FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – After standing outside the venue for 4 hours in order to get the prime spot against the rails, I was more than ready to be a part of the first ever Crue Fest. Since there was actually going to be a pit, I was a little worried I would have to tolerate annoying crowd-surfers and moshers. Those worries quickly vanished when I arrived at the stage, and saw how small the pit actually was, maybe 5 rows of removed seats. Excellent.
I took my spot and held tight, on Nikki Sixx’s side, but toward Vince Neil. Good choice. Another hour of waiting as the near-capacity crowd shuffled in.
Trapt was the first band to take the stage at 5:00 p.m. The festivities had begun. Not a big fan myself, but I guess they performed well during their 30 minute time slot.
SIXX A.M followed forty-five minutes later. Obviously this was probably the most highly-anticipated act of the Fest. It opened up with a backing tape of X-Mas In Hell before the band took stage. With that, I was hoping they would burst out with Van Nuys and go straight thru the Heroin Diaries Soundtrack album. No such luck. They started out with Pray For Me instead. The band sounded great live. Nikki Sixx played the laid-back approach as he mostly stayed toward the back of the stage and let lead-vocalist James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba have the spotlight. Very classy move for Mr. Sixx.
Papa Roach drummer Tony Palermo took the sticks, since the band used a drum machine for their album. James had contagious energy and professional stage presence, and they all played on cue during each of their songs. The flow of the set wasn’t very smooth though. I don’t know if that’s because the songs were out of order or because of their lack of experience together on stage. But hopefully they work out the fluidity as the tour marches on. The only song I was disappointed with was Intermission. They played the music, but didn’t have the right lyrics. James said or sang a few scattered phrases, but Nikki should’ve taken the mic on that one. They closed out their 30 minute set with radio-staple Life Is Beautiful filled with roaring energy. Good second act.
Papa Roach’s turn to perform for their fans occurred at approximately 6:35 p.m. Not a big fan. Lead vocalist Jacoby Shaddix either tries to hard or just gets too excited when he plays live, because he screams way too much. Maybe he just wants his band to be considered thrash metal. I was happy when their 45 minute set ended.
An hour later Buckcherry takes the stage. Wow, biggest surprise of the night for me! I’ve always enjoyed their music, but seeing them live brought greater appreciation for their work. Josh Todd is an exceptional front man, stayed focused and really played to the crowd. They held the stage for 45 minutes.
The black curtain was raised… Anticipation was building, and us up front kept trying to sneak a peek at the well-kept secret Mick Mars designed stage. We never got so lucky. When the lights finally went dark at 9:00, the audience was ready, and AC/DC’s Hells Bells took over the loud-speakers. The crowd sang along, we were ready for Motley! After the song, silence. The curtain was still hanging in front of the stage, and then an angel lit up at the back of the stage. She slowly approached the stage, which made her silhouette against the curtain grow larger. There was a backing voice, but unfortunately, due to the loudness of the crowd, I couldn’t understand what was being said. The only line I caught was “We’re going to burn in hell.” After she finished, we heard the sweet sound of motorcycle revving, background lights lit up, fog machines steamed, then BOOM! MOTLEY CRUE!! The stage was very industrial looking, lots of metal, similar to their Saints Of Los Angeles album photo shoot. Giant lit-up letters spelling Los Angeles were spread across the back of the stage, only they were placed backwards. Nice effect, Mick.
The curtain dropped as the boys exploded into Kickstart My Heart with massive force! Along with the opener they hit a 1-2-3 punch with Wildside, followed by Shout At The Devil. No time wasted. Vince sounded excellent, best I’ve seen him in 11 tries over the past 9 years. Maybe he’s finally listening to his most important critics, his fans.
After a short ‘thanks for coming’ and intro to their new album, they proceeded into the title track Saints Of Los Angeles. Not your typical new song performance, I don’t think anyone used it as a bathroom break! The crowd loved it, especially when Chris Brown, James Michael, Jacoby Shaddix, and Josh Todd joined the Crue on stage, as they did on the album and the video. After a huge ovation and the extra vocalists left the stage, Mick took the spotlight. He played an excellent extended build-up intro to Live Wire, during which Vince showed immense amounts of energy, bouncing all of the stage.
Tommy’s turn… He left his kit and riled up the crowd, as the other three band members went to their corners. He pulled out his bottle of Jagermeister, took a swig, and then passed it around the pit. It was quickly confiscated. He then approached a road-crew member and asked where the titty-cam was, and stressed out that nobody had it. All for show, as we soon learned. He ran backstage, and then video popped up on the big screens of him looking for his precious camera. The screens were only on the sides of the stage, making it difficult for us up front to see what was happening. I believed it showed Tommy entering a locker room and finding naked lesbians getting it on. Then he came racing back with the camera with the camera, and off came the shirts. Although I appreciate concert boobs as much as the next guy, I wish the time would’ve been used for another song or two.
Back to the music. Vince, Nikki, and Mick returned to their positions (Mick even did so without help), and Vince introduced the next new song, Mutherfucker Of The Year. Turned out to be a great sing-along for the Motley crowd. Following that crazy moment in time, the angel brought Vince his guitar. Now it was time for the best sing-alongs. I love the opening strums to Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), they get my heart racing every time. Same ‘Ol Situation followed as part of a happily-sung medley.
When the crowd finally caught their breath, Nikki took the mic. Time for his ‘We’re Back’ rant, or so we thought. He quickly expressed his appreciation, then made all 17,000+ attendees sit down. He jokingly told the pit to lay down. Then when he yelled ‘Primal’, everyone shot up out of there seats and yelled ‘Scream’. Seeing this from the very front was a beautiful sight, I now understand where the satisfaction comes from. The band attacked this fierce number, and then Tommy Lee kept going. Surprisingly, he only played for maybe 1 minute, as an intro into the next song.
Vince quietly started chanting “You’ve Got The Looks That Kill”, as the crowd repeated 5 or 6 times. Then they took off full-throttle with that song. Next Vince had everyone raise their right hands, make a fist, and rev up their bikes. That’s right, Girls Girls Girls. The high octane performance continued as they went straight into Dr. Feelgood, another crowd favorite.
The band left, the ‘One More Song!’ chant started, and the road crew placed Tommy Lee’s personal piano to the center of the stage. They all returned, and T. Lee fingered the very familiar opening notes to Home Sweet Home. Mick was right by his side playing along with his guitar, similar to what he did during the New Tattoo tour when they didn’t have Tommy or his keys. Nikki and Vince gathered around also, all of a sudden the show had an intimate ‘Evening with Motley Crue’ feel to it. They did spread apart when Lee returned to his drums, and then re-gathered at the end of the song. They all did their group bow, and left the stage one last time. A very odd closing song, but it worked. Motley Crue made it work.
As you can see, there were 3 main ingredients to a Motley Crue show that were missing: Dancers, Tommy-Lee style drum solo, and Nikki Sixx smashing up his bass. Although those usual features were missed, they weren’t really necessary this time around. Especially since it was a festival show, and they only had 90 minutes to pack in as much energy as possible and prove they are still Rock Gods.
And that they did.
Photo copyright © Jake Roberts