CONCERT COVERAGE: Mötley Crüe W/ ALICE COOPER | AIR CANADA CENTRE

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Words By: Gerrod Harris

“All bad things must end”, at least that is what Mötley Crüe tells us as they embark on the latter portion of their Final Tour making this their second stop in Toronto, the first being in the summer of 2014. With the legendary Alice Cooper opening up the show, the Air Canada Centre, on the night of August 22nd, was transformed from a venue which often hosts pop superstars and the Toronto Raptors to a setting of much mystery and darkness; a spectacle put on by two of the world’s most iconic surviving veterans of rock.

Although they have stated that they will continue creating new music, Mötley Crüe has contractually agreed to never tour after their final show on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles. This is a bigger deal than most realise. The Crüe’s classic albums (Shout At The Devil, Girls, Girls, Girls, and Dr. Feelgood to name a few) and their androgynous look with their desire for all things sex drugs and rock n’roll pioneered hard rock towards the hair metal style on the 1980’s. In essence, Mötley Crüe was the embodiment of hair metal before the genre was milked to the point of cliché by the labels and many subpar imitators. Very few artists still create this music (Steel Panther comes to mind), and even fewer can still perform it without sounding tired and dated. This tour is as much a grand finale for Mötley Crüe as it is for the hair metal genre, and it is for that reason, that I, like so many others, chose to go all out and don a cheesy wig, a bandana, and eye liner as if I was straight out of the sunset strip. Everyone wants to give you a high-five, a more than approving nod, or a smile when you look like Nikki Sixx.

Alice Cooper began his part rock, part theatre, and part magic set at 7:45 with “The Black Widow”. From that moment Cooper had grabbed the attention of everyone with his incredible stage show. The music was always perfectly synced with each fist pump, jump, and pelvic thrust and even his band demonstrated some elements of choreography as they would occasionally stand in a line and kick their legs and raise their guitars simultaneously or in sequence. That; however, should not take away from the music, and although Cooper is mostly known for his stage antics, his band is extremely tight, and each member is greatly talented. During “Dirty Diamonds”, Cooper left the stage to allow for each member to take an extended solo. After an array of shredding, whammy bar pulling, and an impressive drum solo, it is clear that Cooper is not just working with those who can play his classic songs, but rather an ensemble who can bring them to life.

It seemed most of his set was just an opportunity for the audience to belt along with each chorus, most notably “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “I’m Eighteen” (Sons Of Anarchy fans like myself could almost smell the burnt flesh), “Go To Hell” where he was joined by his pet snake, Julius Squeezer, and “Poison”. Towards the middle of “Feed My Frankenstein”, Cooper, while wearing a bloody lab coat, strapped himself into a horizontal table and disappeared behind some fog, only to return in a ten foot tall Frankenstein’s monster costume, where he finished the song. With more thrills to come, Cooper performed the next song in a strait jacket, under control from two masked guards and a zombie acrobat nurse. When he attempted to escape their hold he was thrown under a Guillotine where he was beheaded, but somehow he switched positions and was now a hooded figure in the background where he paraded around, and made out with the dummy head. Cooper made one final return to perform “School’s Out”, where he even referenced lyrics from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”. Alice Cooper certainly pulls out all the stops and it is clear he is the consummate performer, leaving myself, and the audience impressed beyond belief. It is difficult to imagine all the theatrics he employs, but once you see them for yourself, you will have witnessed one of the best stage shows you will ever see in your lifetime. Alice Cooper is truly super-duper.

Following Alice Cooper is no easy task, despite that, Mötley Crüe delivered a killer set worthy of a farewell tour. Backed by two dancers who sang backup harmonies (cause what Crüe show is complete without strippers), the band blasted through a near two hour set full of pyrotechnics, fireworks, drum coasters, and classic songs. From the first notes of the show opener, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, the near sold out audience was more than ecstatic and singing along to each song. The band blasted through a number of older hits from the 80’s (“Dr. Feelgood”, “Live Wire”), as well as some newer numbers from 2008’s Saints of Los Angeles, including the hit title track, and the very heavy “Motherfucker Of The Year”, each belted out by an energetic and youthful sounding Vince Neil. Unfortunately, they did not perform “All Bad Things” a song they wrote and released earlier this year in association with The Final Tour. I was certain they would open with it, but it was nowhere in the set. That was my only issue with their set, albeit, a very minuscule one.

With each song they played, their presence grew and the intensity would pick up. Knowing this would be the last time they would perform in Toronto together, they threw everything out there. What started with just a lightshow dancing above them as they played songs earlier in the set, such as “Wild Side” and “Don’t Go Away Mad” grew to be a fiery storm during “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” and “Looks To Kill” to name a few. About half way through their set, bassist Nikki Sixx took a moment to share an anecdote from his past about perseverance and thanked us for all our years of support in their thirty-five year long career. This led them right into an excellent cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK” where they were joined on stage by a number of masked men in orange prison uniforms who sprayed the front of the audience with water. Sixx concluded the song by tossing his bass halfway across the stage. This was very exciting as I have never, in person, seen anyone smash their instrument, and while he didn’t full on destroy it, I’d say he came close. Obviously needing a new bass, he emerged from backstage equipped with what may have well been a dragon. The body of his bass was attached to a flamethrower, launching fire high above the stage as they performed “Shout At The Devil”. This was my second time seeing the Crüe live, but it was my first time seeing them use fire in such inventive ways. Tommy Lee’s quintessential drum solo also took a unique turn as his normal drum coaster stunt, which he refers to as the “Crüecifier”, now rotates him upside down as the tracks lead him above the crowd towards the middle of the arena. During this time, Lee plays along to various electronic tracks and some from hip-hop icons the Beastie Boys and Kendrick Lamar and rockers by Black Sabbath and Rage Against The Machine. I understand it must be very difficult to play the drums upside down; having to combat gravity with each strike and the blood rushing straight to your head, but I would have preferred to see Lee rip out a blistering solo rather than play along with the tracks. That being said, it was very entertaining to watch. Following this, Mick Mars laid out an intense, and incredibly fast guitar solo, one which left the audience even more excited for what was left of the show.

Their set concluded with an explosive rendition of my personal favorite, “Kick Start My Heart”, which was performed with as much energy and musical accuracy as they demonstrated at the beginning of their set. Following the bridge section of the song, Mars dove into his solo as he normally would, but at that point, two metal arms with a platform at the bottom extended to the stage from the drum coaster tracks. Sixx and Neil both entered their own platforms which lifted them up and circled them above the audience, extending far from the stage, meanwhile Mars stood center stage on a now raised platform and behind him, Lee’s kit raised even higher. It is difficult to say what happened first with so much going on but the stage erupted in flames and the backdrop of a pentagram was now on fire while fireworks, streamers and confetti blasted through the ACC. This was one hell of an unforgettable way to end a set, especially one on a farewell tour. After a short encore break, the band emerged on a small stage, set up in the centre of the arena, placing me only a few steps away from the band. Of course it was not a regular stage, but one which would lift the band up into the air and then back down again. It was here that they performed “Home Sweet Home”. As Lee played the melodic piano line (before hopping on the drums), the reality sunk in that this would be the last song that Mötley Crüe would perform in Toronto, and in only a matter of months, the tour would be over, and so would the Crüe. The lighter swaying power ballad was performed with a great deal of emotion, and reminded us that they were in fact on their way, to home, sweet home. All in all, Mötley Crüe put on a show of a lifetime, ensuring that when Toronto fans look back on the band, they will remember this outstanding and unforgettable, career spanning performance; ultimately proving that years have gone by, and I’d say they kicked some ass.

Alice Cooper Set List:

1: The Black Widow

2: No More Mr. Nice Guy

3: Telephone Is Ringing

4: I’m Eighteen

5: Billion Dollar Babies

6: Poison

7: Dirty Diamonds

8: Go To Hell

9: Feed My Frankenstein

10: I Love The Dead

11: School’s Out

Mötley Crüe Set List

1: Girls, Girls, Girls

2: Wild Side

3: Primal Scream

4: Same Old Situation

5: Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)

6: Smokin’ In The Boys Room

7: Looks That Kill

8: Motherfucker Of The Year

9: Anarchy In The UK

10: Shout At The Devil

11: Louder Than Hell

12: Drum Solo

13: Guitar Solo

14: Saints Of Los Angeles

15: Live Wire

16: Dr. Feelgood

17: Kick Start My Heart

18: Home Sweet Home

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