Pyrotechnics, Power Ballads and Girls in Bikinis: Motley Crue Rock the Hollywood Bowl

'Thirty f-ing years, and we still haven't killed each other yet,' says Vince Neil

Photograph by P.R. Brown
Mötley Crüe perform at the Hollywood Bowl, June 14, 2011.
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"It's good to be home, motherfuckers!" shouted frontman Vince Neil last night as he ran across the big stage at the Hollywood Bowl, right up the hill from Sunset Boulevard, where Mötley Crüe began in the ancient Eighties. "Thirty fucking years, and we still haven't killed each other yet."

At Crüe's newest road show of fire and a noisy set-list of songs chosen by fans, there was no sign of the acrimony that's sometimes broken the band apart over the decades – just a vivid celebration of their shared history. They reached across a mirrored piano to join hands during "Home Sweet Home," the kind of epic power ballad that was once essential in the days when hairspray dominated MTV. But most of their set was about tough hooks and pyro, from the grinding, roaring riffs ignited by guitarist Mick Mars on "Live Wire" to the spinning pentagram of "Shout at the Devil." (Cee Lo Green unexpectedly stepped onstage for "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," dropping in a couple of his own lines: "Fuck you! And fuck her too!" before happily leading a chant of "Crüe! Crüe! Crüe!")

Crüe did not quite approach the pyro level of Rammstein. But they still brought a scorching, flashy stagecraft of their own and they were plenty loud, accompanied by geysers of fire and smoke and two bikini girls with flamethrowers. They played to a full house of young fans and a lot of survivors from the original hair-metal scene of the Sunset Strip. It was nostalgia for some, and a costume party for others in spiky mullet wigs.

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Neil vamped and shrieked to "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" as the band's two singing-dancing women were grinding against a pair of church pews. The night's most spectatular, ridiculous moment came during a throttling, muscular solo by Tommy Lee, whose kit was set on a circular rollercoaster that had him spinning above the stage and accompanied by a storm of industrial bleeps and static. When he brought up a female fan from the front rows to join him, Lee shouted, "Let's give mama a fucking ride!"

Bassist-songwriter Nikki Sixx took note of the moment and the location, thanking fans and their city of their birth: "I'd like to thank Los Angeles for inspiring every good and bad thing this band has ever fuckin' done!"

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As support, Poison was a crowd-pleasing choice for fans hungry for a full taste of Hollywood's Eighties metal scene, but opener the New York Dolls seemed the flamboyant choice for Mötley themselves. The first-wave glam act mixed old classics ("Personality Crisis") with newer songs, and eschewed pyro in favor of singer David Johansen's playful sneer.

Poison delivered pop-metal in front of a mural that could have been lifted from a metal flyer cira 1987: a profile of a skull in a top-hat with a cigarette-holder in its teeth. Mixing old hits like "Unskinny Bop" with older cover tunes ("Your Mama Don't Dance"), guitarist CC DeVille unfurled a spasm of notes during his solo for "Look What the Cat Dragged In" as green flames burst behind drummer Rikki Rockett.

Singer Bret Michaels could still leap high off the stage, despite last year's health crises. "It's good to be alive and well," Michaels said. He could have been speaking for all of them.