't have their A-game this day, but from my vantage point the crowd simply didn't react as much as one would hope for in an event of this magnitude.
The bane to any music festival opening act is a long and tedious set change. With the heat index over 100 degrees, and alcohol flowing like - well, like alcohol at a rock concert - the worst thing that can happen is a long delay in which the crowd loses interest in the event and begins smoking funny-smelling cigarettes and passing out. It was easy to see that this event has been taking place for over a month now, and still has another month to go before it is completed. The roadies were on their game and the set changes were quick, giving the crowd just enough time to get to the restroom or refresh their beverage of choice before the next band took the stage.
Godsmack was the next act to hit the stage, and one of the reasons that I took my recently married daughter to the show with us. To say that she almost hyperventilated when I told her that I could land tickets for her and her husband on leave from Iraq is a huge understatement. Godsmack's library of work is most extensive; they have had their fair share of hits on national radio. They believe in building their fan base via endless touring, and it truly shows when they are on the stage.
Sully Erma is the lead singer for Godsmack, an immensely talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and to the shock and awe of the select few thousand in attendance, an incredible percussionist! Their set included pyrotechnics, great music and Sully did an incredible job of working the crowd. Honestly, I am simply at a loss of words to describe their set. Mere words are inadequate to describe the goings on onstage during this event with Godsmack. When I thought they were about to say the obligatory, "Good, night we love you all...," rock band stereotypical exit, they would launch into another jaw-dropping song . They mixed in several covers, including Pantera's "Walk," which brought the few in house who weren't already on their feet to the correct heavy metal concert position to sing along with the band.
Just when we as a whole thought that we were going to get a nice little drum solo, to give members of the band a rest - which included the drum riser sliding out onto the main portion of the stage and spinning sideways to give the crowd a more intimate look at Shannon Larkin's impressive time keeping skills - another drum kit came sliding out, with Sully sitting at the bongos and another complete drum kit. For the next ten to fifteen minutes the crowd was treated to dueling drum kits from Sully and Shannon. During this time Sully continued to work the crowd to include them in the event.
There really isn't any good way to end this except to say that I will be going to see Godsmack when they are on their next headline tour, because had the night ended with their set, I would have been sated. After promises from Sully to always come back to Dallas as long as the band is a band, they said their good nights and gave way to the main feature of the night.
This gave yours truly just enough time to make a mad dash for beer and water and find my way back to my seat for the main attraction of the night. The band that I had been waiting to see live since I found out what a concert was. Since 1981's self released album Too Fast For Love, I have wanted to see Mötley Crüe perform live. I missed them on the Dr. Feelgood tour due to me simply being stupid and not wanting to go to the show alone. But this night I would finally get to see the legends of Glam/Gutter/Sleaze Rock: The Crüe!
Chants of CRüE, CRüE, CRüE, CRüE began to rise from the masses in attendance. The day had finally cooled off and a slight breeze began to waft through the outdoor arena. It was as if the Metal Gods themselves were in attendance to ensure an enjoyable evening. There were over fifty thousand people in attendance for this portion of the show. There were smells that I am familiar with drifting on the breeze, and some that I'm not too familiar with also. But, hey, that's what you get when you go to a rock concert with the group that at one point actually made the Toxic Twins of Aerosmith worry about the excess that (at times) has been Mötley Crüe.
The oversized wheelchair slowly made its way from behind the curtain, drawing cheers and shouts from the crowd. We knew that we were finally going to see the headline act and we knew that it would be great. The patient in the wheelchair struggled as the beginning refrains of T.N.T (Terror In Tinseltown) began to build. This brought more members in attendance to their feet. Suddenly the good Dr. Feelgood appeared on stage with an oversized hypodermic needle and plunged it into the struggling patient. The guitar intro chord to the album's title and the first single ripped through the crowd. The curtain dropped, Vince Neil's scream pierced the night and a concert some of us had been waiting our entire lives for was suddenly happening, bringing everyone in attendance to their feet.
The stage was made up to look like a decrepit hospital ward - a hospital ward that one would expect to find hiding in the sick and twisted mind of Nikki Sixx. The walls were padded, but the lights didn't function correctly, flashing in an eerily pattern in time to Tommy Lee's drums. Mick Mars' body, slowed by a disease that makes it difficult to move, hit every note and pulled the arena into an air guitar ensemble as his hands deftly moved up and down the fret board of his guitar.
Vince Neil, looking thinner than he has in several of his recent reality T.V. appearances, worked the crowd as the maestro that he is; showing us all that the founders of Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were right in hiring Vince Neil over thirty years ago. The band played the entire album - the ballads, the hits, and what some refer to as the 'filler' of the record - from beginning to the end.
Nikki and Tommy kept perfect time together as they set the backbone for both the show and the band, just like they always have. Nikki prowled back and forth on stage pumping up the audience when he felt a section was lacking enthusiasm. Tommy Lee all but destroyed his drumkit as he twirled his drum sticks, showing up all the other drummers and proving that he is the one drummer that took that skill to a whole new level in metal music.
The band finished the last song on side two of the record, a ballad with a fairly heavy message: 'Time for Change.' A song that is often overlooked on this record, what with the ballad, 'Without You,' which made it to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1990. The song, 'Time For Change,' speaks to the need for change through Nikki's eyes in what he sees as social injustices in America.
There was another set change, another five minute break that saw a wholesale change on the view of stage. The stage was transformed into a sort of industrial setting with risers and areas to work. Too often after a full day of heat, crowds, and weird aromas, crowds will begin to thin during so many set changes. But for this event, no one left their spots. Not even to get a refill. We all had staked our claim to a piece of real estate and refused to give up our view for the big finale of the show. The band played a number of their other hits, 'Shout at the Devil', 'Saints of Los Angeles', and 'Livewire', among others. The encore included Tommy Lee on piano for 'Home Sweet Home'.
As the concert wound down, with all of the explosions from the Mötley Crüe set and the thunderous assault on my ears and senses from the music and visual extremes, I was on overload. My voice was shot. My wife had a new appreciation for what she deems, "My Music," and I didn't want the night to end. But alas, it was time for this carnival of sins to roll up its tents and move onto the next city to give another hardcore fan a chance of a lifetime to see the original line-up before age and decadence gets a chance to slow them.