Theatre of Paid
Mötley Crüe stage a Mötley Crüe Broadway musical
If you go to see Mötley Crüe on their current tour, you're not so much seeing Mötley Crüe as a Broadway-musical version of Mötley Crüe. The band members won't be snorting lines and molesting groupies when they go backstage, but they'll be singing about how they used to snort lines and molest groupies. It's a bizarre celebration of debauchery without any actual debauchery.
Perhaps it's not surprising. Their legacy will always be their offstage antics, even more so than such classic pop-metal albums as Shout at the Devil and Dr. Feelgood. At the height of their '80s infamy, there wasn't anything the guys wouldn't drink or stick their dicks into, and the whole thing was gloriously chronicled in their 2001 best-selling tell-all, The Dirt. Sample sentence: "Vince [Neil] had taped pictures from porno magazines all over the wall, and girls were streaming in and out of the studio, getting fucked with microphones in the control room, bottles in the kitchen, and broom handles in the closet because we were running out of ideas of what to do with them."
With lead guitarist Mick Mars now an astonishing 57 years old, it's understandable they've dialed things down a notch. Age, bouts with rehab and family responsibilities have conspired to limit the needles and group sex nowadays. But the distressing thing is that even as the guys mature, they're milking their former hedonism like never before in an attempt to stay relevant (and flush with cash).
Their new album, Saints of Los Angeles—their first featuring all the original members since 1997's Generation Swine—is essentially a musical remake of The Dirt. It's a song-by-song chronicling of their days of decadence, from coming up on the Sunset Strip ("Down At the Whisky") to their various failed centerfold romances ("Chicks = Trouble"). This is surely a hair-metal first, an album about a band's own autobiography. And while Saints of Los Angeles contains its moments of fun (particularly "Face Down In the Dirt") and debuted on the Billboard album chart at No. 4, it will only sell a fraction of Girls Girls Girls' numbers.
But that doesn't matter, because Saints of Los Angeles is the launching pad for the group's current tour, Crüe Fest, which also features Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Trapt, and Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx's spinoff band, Sixx:A.M. Mötley Crüe have dreams of turning the event into a long-running cash cow along the lines of Ozzfest. "[I]t's about showmanship, and it's about lifestyle," Sixx says of the tour on a recent conference call, in a telling display of industry buzzspeak. And while he doesn't explicitly detail the "lifestyle" he refers to, it's clearly the "too drunk to come in a groupie's hair" one—the one they don't practice anymore.
Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that the band have gone corporate. After all, they've been branching into other facets of the entertainment industry for years now, from Tommy Lee Goes to College to Sixx's addiction chronicle The Heroin Diaries to, well, various sex tapes.
And while it certainly wasn't pretty to watch Neil get married by MC Hammer on The Surreal Life, at least the group haven't been confined to the club circuit like many of their peers, playing on cock-rock triple-bills before diminishing audiences.
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So the Crüe have stayed in the limelight, but at what cost? By repackaging their past to sell it to a new generation, they have robbed themselves of an opportunity to evolve as artists. Don't laugh—they say in The Dirt that their art is important to them. Surely reflecting honestly on their current lives would be a more genuine artistic statement. But instead, the group pander to their fans, who clearly want the old Crüe.
"We're aware of what people feel is successful and what people feel has not been as successful," Sixx says. "I mean, we're aware. We're smart. We read, you know, the Internet."
It's almost like the Beatles staging their own version of Beatlemania, the Broadway musical that paid homage to the Beatles through impersonators. By focusing on their Theater of Pain days, Mötley Crüe are practically trying to trick audiences into thinking they're not seeing the current, bloated, anachronistic version of the band, but the younger, more relevant one. Unabashed capitalism never feels very rock & roll. And Broadway musicals don't seem like Mötley Crüe's style.
Crüe fest featuring Mötley Crüe, Buckcherry, Papa Roach and others at San Manuel Amphitheater (formerly Glen Helen Pavilion, formerly Hyundai Pavilion), 2575 Glen Helen Pkwy., Devore, (909) 880-6500. Sat., 5:30 p.m. $29.50-$95.