Beacon Theater, New York City • October 30, 1998
On a cluttered shelf in my apartment, amid a retrospective of personal photographs, there sits a picture of me at a Halloween party circa 1983 or ’84. The photograph depicts a leather and fishnet-bedecked Gail: my hair teased wildly, black grease paint smeared under each eye, tattoos drawn on my arm in eyeliner pencil. That was the year I dressed as Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, whom I’ve had a slowly smoldering crush on since I saw him dressed up like Siouxsie Sioux in Kabuki make-up for the “Too Young to Fall in Love” video. I just can’t shake the opinion that Nikki Sixx is the best looking man on the planet, though I’m sure if he were really my boyfriend, the bloom would be off the rose in about two seconds.
I’ve been in the closet about my secret allegiance to the Crue for so many years, I’d managed to completely avoid seeing the band live. So it was a great night out when David Lee Beowulf and I lost our Crue virginity together in the intimacy of the Beacon Theater on Manhattan’s conservative upper West Side. Motley Crue are touring in support of their second Greatest Hits collection, and to announce the formation of their new record label, Motley Records, after being kicked to the curb by their former label, Elektra. When you think of Motley Crue’s body of work, it’s not brain surgery to come up with some basic themes: sex, drugs and how much they kick ass. Now and again they throw in a lame ballad so chicks will think they’re sensitive, but I’ve never been fooled by that. The Crue are not a cerebral bunch of guys, to be sure. Their appeal is purely visceral, and that’s why I like them. Considering I used to stay home on Saturday nights to watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV, I was more excited to see Motley Crue live than any band since Nine Inch Nails.
We had to sit through three crappy opening bands, but the money shot finally arrived. It didn’t surprise me at all when show began with a recorded diatribe on the many uses of the word Fuck. You know, “It’s an adjective, it’s a verb, it’s a noun!” This is surely one of Motley Crue’s most overused vocabulary words. I’d lay bets that if the F-word was removed from the vernacular, members of Motley Crue would be rendered mute. Likewise, if you aim at the lowest common denominator in search of a median intelligence level, the audience at the Beacon Theatre had hit bottom and started to dig. But someone has to buy Motley Crue records, otherwise they’d stop playing live. And that, my friends, would be a shame.
A confetti bazooka exploded into the air as the chugga chugga riffs of “Dr. Feelgood” filled the air. There they were, in the flesh, Vince, Nikki, Tommy, and Mick — still alive and breathing after more than fifteen years of drugging, near-death, and assorted lawsuits. “He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood. He’s the one who makes you feel alright. He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood,” lather, rinse, and repeat. Who can’t get into that? And what fun-loving rock fan would deny that “Girls Girls Girls,” especially when accompanied by multi-colored laser lights, is one of the greatest rock songs ever? “Shout at the Devil” was remixed by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Knob-twiddling Mastermind behind the sound of Skinny Puppy) in 1997 to give it an industrial dance feel, and the resultant version gets high marks — up there with “Rock and Roll All Night” — for a great live fists-in-the-air sing along.
It wouldn’t have been a complete package of heavy metal memories if drummer Tommy Lee, fresh from his stint in the slammer, hadn’t come out from behind his kit to rant and rave to the crowd about his jail time. “It’s good to be free!” and “Give me some love!” the bikini-clad Lee screamed, slapping the outstretched hands of those at the front. With liberal use of the MF word, Tommy told of the great love and support he felt from fans while he was in “that shit hole,” and thanked the crowd for “Selling this Bitch out.” I think someone needs to have his mouth washed out with soap. And it makes me wonder: what kind of a woman would date Tommy Lee, let alone marry him?
Up next, more hits, more screaming, more mindlessness. “Wild Side” retained its one-two, knockout punch, but lacked the added visual spectacle of Tommy’s rotating drum kit. Maybe he had to sell that to make bail. “Home Sweet Home,” the band’s first decent attempt at a ballad, is not as good live without the accompanying video of clips from their live shows and backstage shenanigans. It would have been really effective to have shown the video on some kind of screen behind the band, but Vince said the audience’s reaction to the song made his dick hard, so who am I to criticize?
“She breaks my will, she’s my bitter pill,” Vince sings on “Bitter Pill,” the Crue’s sappiest attempt at a romantic rocker. That aside, I think the band’s true feelings about women are better expressed on “Looks That Kill,” a song that actually steals the lyrics “She keeps her motor clean” from AC/DC! “Primal Scream,” which first appeared on the band’s previous hits collection, Decade Of Decadence, is a pretty darn cool song. The chorus consists of variations on the following phrase: “Primal Scream/ Shout/ Kick that Mutha out!” What a great new anthem for the angry youth of America! I’m there! “Anarchy in the UK” doesn’t really translate as “Anarchy in the USA,” since its lyrics are so inherently entrenched in Thatcheresque British politics. Ironically, the crowd — who, if asked individually for their opinion of punk rock would probably reply “Punk rock sucks!” — went completely wild.
“Kickstart My Heart,” a song about Nikki Sixx being crash-carted after OD’ing on heroin, is my favorite Motley Crue song. I felt very connected to Nikki during this song, as I pumped my tiny fists in the air with a complete surrender of inhibitions. All good things must come to an end, though, and the only sentence Vince uttered all night that didn’t contain any profanity was “Thank You, Good Night.” Beowulf and I joined in the chant of “Motley Crue!” as I felt brain cells leak out my ears. After what seemed like 15 minutes, they came back with “Ten Seconds to Love” followed by “Too Fast for Love,” but where was “Too Young to Fall in Love”? I am calling a technical foul on that one!
Finally, the band was joined on stage by Jessie, the gaunt, disheveled looking VJ from MTV, and Vince took a moment to nuzzle the colon of the mega-network for their “return to rock” (I must have been sleeping when that happened) before leaving the fans with “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” — a supremely retarded song that gets my vote for a tune that never should have been written or recorded, let alone covered. As the crowd thinned out, the venue smelled like donuts, a phenomena I cannot explain. In a year where I went to over a hundred rock shows, two hours with Motley Crue rates as the most fun I had at a concert in 1998, and Beowulf would probably concur. You can argue that Motley Crue are a bunch of sexist party boys whose fans represent the lower strata of the breeder food chain. But over a weekend where I also attended Cheap Trick’s Halloween nostalgia-fest and a big arena concert by Bob Dylan, Motley Crue, the confetti bazooka of rock and roll, is the show I’ll remember. Whoa, yeah, kickstart my heart, hope it never stops.