Archived Concert Reviews

Motley Crue w/Faster Pussycat

Knickerbocker Arena

Albany NY

April 11, 1990

It was a comfortable spring Wednesday evening when Motley Crue brought their machine-like Dr. Feelgood tour to the brand-new Knickerbocker Arena in Albany NY.  At the time I was a baby-faced, mullet-wearing teenager (I’m dating myself here) who was ecstatic to be seeing his first rock concert.  Well before YouTube and setlist.com, I had only the experiences of others at previous concerts and had no idea how this night would transform me into someone who has seen so many bands that he can officially say he has probably seen his final live show.

In 1990, Motley Crue was the biggest band in the world.  Their latest opus, 1989’s Dr. Feelgood spawned no fewer than five hit singles and became the group’s first number one record.  The tour to support the album was selling out arenas and amphitheaters across the US, with stops in Europe and Russia thrown in for good measure.  By the time the show touched down in Albany, the tour had been rolling for six months.

The lights went down, and we were treated to a laser show of a ghoulish looking figure (band mascot Allister Fiend) who was recounting the band’s history up to that point.  Once he was finished, there was a loud explosion, and the opening chords of Kickstart My Heart began to ring out.  Drummer Tommy Lee was entrenched behind his red Dr. Feelgood kit, while the rest of the band made their appearance through trap doors on the stage, accompanied by another explosion.  It was on!

Expecting little more than one of my favorite bands playing its popular songs in front of me, I was blown away by the enormity of the show.  Blinding lights were carefully placed above the stage, choreographed to the beat of each song.  The sound, later said to be more than double what was necessary for a venue of that size, gave me a ringing ear that lasted several days.  I still remember feeling the boom of the kick drum in the pit of my stomach.  Scantily clad lady back-up singers, dubbed, The Nasty Habits, stood high above the band, complementing the group with high harmony vocals, while providing the teenage boys in the audience a visual that was sure to stay with them far into the night. 

The band tore through Red Hot, Rattlesnake Shake, and Too Young to Fall in Love, before arriving at Shout at the Devil, projecting upside down pentagrams from the rotating pods above the stage.  A searing column of flame kicked the band into the main rhythm, burning my eyelids nearly shut.  Lead vocalist Vince Neil and bassist Nikki Sixx were rarely still, often sprinting from one end of stage to the other, each side fit with their own, “I’m a rockstar,” platform.

Following a blistering solo from criminally underrated guitarist Mick Mars, Tommy Lee appeared behind an electronic drum kit on steroids that was suspended from the roof of the arena.  Pounding out beats to famous classic rocks songs at the time, such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Rick Derringer, Lee addressed the crowd with a mouth only a mother could love.  After leaving the drum kit and swinging down to the main stage via a long rope, Lee unfortunately mooned the crowd, much to the delight of the ladies, and to the chagrin of the guys.

Looks That Kill, Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room, Wild Side, and Girls Girls Girls ended the main set, each song ramping up the momentum already built by the drum solo.  After a brief intermission, the band returned to encore with its latest single, Without You, before ending the show with its huge hit, Home Sweet Home, and the title track to the new album.  The show ended with enough bombastic flash pots to split every eardrum in the building.

I remember the severe high I was on in the days and weeks following this concert.  For a year or so, Motley Crue was all I ever played on my Walkman and car stereo (I’m dating myself again).  The show made me thirst for others, which I fulfilled over the next few years.  While I have seen dozens of bands, many technically light years ahead of Motley in a musical sense, there is only one first concert, and the Crue will always hold a special place in my heart because of this night.

Hair metal upstarts Faster Pussycat opened the show, mainly featuring songs from its latest album, Wake Me When It’s Over, ironically released on the same day as Dr. Feelgood.  The band’s brand of blues and sleaze rock more than adequately served as a proper warm-up to the Crue.  Highlights were the huge hit, House of Pain, as well as older songs, Don’t Change That Song and Babylon.   

Motley Crue Setlist:

Kickstart My Heart

Red Hot

Rattlesnake Shake

Too Young to Fall in Love

Shout at the Devil

Live Wire

Same ‘Ol Situation

Slice of Your Pie

Guitar Solo

Drum Solo

Looks That Kill

Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room

Wild Side

Girls Girls Girls

Encore:

Without You

Home Sweet Home

Dr. Feelgood

Faster Pussycat Setlist:

Where There’s a Whip There’s A Way

Slip of the Tongue

Little Dove

Poison Ivy

Don’t Change That Song

House of Pain

Bathroom Wall

Babylon

Metal Mondays

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

This week we will discuss Motley Crue, the bad boys of rock and roll.  These guys made a major impact during the 1980s hair metal movement.  Though the nineties and 2000’s rendered them somewhat irrelevant, they have enjoyed a bit of a renascence with the release of The Dirt movie, a film based on bassist Nikki Sixx’s book of the same name.  I will say that as a kid, Motley was my favorite band and my first ever concert was the band on the Dr. Feelgood tour.  After that night, I was hooked on the Crue and the live concert experience in general.

#9:

New Tattoo-2000

There are some decent songs on this offering, but more filler than anything.  This album is the only Motley Crue release not to feature drummer Tommy Lee, who had left the band the prior year.  In his place is former Ozzy Osbourne skins man Randy Castillo.

Best Song:  Hell on High Heels

Best Deep Cut:  Fake

#8:

Generation Swine-1997

This record signaled vocalist Vince Neil’s return to the group following his five-year absence.  In fact, replacement vocalist John Corabi began the recording sessions for the album.  Generation Swine featured many of the industrial sounds that were hip in the genre at the time.  Some decent songs, but overall,  not a great record at all.

Best Song:  Afraid

Best Deep Cut:  Generation Swine

#7:

Theater of Pain-1985

This was the disappointing follow up to two masterpieces.  It also began a hair metal trend of the power ballad, with the smash hit, Home Sweet Home.  Despite this, and the hit cover of Brownsville Stations’, Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room, Theater of Pain showed a band deep in the throes of drug and alcohol abuse, with many songs I consider filler.  In addition, with the two aforementioned big hits, this is the point that the band was losing its underground feel and going mainstream, not necessarily a bad thing, however, if you read on, you will see what attracted me to the band in the first place.

Best Song:  Home Sweet Home

Best Deep Cut:  City Boy Blues

#6: 

Saints of Los Angeles-2008

A surprisingly strong album at this point in the band’s career, SOLA was plagued by poor promotion and what appeared to be simple laziness on Motley’s part.  Apparently intent on being a nostalgia act, the band failed to cash in on an opportunity to have an actual hit record.  While the raucous title track was a solid choice as the lead single, follow up selections were questionable.  The ballad, The Animal in Me could have been a perfect follow up single, however, has been largely unheard by most people.

Best Song:  The Animal in Me

Best Deep Cut:  The Animal in Me

#5: 

Girls Girls Girls-1987

Wild Side, the title track, and Dancin’ on Glass get this album off to a rollicking start, and deep cuts, All in the Name Of and You’re All I Need are strong offerings, however, there is a substantial amount of filler here, as well.  For me, I cannot get past, Nona, and the cover of Jailhouse Rock.  This tour for this album was cut short due to concerns someone in the band would die if kept on the road.

Best Song:  Wild Side

Best Deep Cut:  Dancin’ on Glass

#4: 

Dr. Feelgood-1989

The first offering from a cleaned-up Crue, with Bob Rock at the buttons.  This was the band’s first #1 album, complete with five smash singles, including the title track, Kickstart My Heart, and Same Ol’ Situation.  Sonically, the record is a masterpiece, and inspired Metallica to work with Rock on their upcoming self-titled fifth album.

Dr. Feelgood was Motley Crue at its creative peak and signaled the beginning of the end for the band on top of the hard rock world.  Following a successful tour to promote the album, internal strife and the changing rock scene toward grunge led to the band’s demise.  Singer Vince Neil would leave the group in 1992.

On a more upbeat note, my first ever concert was Motley Crue on the Dr. Feelgood tour in 1990.  That experience hooked me on live rock concerts.

Best Song:  Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)

Best Deep Cut:  Slice of Your Pie

#3: 

Motley Crue-1994

This was the first Motley album sans Neil, featuring John Corabi on lead vocals.  Corabi’s vocal range and strong rhythm guitar skills technically made the Crue a better band, however, not a more successful one.  Fans could not get past the fact that Neil was out of the mix, and the transition of the average rock fan’s taste toward Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden didn’t help matters either.  Commercially, Motley Crue, the album flopped.

Musically, the self-titled record was a brilliant curveball.  The band experimented with a harder edge, made possible by the talents Corabi brought to the table.  No longer did Sixx need to write songs that fit Neil’s vocal range.  The result was a collection of hard rock, blues, with a little psychedelic thrown in.  If you haven’t given this album a listen, go for it!

Best Song:  Misunderstood

Best Deep Cut:  Til Death Do Us Part

#2: 

Shout At The Devil-1983

Masterpiece!  This was Motley Crue with a larger recording budget and the same hunger they brought with them when recording their debut (more on that album coming up).  In fact, for decades, I would have put this record at number one on this list.  Alas, it’s the instrumental, God Bless the Children of the Beast, and the cover of the Beatle’s, Helter Skelter, that push it down to the runner up position.   I must admit, I hit the “SKIP” button when those two tracks come on.

As for the rest of the album, WOW!  There are classics everywhere, from the title cut, the brilliant Looks That Kill, single Too Young to Fall in Love, plus the amazing deep cuts, Bastard, Red Hot, Knock ‘Em Dead Kid, and Ten Seconds to Love.  The band, to an 11-year-old kid in 1983, sounded dangerous, while still maintaining that raw sound that more commercially successful bands can afford to get away from.  My point here is that there is really something special about this band when it sounds raw.

Anyway, I need to get off this album before I flip it back to number one!

Best Song:  Looks That Kill, but there are plenty of challengers!

Best Deep Cut:  Knock ‘Em Dead Kid

#1: 

Too Fast For Love-1981

The debut.  The album where Nikki Sixx put his vision of what a rock band should look, sound, and feel like forward to the people.  Stunning visuals that attract the kids?  Check.  Pretty boy frontman to lure the ladies?  Check.  Wild and crazy antics, tales of booze, drugs, and womanizing to bring in the dudes?  Plenty.

As I get older, I gravitate to this record when I feel like listening to Motley Crue.  I can close my eyes and feel the hunger to climb out of the gutters to stardom.  These four guys were destined for greatness and in this album, you can feel their desire for doing whatever it took to make it happen.

Too Fast For Love starts out with my all-time favorite Crue song, Live Wire.  While many bands have been known to promote their best song out of the gate, Motley was able to back it up, not only on this album alone, but throughout the next decade.  Some albums were much stronger than others, however, there were always enough hits to get them through.

I love the punkish, almost new wave feel that the band combines with their main calling card of hard rock.  Come on and Dance, Public Enemy #1, the beautifully haunting, Merry Go Round, and Take Me to the Top close out a robust side one. 

Meanwhile, side two is no slouch, containing the underrated, Starry Eyes, the punky title cut, and the ballad turned rocker, On with the Show.  It’s a short and precise record that makes the listener of this new group take notice and anticipate what could possibly come next.

Best Song:  Live Wire

Best Deep Cut:  Merry Go Round

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