When Motley Crue first arrived here on that infamous run of debauchery with Ozzy Osborne, the four members were considered to be no less than agents of the devil.
There were protests at concerts, fathers locking up their daughters, pleas for warning labels from Tipper Gore and her crew, and a general back-to-the-'50s sense that rock 'n' roll was delivering the children into the hands of Satan.
In one of the more vivid examples of how times have changed, 30 years later the Crue is on a tour sponsored by Dodge, and it's not any old tour. It's the "All Bad Things Must Come to An End Tour," building to a 2015 farewell apparently set in stone with a legal Cessation of Touring agreement.
On Wednesday night, the Crue played what could be its last show in these parts -- unless it says "what the hell" and comes back next summer -- at a packed First Niagara Pavilion. True to form, it was a loud, pummeling over-the-top schlock-rock spectacle with lots of red light, explosions, fire, confetti, bubbles (yes, bubbles), dancing girls and spinning drums all supplementing the roar of a band that, as Vince Neil said, started as "four drunken teenagers" in 1981 and went on to sell 80 million records.
The Crue did pretty much the same set it's been doing for years, opening with the more recent "Saints of Los Angeles" and quickly jetting back to older classics "Wild Side," Primal Scream," "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" and "Looks That Kill."
In that first 1984 review in the PG, it was noted that Vince Neil had "a powerful singing voice, which he'll have for about another 18 months at the rate he's going." Obviously, his voice made it longer than 18 months, and almost to the 30 years that bring us to this tour.
There have been a lot of complaints about it on this tour, but it was passable and buried anyway by Mick Mars' constant barrage of hard riffs and squeals. He had girls here and there on the high notes but by and large when Vince Neil shouts at the devil these days, the devil kind of leans forward and cups his hand to his ear.
Midway, bassist and leader Nikki Sixx stepped forth to say that "all we wanted to do was sell out the Whisky-A-Go-Go and we ended up selling out Pittsburgh" (not quite this time, but it was filled and they have in the past). He had the crowd sit down while he told the story of the band, how they loved Sabbath and Bowie and punk rock and rebelled against the New Wavers like the Knack and the Go-Go's.
His story led into a pretty convincing cover of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK." In that cover vein, Crue also wrapped Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Part 2" around Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys Room."
Tommy Lee, famed for his drum stunts (among other things), had his moment riding his rig high and to the front of the stage and going upside down during his EDM DJ/solo session. The Mars solo was a bit less potent as an dark ambient moan and groan in a red glow.
Crue climaxed the set with the one-two punch of "Girls, Girls, Girls," complete with pole dancers, and the adrenalin rush of "Kickstart My Heart," before a sentimental farewell of "Home Sweet Home."
Even if they go home and stay there after this touring cycle, fans can take comfort in Sixx's promise that the band will haunt them forever. And we can end by saying, thanks for the “The Dirt.”
Speaking of haunting, proto-shock-rocker Alice Cooper opened the show, pulling out all the old tricks that never get old: the guillotine, the straitjacket, the giant Frankenstein, the boa around his neck. And when there were balloons he properly lanced them with his sword. Cooper, at 66, is still in fine menacing form and brings along the finest glam bands in the business, this one featuring another hot girl guitarist, Nita Strauss. The songs are classic — "I'm Eighteen," "Under My Wheels," "Ballad of Dwight Fry," the headless "I Love the Dead," the finale "School's Out" — and once again he and the band delivered them with all the intensity they deserve.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576; @scottmervis_pg First Published August 13, 2014 12:00 AM