This past Wednesday, I found myself at a musical event I never thought I'd end up at. Although not quite as lame as a Limp Bizkit concert and definitely not as hilariously significant as Nickelback (that'd get some serious mention in the Nickelback Challenge), the concert I attended was somewhat close in nature to full-on butt rock.
I ended up scoring some free tickets to the KISS/Motley Crue concert and I figured, why not check it out and see what the fuss is all about? Plus, it had been a long time since I'd gone to a show that wasn't held in a mid-sized club, so I was eager to see a high-budget spectacle.
Now, frequent readers of this blog may recall that I've never had anything positive to say about these two bands. I admit, I've criticized KISS a number of times, namely, Gene Simmons and the merchandise aspects of the group. Granted, a lot of my assumptions (and our assumptions as readers) about certain bands tend to be formed by the opinions of peers, a few hit songs everyone is familiar with, and how the band comes off in the press. You may think, "yeah, Rock And Roll All Night' is way over played and Gene Simmons seems like an all-around tool bag, so KISS must suck."
But being myself and maybe wanting to be proven wrong, I decided to go to the show anyway. The best way to determine whether or not any band is decent is to see them in a live setting, right?
And in terms of music news, it turns out that KISS and Motley Crue were more present than usual in the music news headlines this week (the bands donated $100,000 to a relief fund for the Colorado shootings, Tommy Lee p-ssed off an engineer and Sea World). With that in mind and the concert experience fresh in my memory, let's determine whether or not these bands are indeed rock legends or mostly overrated has-beens.
First up, Motley Crue.
As dusk fell over the Verison Amphitheatre, a projected clock on stage started ticking. With each click of the second hand, the crowd got more and more pumped for Motley Crue. In came a marching line of hooded flag wavers, scantily clad women in stiletto heels, and Motley Crue themselves walking through the crowd. They made their way to the stage and the clock stopped. An acting crewmember climbed up the circular roller coaster-like track on the stage (more on that later) and took an unnecessarily large hammer to it, "knocking" the second hand to the minute mark. With that intriguing entrance, it was time for Motley Crue.
For the first few songs "Saints Of Los Angeles", "Wild Side", "Shout At The Devil", the band displayed a good amount of energy and incorporated plenty of pyrotechnics and synched fireworks to keep the intensity going. As you'd expect, large breasted women strutted the stage and sang along to some of the songs, which reminded me that wholly, the underlying theme behind Motley Crue's music and persona is slutty women.
Eventually the band members started talking to the audience. That's when the shtick got old. Apparently, Vince Neil's favorite thing in the whole wide world is sex, and he asked the audience if they shared in the same adoration of fornication. Well surprisingly, the drunken, overweight crowd shared the same fondness of sexual intercourse, and they were delighted when the band continued with the song entitled "Sex". Nice use of subtlety, huh?
And then myself, completely underwhelmed and realizing that the band is a one-trick pony, became irritated with the band's crowd interaction. For instance, Tommy Lee likes to use the word "f--k" as a comma, he sprays champagne into the audience boasting that everyone should be drunk, and he comments how cool it is to see "titties" in the front row. Basically, he's Beavis and Butthead combined. Motley Crue clearly still clings on to the antics that made them famous over 25 years ago, seeming a little sad given their age... in my cynical opinion.
Then came Tommy Lee's rollercoaster drum stunt. His drum set impressively rotated around the track, albeit at a slow pace. If Tommy Lee was a better drummer (seriously, he can only play one beat), this would be more entertaining, but the 10 or so minute drum solo made me hope the Crue would wrap it up.
Then came "Home Sweet Home", and the drunk and high behemoth of a man in front of us started getting all loved up on his buddies, (I love you bro; so awesome we're seeing Crue tonight!). That was enough for me.
But the nail in the coffin was actually Mick Mars, who took several opportunities to enchant the crowd with his "guitar solos". Let's just say he makes Kirk Hammett sound like Guthrie Govan. If you want to sound like Mars, do nothing but dive bombs, slide your fingers haphazardly up and down the neck, sustain a ton of feedback, and use an unnecessary amount of pinch harmonics.
By the end of Crue's set, I wasn't a happy Pino. Just writing about the experience makes me realize how much I'm complaining right now. But bear with me though. It gets better.
Next up, KISS.
Initially, I wasn't expecting much from KISS, especially from a musical standpoint. And overall, I was right; there isn't anything revolutionary or impressive about KISS's music, but the show's theatrics... DAMN... now that's pure entertainment.
The expected over-the-top stunts occurred - Gene Simmons spitting lighting fluid to a flaming sword and valiantly chucking it into the ground; Simmons spewing out blood from his mouth and flicking his tongue about; sparks and flames jutting out of the guitarist Tommy Thayer's guitar neck; explosions, pyropretty much the concert equivalent of watching "Terminator 2".
Each member had a moment when they would rise on a platform for an extended solo. Paul Stanley even clang onto a small platform, which carried him to another small, rotating stage in the middle of the audience for "Love Gun".
Some of the songs were also pretty catchy I admit, and I forgot how many KISS songs I knew; standout performances included "Black Diamond", "Love Gun", and especially "God Of Thunder", where Simmons spit blood, gave a Kabuki-like performance, and rose a good 60 feet in the air to sing the song high above the audience as if he was a vengeful god looking down on his kingdom.
Confetti during the encore... laser lights... Paul Stanley sounding like an old Jewish mother ("Oh gawd, are yous all ready to rock tonighhhht?!")... it was quite the show. Even if you don't dig the music, I highly suggest you see KISS for the entertainment value.
So I take back some of the sh-tty things I've said about KISS in the past (but Motley Crue can suck it).
But believe it or not, there was brief a point in time, during my youth, when I actually thought KISS was pretty sick. Which brings me to...
(Film) Pick of the Week: Detroit Rock City (1999)
We're diving into film territory to acknowledge the positive spirit of KISS. Even if you don't really care for the band, this lighthearted movie will make KISS seem cool or at least you'll find the protagonists' passion for their favorite band similar to yours. Granted, the movie isn't exactly Oscar-worthy, but it's a good flick to put on while you bust out some finger exercises or want to hear some weed and fart jokes set to a 70s rock soundtrack.
The basic plot: taking place in the late 70s, misfit teens who worship KISS and have a sh-tty garage band score some tickets to a KISS show, which is their idea of heaven on earth. The drummer's conservative mother, who believes that that K.I.S.S. stands for Knights In Satan's Service, burns the kids' tickets. Pissed, they steal a parent's station wagon, drive to Detroit, and have an every-man-for-himself quest to score KISS tickets for the concert that night. After a hellish, emasculating, and violent night, the lads are victorious, making it to the show and creaming their jeans while KISS rock out.
Kids excited for show; kids can't go to show; kids try anyway; kids see show; kids happy. Nice story formula, huh? Check it out if you're in need of a fun rock flick.
Anyway, although my experience at the KISS show wasn't quite as arduous as the characters in Detroit Rock City (I just walked in), you can see why a band like KISS, while not the most musically talented group on earth, is a spectacle to be seen. The over-the-topness goes hand in hand with rock music. And that's pretty titties.
On The Next It's The End Of The Week As We Know It:
Further details illuminate the true reasons behind the contractual dispute and departure of Sebastian Bach's young guitarist, Nick Sterling; the guitarist realized the devastating career consequences that will result from being associated with Bach, hence he jumps ship.
Insane Clown Posse, who recently sued the FBI for labeling Juggalos as a "gang threat", argues in court that no illegal activity takes place at ICP shows, and Juggalos merely enjoy sparkling conversation and potluck dinners.
Ed Sheehan fans, who recently mistook a performance of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" for a new original song, embrace Justin Beiber's cover of Mesuggah's "Bleed", again mistaking as an original.
By Zach Pino Twitter: @zachpino