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Motley Crue and KISS light up Lakewood Amphitheatre

[As of this week, I'll be on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to see what's up!] 

Look, a roller coaster loop! Oh, and a girl hanging from it. Taken at Motley Crue's July 20 show in Virginia. Photo credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images

Look, a roller coaster loop! Oh, and a girl hanging from it. Taken at Motley Crue's July 20 show in Virginia. Photo credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images

It’s another blandly named tour (see: Summer Music Festival) that is the antithesis of dull.

 “The Tour” is Motley Crue and KISS, sharing a bill and seeing who can light up the stage with the most pyro and rattle your chest the hardest.

 It’s a draw, really, between these two titans of tinnitus-causing rawk and if you’re a fan of both bands’ fist-thrusting, innuendo-filled pop-metal, then you couldn’t have left Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood disappointed Tuesday night.

 The show setup has Motley Crue performing first (you think Gene Simmons will ever “open” for anyone again?) and there was something fundamentally wrong with watching the Crue perform at dusk.

 This is a band that should only be heard in the dark, where their snaky rhythms and primal metal riffs thrive. Even Tommy Lee could feel something seemed flat, as he several times asked fans if they were feeling all right.

 The Crue spared no expense on a wicked cool stage setup – sort of a burned out industrial warehouse decorated with metal fans, platforms for fire to settle for songs at a time and a roller coaster loop for Lee’s drum solo (more on that later) – and designed a light show that escalated in awesomeness with every song.

 But considering this was only the fourth night of a tour that winds through the end of September, you couldn’t help but wonder how Vince Neil’s voice will hold up for almost 40 more shows.

 The scruffy blond frontman huffed to catch his breath after the second song of the set, the visceral “Wild Side.” Then his voice shrieked painfully during “Shout at the Devil” and he half-yelped, half-spoke the words to “Dr. Feelgood,” a distraction that yanked away the enjoyment of the song’s sinewy groove.

 Musically, though, the band sounded tight, especially the hulking rhythm section of Lee and bassist Nikki Sixx. Even Mick Mars, the scary-cartoon Crypt Keeper perched on spindly legs, ripped through solos with more velocity than he has in years, most noticeably on the punky rush of “Livewire” and the set-closing “Kickstart My Heart.”

 The star of the show, though, as is often the case with Crue, was Lee. The toothpick-thin drummer – one of the most underrated in rock – trotted to the front of the stage to first spray the crowd with a bottle of champagne and then slide behind a mirrored grand piano for the inevitable “Home Sweet Home.”

Nikki Sixx hangs out with a fan in Virginia. Photo credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images

Nikki Sixx hangs out with a fan in Virginia. Photo credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images

Lee dedicated the song to his recently deceased mother, Mars added some mournful guitar to the opening melody and most of the 12,000-plus people in the amphitheater were whisked back to 1985, when the power ballad was MTV’s most requested video ever and we all wished we could have that pink scarf Neil sported in it.

 Motley Crue is one of the rare bands where the drum solo is anticipated and Lee’s creativity and flair get high marks. After getting strapped in – as he always seems to be for his solos – Lee performed an array of drum patterns, many incorporating his affection for electronica, while his drum riser slowly spun around and upside down on the roller coaster track. He repeated the trick, playing along to “Love Rollercoaster,” with a fan on board.

It might be gimmicky, but no more so than singing about “Girls, Girls, Girls” (the Atlanta shoutout given special emphasis by Neil) or, for that matter, the entire career of KISS.

 Tuesday’s crowd was stocked with members of the KISS Army, and for nearly 90 minutes, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer gave their best because the crowd wanted the best. Right?

 KISS’ setup was the opposite of Motley Crue’s, all open spaces with stacks of amplifiers, some lighted stairs and the HD screen behind Singer’s raised drum kit offering frequent close-ups of the band.

 

What's that on your left hand, Gene? KISS performed in London on July 4, but interestingly, their costumes were the same in Atlanta. Photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

What's that on your left hand, Gene? KISS performed in London on July 4, but interestingly, their costumes were the same in Atlanta. Photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

And from the opening “Detroit Rock City” to the platform-boot-stomp of “Shout it Out Loud” and “I Love it Loud,” flash pots exploded with every cymbal crash and punctuated every song ending, sending fans into a devil horn-throwing frenzy.

 Stanley, who looked as if he was wearing the remains of a black ostrich around his shoulders, and Simmons, who had a noticeable new accessory to his bat wings and frizzy topknot – a wedding band – appeared gleeful as they dug into their familiar bag of razzle-dazzle tricks.

 Simmons grabbed his flaming sword and turned it into a whooshing fireball with one spit of accelerant during “Firehouse” and later dribbled blood during his bass solo/ “God of Thunder” routine – which of course never gets old if you love the band’s brand of theater rock.

 KISS has always been more about entertainment than musicality – and relax, KISS fans, there’s nothing wrong with that – and at Tuesday’s show, Stanley was determined to either woo the crowd or talk them to death in his Edith Bunker honk.

“It’s good to be back in a city that knows how to rock.” “I remember when we played on Peachtree, in a place called the Electric Ballroom.” “I want to come out and see y’all in the back…I want to hear my name from here to Augusta.” “We have a new album coming out in October, called ‘Monster.’”

 Being interactive with the crowd is commendable, but his constant chatter got a bit tiresome after about the sixth song.

 Stanely did, in fact, go to see the people in the back, ziplining to a rotating makeshift stage for “Love Gun.” He also engaged in his patented sideways wiggle as Thayer and Singer handled the heavy lifting on “Shock Me” and ended the song with a lengthy whiz-bam jam.

 

Simmons says hello in London. Photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Simmons says hello in London. Photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

At the turn of the century, KISS embarked on what they dubbed a “farewell” tour. Obviously, they changed their minds. And why not? As long as there are venues full of fans eager to fist-pump along to “Lick it Up” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” and the band looks and sounds this sharp, they might as well follow the money.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

65 comments Add your comment

Peter Criscola

July 25th, 2012
6:07 am

Was Ace Frehley there?

yeah

July 25th, 2012
6:24 am

Ace no longer tours with Kiss, to me he was better than the current guy. but KISS still was the best!!!!

Up the E Street

July 25th, 2012
6:38 am

No Ace no real KISS. Gene Simmons’ ego ruined the band.

Clowns Wear Makeup

July 25th, 2012
6:41 am

I can’t believe 12,000 losers actually spent money to see these old buzzards play live. At least they’re too old to procreate anymore….

RingsidewithPacker

July 25th, 2012
7:12 am

Clowns…you wouldnt know a decent rock band if one walked up and slapped that rubber nose off your face.

david c

July 25th, 2012
7:20 am

Glad all my heroes have retired gracefully…or are still relevant.

Jonathan Collins

July 25th, 2012
7:37 am

Yo david c…didnt you hear your Sandusky got life + 400 years?? So not all of your heros are relevant.

weasel

July 25th, 2012
7:45 am

Can agree with your Crue comments, but all the things that KISS did are the things that a true KISS fan loves. Paul ALWAYS plays to the crowd. He is a true Front Man. Aside from the one NEW song, they stuck to the older traditional FAVES. A good show, all in all. I should know. It was my 27th.

weasel

July 25th, 2012
7:47 am

Wasn’r Simmons ego. It was ACE and PETER’s drugs and alcohol problems. Too many shows of showing up wasted to play, forgetting lyrics. The current line up is the best musically. Tommy and Eric have been in the band for as long time. We like them just fine.

crackbaby

July 25th, 2012
7:58 am

The Crue opening for KISS makes me wanna vomit.

Mel – The Crue’s set is the same they used during last year’s tour. Same gimmick taking the chick for a loop, too. So they didn’t spend a bunch of dough and really didn’t bother coming up with any new ideas. Can’t blame them since they have to tour and open for Simmons and the trolls.

KD

July 25th, 2012
8:51 am

Ace & Peter got kicked out because of drugs and alcohol.

dick whiskey

July 25th, 2012
8:52 am

old farts should be in the old folk’s home, no way would i pay to see these old dudes

Chance Rollins

July 25th, 2012
8:59 am

I was there and met Sophie, Genes daughter. We have a date this Saturday night. How cool is that!

CreatureOfTheNight

July 25th, 2012
9:22 am

KISS has played the same old tired songs for a long time. Sticking to “traditional faves” gets lame after 40 years. Both band’s shows entertain, but they both are so long in the tooth that isn’t wasn’t worth going to the Warzone of Lakewood to witness live.

Evansdawg

July 25th, 2012
9:24 am

KISS has nothing to lose or prove. Most “relevant” bands would trade places with them in a heartbeat. It doesn’t take musicality to rock a crowd. It takes rib-cracking chords and a big drum beat…and a spectacle! Long-live the KISS spirit! They remind us all to have a good time, and not take it all so seriously.

markie mark

July 25th, 2012
9:29 am

@dick whiskey – Dick, I will take Allman Brothers, Kiss, the Stones, David Gilmour, Eagles (they still do a great show – saw them in 2010), etc to any band you can name in the last 10 years, with VERY few exceptions …..

nick

July 25th, 2012
9:29 am

Whatever Kiss haters no one cares what you think anyway. Us kiss and Crue fans enjoy our bands so F-Off!

Shandi

July 25th, 2012
9:33 am

KD…Ace and Peter left a few years after the reunion. Ace is clean, Peter is clean, and had a bout of breast cancer.
Dick Whiskey…Kiss is a timeless act, whose music endures when all this new stuff sounds like rehashed, over produced, and over effected digital noise. Kiss is one of the last great garage sound bands with no apologies behind the noise they make. Gene Simmons said, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” It’s still louder than ever, so an old folks home is nowhere in the near future of Kisstory.
Paul and Gene have remained constant for 42 years…other members have come and gone, some have died, and the original core of KISS will alway be everyone’s favorite. Tommy Thayer is probably the best replacement I have heard over the past 30 years for ACE. Bruce Kulick was a wonderful replacement, but had his own style an interpreted what he thought Ace would do. Vinnie Vincent was held back from his style, as was Mark St. John. Tommy Thayer masks his own style and plays as if he is ACE. Listen to “Sonic Boom,” If you close your eyes, you can hear Ace playing. He has mastered Ace’s style. I am a stickler for the original guy in any band, but Tommy and Eric both have gone above and beyond to give KISS their authentic sound back.
Dick, go buy another bottle of whiskey with the money you wouldn’t spend on a KISS ticket, but remember, that bottle will last you a short time, and maybe kill some of your memory, as a visit to a KISS show will give you a memory you won’t ever forget.

Aerosmith

July 25th, 2012
9:38 am

Only true rock legends can force KISS to open for them…. like Aerosmith who will show Atlanta how it’s really done tomorrow night. (7/26) Let the music do that talking, that is after all what a band should be doing in the first place.

Jimmy Johnson

July 25th, 2012
9:50 am

I cannot believe the negative comments that people post. Why even read the article and comment if you don’t think that KISS is relevant anymore ? While you have your own opinion, none of the true fans here give a damn what you think. KISS will get and deserves the ultimate respect until the day they hang it up. It was a awesome show that really rocked. I can’t wait to see what they do next year. So, negative people understand this, you wrote about KISS today, how much did someone write about you ?

Jimmy Johnson

July 25th, 2012
9:58 am

Aerosmith, that was a co-headlining tour. They opened up for KISS too. And you think at this point in their career, anyone can force KISS to do anything ? While I have nothing negative to say about Aerosmith, they did go a bit too commercial when they went through their “soundtrack” phase. Armageddon wouldn’t have been the same without ‘em. Also, you really think Aerosmith-Cheap Trick will be better than KISS-Mötley ?

Jimmy Johnson

July 25th, 2012
10:00 am

Shandi, I could not have said it any better my friend. Thank you.

uncle kirk

July 25th, 2012
10:01 am

I thought it was a great show. Both bands kicked butt. Personally thought the Crue put on the better show….but both were great

Aerosmith

July 25th, 2012
10:03 am

Jimmy,
Not once did KISS play after Aerosmith on that tour. Fact. Sorry but musically Aerosmith and Cheap Trick will continually dominate KISS and Motley Crue. KISS and Crue are a circus act, not a music acts. If you want to talk about being too commercial have you see the My Little Kitty KISS toys… you’ve got no leg to stand on. LOL

SixxDogg

July 25th, 2012
10:13 am

First time seeing Kiss and they were awesome!!!

Richard Pettys Jr

July 25th, 2012
10:20 am

I really felt bad for Vince Neil. He could not hit his old high notes and he seemed to miss about 1/3 of the words to all of the 13 songs on the list. Crue was tight, though.

KISS was phenomenal. Tommy Thayer reminds me so much of a young Ace that it is amazing. Eric Singer really personifies the part of Peter Criss,

Chi Town

July 25th, 2012
10:20 am

Respect, Vince Neil.

Todd

July 25th, 2012
10:29 am

Come on AJC! If they “Rocked Atlanta” last night then why are all the pictures from London and Virginia show? Not one pic from the ATLANTA performance that you are reporting on? Thats pretty slack on your part! Any good excuses?

Melissa Ruggieri

July 25th, 2012
10:46 am

Hey Todd – I don’t handle the photo assigments, just the reviews, but it was my understanding that we just didn’t have someone available to shoot the show last night. We weren’t able to shoot Nicki Minaj on Sunday, either, and she’s a huge radio star right now.
Since I don’t like reviews to look like gray matter, I’ll usually try to find photos from other recent performances – especially if it’s the same stage setup, outfits, etc. – to as least give readers an idea of the visuals.
Cheers,
Melissa

Bob in Sandy Springs

July 25th, 2012
10:56 am

Melissa Ruggieri ,

What a shame that the AJC can’t afford a photog to take pictures of events when a column is written..Good work finding what you did….

Melissa Ruggieri

July 25th, 2012
11:10 am

Thanks, Bob. Wish we had someone there, too. Wish we could shoot EVERY show — just like I wish I could cover EVERY show — but given the number of big ones that come through Atlanta, it’s a tough schedule to keep covered!

Melissa

joey

July 25th, 2012
11:16 am

This article was like sucking a lemon.
Kiss and Motley Crue were great. It is all about having fun. Some of these comments show how boring and crusty folks can be. Great Show!

htownbravesfan

July 25th, 2012
11:21 am

Can’t wait to see this show on August 3rd here in Houston. This will be my sixth KISS show and it never gets old. My little boy is 13 and this will be his fourth. The live experience is what KISS is all about. More often than not, these so called “musical geniuses” suck in person. I had a friend who dragged me to a Radiohead show once because his wife was sick. Half of the crowd was asleep and the other half were trying to slit their wrists with their ticket stubs. I always say even if you don’t like KISS, if you like entertainment, you have to see them at least once before you die.

Thogwummpy

July 25th, 2012
11:34 am

Wow….the Electric Ballroom…boy does THAT bring back memories!

Doug E Fresh

July 25th, 2012
11:35 am

Vince Neil is a puss who backed down from Axl Rose.

Bob

July 25th, 2012
11:38 am

Funny, How 1 band from the 70’s and one from the 80’s are still playing to selling out concert, and yet some of today’s Band or artist are having problems selling tickets, Great Bands don’t Died they get better and KISS sounds a whole better with Tommy & Eric in the band, for those who enjoy those booze & drug lace shows of the past with both ACE & Peter well then ya good for you, But KISS sounds a lot tighter as a band then it did with Ace ^ Peter

Dr. Love

July 25th, 2012
11:52 am

If my details are correct, the Electric Ballroom was actually located over on Piedmont while the Agora Ballroom was located on Peachtree Street, almost across from the Fox Theater. I think Paul got his venues mixed up.

BobbyBoy

July 25th, 2012
11:53 am

Can someone give me the times of the show by any chance? What time did Crue start? Thanks!

Boywonder

July 25th, 2012
12:07 pm

The very questionable sound quality and voice problems with Vince Neil have been gonig on for some time now.
They cracked, crackled, and groaned through last year’s concert with Poison, who should have headlined considering their superior sound and performance.
Vince Neil looks to be getting worse in terms of vocal ability and physical fitness to maintain a road schedule. He ostensibly took on a healthier regimen of eating, and taking care of his voice, but to a person, he has not been consisstent with the performance improvement program.
They are almost spitting in the fans face and daring them not to come and listen to their very poor quality. They over compensate by using tons of gimmicks and visuals appealing to the yaa-hoo crowd. They do not appeal to some of us who actually come to live events to hear the music.
I personally did not, nor do I appreciate some of the language they use, or antics. It makes taking my daughter out of the question, and is uncomfortable if you have any decent respect for women. We know it is an act, as behind the scenes, they’re decent people. But it grates on me. I call these Motely Crue tours – the “Pad you bank account summer tour of xxxx”.
Def Leppard made them look like amateurs.
Scorpions never bothered with Atlanta – where we ..ahem…know how to rock as Paul tried to say. Right.
And KISS’s setlist was much too short, and missing some real classics. When they conjured up this ill conceived co-healining tour, it made having a robust setlit very difficult.
All in all, it was not worth the prices they charged.
And Crue had better start to repsect their musically inclined fans, as they are losing them steadily.

Comment Here

July 25th, 2012
1:08 pm

I was at the Crue show at Philips where Vince hurt his leg. It was godawful then and I can only imagine now after a couple of years.

Comment Here

July 25th, 2012
1:09 pm

Oh yeah, and vince neil was like f this and f that. and then Tommy would say f this and f that. Really, intelligent stuff.

Jason

July 25th, 2012
1:11 pm

Melissa,
I would have been more than happy to shoot the concert for you. Both me and my wife are photographers and are always looking for more work. Especially at cool concerts like this. In the future, if your photograph resources are spread thin keep us in mind.

Steve-o

July 25th, 2012
1:49 pm

BobbyBoy, Crue started about 10 minutes before 8:00–they had to start then, or the show wouldn’t have ended by 11:00. Interestingly, about 15 minutes before the show, a clock appeared on a screen showing 5 minutes before 8:00 and then wound down until Crue appeared (they actually paraded through the audience, which was very cool). Based on the clock, 8:00 is apparently the start time at most venues.

Liberator

July 25th, 2012
2:04 pm

Gene,Paul,and those Crue guys can still procreate and rock hard!

BobbyBoy

July 25th, 2012
2:06 pm

Thanks Steve-o, seeing them tonight in Charlotte and wanted to get a sense of the actual start time for them. Looking forward to it!!

J. Winter

July 25th, 2012
2:09 pm

Went on a whim last night with some buddies, had a pretty good time, and it was everything I thought it would be. I think the review was pretty spot on. Well done, Melissa.

Jeff

July 25th, 2012
2:12 pm

I saw the concert in Raleigh (the 3rd stop of the tour) and Vince’s voice was actually pretty sharp. He did not even try to strain out some of the high notes that he could do 25 years ago – he just took them down a notch.

As to the negative comments……you people have to remember that both bands are about putting on a show and that is what they did. Comparing KISS or Motley Crue to Aerosmith is just screwed up…..they are different types of music. KISS and Motley Crue are old school Heavy Metal…..Aerosmith is Rock and are more comparable with Journey or Van Halen……both of which in my opinion were both better than Aerosmith. Steven Tyler’s singing ability is just horrible…..in their primes; Steven Tyler could not even carry the bags of any of the lead singers of any of the bands mentioned.

One other point that was missed and maybe they did not play in Atlanta…..Here in Raleigh a British band called The Treatment opened the entire show and I have to say they were talented, entertaining, and it was refreshing to see a young band come along that can do real Metal. I think that they could be a band to look for as they get more exposure.

wayne gregory

July 25th, 2012
2:18 pm

100,000,000 + albums sold and 40 years + together and some of you say they stink? Untill you go shut up!

Randy

July 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

Hey Todd, I will be glad to take photos of KISS and any other rock bands just give me a shout

Gary Cherone

July 25th, 2012
3:09 pm

“I was there and met Sophie, Genes daughter. We have a date this Saturday night. How cool is that!”

Yeah right, and I’m back in Van Halen.