Sunday, July 27, 2014

Motley Crue at the Hollywood Bowl 7/21/14: A Full Circle Alchemy of Dreams

By Randi Reed

Last Monday night (7/21/14) was Mötley Crüe’s homecoming show at the Hollywood Bowl, on the band’s final tour.

I believe the band means it when they say this is Mötley Crüe’s last tour. Nikki Sixx has spent a large part of the last decade transitioning toward other endeavors, so I’ve been expecting it. I’ve also been dreading it, because it’s hard to say “goodbye.”

I can’t be objective about this show, because I have too long of a history with Mötley. (Get your minds out of the gutter, Dirt fans. Not that kind of history.) So, instead of a review, I’d like to scribble a few thoughts and flashbacks from my keyboard…

If someone had asked my teenaged self, back when I was starting to dream about living in L.A., to close my eyes and imagine what my idea of a perfect Mötley Crüe show would be, it might have looked a lot like Monday night’s show. It was a colorful spectacle of all good things Mötley…Fantastic lights, more pyro than I’ve ever seen at one show, and lots of “atomic fireballs,” as I call them. Kudos to SRae Productions.

There were elements from the band’s entire career span—a pentagram here, Theatre of Pain colors there, the bandshell alternately flashing stripes of Red White and Crüe or playing the role of a glowing red pit of Hell. It all came together into a wonderful version of Mötley Crüe’s Oz…but thrown in a blender and whirled around a bit, and then spit out into something that actually made sense.

As a kid I’d dreamed of going to shows at the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s still my favorite venue in L.A.. Mötley Crüe began their career epitomizing the Hollywood club scene, and I can’t think of a more fitting place for their homecoming show on their last tour. It was the perfect backdrop, and it’s not lost on me that the bandshell at the Hollywood Bowl is shaped like a stylized rainbow.
And there was no better place in the world for them to perform “Saints of Los Angeles”.

Somewhere in all that, obscured by their own smoke at times, was the band. Given Mötley’s history, that was fitting, too.

Were they flawless? No. You don’t walk into a Mötley Crüe show expecting flawless. But they delivered, and they were perfect in their own wonderfully, humanly-flawed imperfect way. It was light years beyond the show by a woefully messed-up version of themselves I’d walked out on during the Girls Girls Girls tour, and I’m proud of them.  Monday night’s show was a hell of a ride.

As I write, I find myself struggling to find the right words. I’ve now written, scrapped, and re-written this paragraph six times. (Maybe “six” is fitting, too…)

How do you say goodbye to a band you idolized as a kid, whose members you later came to see as people because you were fortunate enough to have a job that occasionally put you on their periphery?

How do you say goodbye to a band who gave you the dreams that put you there? --And made you realize that maybe, if you worked really hard at them, you could make a lot of them come true?

Mötley Crüe taught me that not only did I have dreams, but to fight for them. Hard. 

I learned it from watching them become rock stars, from afar, from a tiny Southern California town in the middle of nowhere, which I referred to as “Hell”.

My town had no school (it was thirteen miles away) but it had two liquor stores, a convenience store, and a tiny post office that didn’t even deliver the mail. Most of the residents were retirees from Hollywood’s Golden Age, of which I had no appreciation until later. For a kid far too young to drive, it was planets away from civilization, and I was surrounded by “interesting characters” and messed-up people. Did I mention my town also happened be on a Meth Route?

Having moved there from the outskirts of a large Midwestern city, I was really pissed off at my parents. On a regular basis, I accused them of “stranding us in Hell” and plotted my escape. 

A hint of Salvation came when a guy my parents knew found out I liked rock music. He showed me how to connect my stereo’s radio to cable, as you’d do for cable TV. So now instead of just reception for Big Band and Muzak, I could listen to every station. He also gave me a stack of rock magazines and told me where to find the current issues, which were hidden in an obscure rack at the convenience store.

“Hell” was still hideous, but at least now I had something good to listen to, and new décor in the form of rock star wall paper.  

At the end of every week, L.A. rock stations used to read off a list of which bands were at what clubs. I remember hearing Palomino Club* ads for Mick Mars’ band Spiders and Cowboys and Starwood ads for Nikki Sixx’s band, London. London was in a couple of the rock rags, and though I’d never heard them, I was fascinated by them. Nikki Sixx had hair that looked like a cool sheepdog, and to me, he looked like a star. I also heard ads for Vince’s band Rock Candy, and not long after that, ads for Mötley Crüe, with that Nikki guy from London.

Mötley Crüe was even more fascinating than London. In stage gear they looked like cartoon characters out of a nightmare…more so than KISS, who I liked but had never thought of as dangerous (Sorry, Gene). I had no idea what Mötley Crüe sounded like but was dying to see them, because word about Mötley was spreading fast.  But going to shows was out of the question; in those days, concerts weren’t for kids. So when Mötley did an in-studio appearance on an L.A. radio show for Too Fast for Love, it was appointment radio. I posted a “Homework—Keep Out” sign on the door to my room so I could listen in peace.

The Shout at the Devil album and “Looks That Kill” came along just when things were getting really crazy at home. It was primal scream therapy, to the tune of Mötley Crüe, and “Too Young to Fall in Love” could be heard emanating from my room at the back of the house on a regular basis.

How do you say goodbye to a band who gave you a way to cope when you were weighing your options between chaos at home or becoming a thirteen year-old runaway? –-A band whose music provided a mix of "F***k you" angry lyrics and “you can do it” musical optimism just when you needed it most? The irony of living in “Hell” and being “Saved” by a band whose image included fire and pentagrams still makes me smile.

Little did I know, at the time, that learning how to deal with an interesting but troubled assortment of people would become an important skill for my future career in the music industry. And starting from age sixteen, the Mötley guys and I would have a lot of crisscrossing paths as I began to build my resume.

Little did I know, Nikki Sixx would be one of those troubled people. He’s talked about and written about this period of his life, but at the time few people knew he was slipping back into his own version of Hell. Nikki was always nice to me, even giving me badly needed career advice once when I was stuck, and I felt guilty for not seeing how far he’d fallen again. Thank God Allen Kovac did--and is the kind of manager who doesn’t let addicts get away with the tricks they’re known for. And that Nikki stepped up and did what he needed to do to pull himself out of Hell. (Meanwhile, I finally stepped up and set out to learn about drug and alcohol addiction, which had claimed the lives of several people close to me.)

Allen Kovac helped Nikki Sixx and his Motley cohorts find their dreams again—just like the band had helped me find mine as a kid, and probably countless others.

All those things were in my thoughts leading up to Monday night’s show. And when the band hit the stage, I put it all on “pause”. I didn’t even take photos during the show, because I wanted to just experience and enjoy it. It was all a perfect alchemy of dreams coming true, and life, and triumph, and bittersweet joy.

So how do you say “goodbye” to a band who gives you all that? 
Maybe you don’t… Maybe you just say, “Thank you.”

Thank you, Mötley Crüe: Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, and Vince Neil.

*The club where Mick’s band played when he met Nikki Sixx has been called the Stone Pony in various sources, including The Dirt and Chronological Crüe, The Stone Pony is in New Jersey and is where Jon Bon Jovi started out--not Mötley Crüe. The Palomino Club on Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood is the club Mick was referring to. The name confusion may have been because Linda Ronstadt’s band, the Stone Poneys, had famously played there. It also may be that perhaps legal clearance to use the Palomino Club’s trademarked name couldn’t be obtained for publication in The Dirt. There were several Liquor stores on Lankershim within easy walking distance from the Palomino, including Circus Liquors, which seems exactly like the kind of place a young Nikki Sixx would have chosen to work.

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