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Live Reviews : Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper & Muscle Car @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 12/05/2015

By on May 13, 2015

Words: Jonathon Besanko

Images: Matt Allan

Twilight blossoms over the foggy horizon on what is one of Melbourne’s coldest nights in a while. I have the onset stages of a cold, I’m rugged up like an eskimo, and I’m on the train with my headphones in getting blasted by the stuffiness of the heaters. But none of that matters. Because here I am on my way to Rod Laver Arena, listening to tunes from Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper. And very soon I’d be seeing the real thing. These two acts helped to define the music of my childhood. To think that soon I’d be seeing them both live for the first time was pretty damn cool! This was to be the Melbourne leg of Mötley Crüe’s final tour, with the band set to retire permanently at the tail end of 2015. After more than three decades, the Crüe were finally going to hang up their instruments; this band that had helped front the popular glam metal movement of the 80s, and inspired a whole host of imitators. Joined by the theatrical stylings of Alice Cooper, this would surely be a momentous night.

I arrive to Rod Laver Arena just after door open at 6pm with already hundreds assembled at the venue. Making my way to the lower seated area, I find myself seated in row N, with what was actually a great spot! With a perfect side view to the stage, I had one of the best seats in the house, I reckon, to capture all the glamour and glory that was to come.

There was to be two openers this evening. Apart from Alice Cooper who was due to hit the stage at 7.45, Melbourne locals, and Battle of the Bands winners, Muscle Car, took up the stage dead on 7. I had never heard or seen this band live before, so they were a pleasant little surprise. Vocalist Damo came out with a burst, crying out to the crowd, “Woo! Are you ready for some rock and roll!?” The nice little crowd cheer was a good thing to see. That’s the one thing I always fret with when it comes to local bands opening shows like this. Frankly, most people aren’t interested in them; which is a shame to see, especially when a band sounds as tight as this one does. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. There was probably at least a good fifty or more people that were stoked to see and be hearing this guys live (merely judging by the cheering happening in the front, pit area).

Muscle Car supporting Alice Cooper and Motley Crue at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

Muscle Car supporting Alice Cooper and Motley Crue at rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

With songs featured about the likes of news presenter Sandra Sully (I kid you not), Muscle Car were high-octane, energetic rock. My mild scepticism aside, these guys set all doubts away when they started. Despite three of the members of the four-piece band looking in their mid 30s – 40s, and their bassist, a happy-go-lucky chap nicknamed “Poodle”, sporting knee length dreads of the like unusually seen in a band of this sort, they proved you most certainly cannot judge a book by its cover. They played the typical, and to me, welcomed, sort of pub rock I was made well acquainted with in my youth. But with a flare for the dramatic of current era Godsmack. Damo continuously impressed on us how much of an honour it was for Muscle Car to be opening this evening, and if it weren’t for the mix still not quite being right just yet, their sound was tight. That being said, drummer Rory’s mic was way too low in the mix, but the one that got me the most was how awkward I felt for lead guitarist James. During his big solo moment, half of his music was drowned out by the drums and bass. And though I could tell it sounded impressive enough, I’m sure I missed a lot of his cool little cues due to this issue.

Even with the already decent crowd that gathered for Muscle Car, the audience numbers peaked with the arrival of Detroit native and king of the theatrical, Alice Cooper. Considered the “Godfather of Shock Rock”, I was already familiar with Cooper’s antics and stage show. Still, I was simply blown away by the effort and work that went into this show. The one thing I’d been slightly worried about going in would be that, since Alice Cooper was merely opening tonight as opposed to headlining, that a large portion of his props and stage performers would be absent. This was not the case whatsoever! I’ll be honest and say now that, for me, Alice Cooper stole the show tonight in my mind. With the fall of the massive curtain (decorated in black and white with his facial likeness, and a portrait of the band inside the eyes), Alice emerged, donning a red-and-black pinstripe suit, trademark cane, and beneath the light of crackling, golden sparks from the overhead beam. He had a five-piece backing band, and the stage and drumkit was littered with grotesque clown masks and doll heads. It was brilliant. Though I don’t have enough space here to describe the sheer wealth of theatricality happening before my eyes for the time he was on, I can give you my best moments. Most of which came unexpectedly.

With the likes of a duelling sword filled with US dollars that Alice shook out into the crowd, there were times in which he was dressed as a Mad Hatter figure sporting a whip, but best yet came soon after. With “Feed my Frankenstein”, Alice wore a bloodied doctor’s coat, and was placed on an operating table, before mist enveloped the stage. Then, out of nowhere arrives this 9-feet tall, fully animated Frankenstein monster, with a mic attached inside its mouth, and Alice singing. Everyone cheered. Just when I thought nothing would top that, a staged guillotine execution scene – where Alice’s head is promptly lopped off – happens next.

Alice Cooper performing with Motley Crue during The Final Tour at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

Alice Cooper performing with Motley Crue during The Final Tour at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

I think one of the best things about his show, however, is the fact that his backing band weren’t just faceless individuals. Alice gave them each and equally their time in the spotlight. They were amazing musicians, with the three guitarists in particular being standouts, and the drum solo one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Closing with the crowd favourite, “School’s Out”, bubbles and balloon beachballs amassed in the audience, and during the bridge section of the song, an unexpected mini-cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall” was cleverly inserted.

The time had arrived for Mötley Crüe. Exploding out onto the stage with an array of blue lights, they looked every bit the part. Between the red and blue lights and police sirens, however, that soon accompany “Wild Side”, it doesn’t take long before it becomes apparent how much vocalist Vince Neil struggles. For the large portion of the show, he pretty much relied almost 100% on other people singing the lyrics for him. He managed to get in a few words here and there before his vocals cut out. He constantly seemed out of breath, and it was pretty noticeable too that he mimed a great deal of the songs for the show. “Girls, Girls, Girls” later in the set was perhaps the worst. Neil skipped a ton of the verses and left guitarist Mick Mars and the others looking confused, but just as quickly adjusting to the sudden musical time lapse. It became decidedly clear that not only as a diplomatic business decision is it necessary for Mötley Crüe to retire, but also simply for the fact, Neil’s vocals are shot. At least unlike Meat Loaf, these guys have realised that.

Still, with that aside, the rest of Mötley Crüe picked up the pieces left by Vince, and were pretty much on point with everything else. Tommy Lee is just as impressive a drummer now as he was back in the early 80s, and Mick Mars and bassist Nikki Sixx hold the line as powerful rhythm units.

It was cool at one stage too how Vince Neil credited Alice Cooper as an influence to the band in their early days. “Cutting our teeth in the 70s, this creepy little fucker named Alice Cooper was an influence on us”.

The stage show itself was a highlight. With a host of iridescent lights burning across the arena, it really put forth the impression how huge a show this was. Major credit has to be given to the different crews, light guys, and pyrotechnicians tonight. They pulled out all the stops for every act, and it was fantastic. They really helped make the night the success it was.

One of the best parts came with “Shout at the Devil”. It saw Nikki Sixx walk out on stage with a flamethrower and set alight a hanging inverted pentagram with a mic attached to the end of it he’d been using to sing into earlier on. And it was even fired in beat to Lee’s drums.

Motley Crue performing during The Final Tour at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

Motley Crue performing during The Final Tour at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.

But the real highlight came with Tommy Lee’s mobile, rotating platform for his drumkit. Running across a spiral rail suspended about 30 feet in the air, it slowly moved him along the rail, spun him upside down, and rotated in every which way direction, yet for all that, Lee never once stopped his playing, either. Though the backing track of rap and pop music was a tad strange, I was still into it. Clearly, so were a ton others also. The venue became a sea of lights from phone cameras filming the event.

“I’ve been wanting to do this my whole life,” Tommy Lee begins. “I’ve brought this mother fucker to you! Let’s party!”

Following Mick Mars’ awesome extended guitar solo, Mötley Crüe closed the night with “Kickstart My Heart”, which went off like a house on fire. And with the encore came the final song of the evening, “Home Sweet Home”. Played to Lee’s piano and a video montage of them in their early days, it was a nice send off to the evening, with the band giving thanks to everyone for many good years spent with the Crüe.

All in all, I left very satisfied after tonight. And feel pleased I can say I at least got to see these bands once in my lifetime. A night well spent!

 

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.