'80's hair metal kings Mötley Crüe held very little back in the production department when their supposed final tour made its stop at Ak-Chin Pavilion on Saturday night to a sold out crowd. While there were enough pyro, flamethrowers, female dancers, and a lighting spectacle that would make a Nelson show exciting, the real question was would it be enough to distract fans from Crüe singer Vince Neil's often lackluster vocal chops or would he rise to the occasion. Luckily if the band tanked like it did on the opening night of the tour a couple weeks ago, opener and Valley legend Alice Cooper would save the day.
Local fans of Cooper have become so accustomed to his annual charity Christmas Pudding event where the singer transforms from shock rock icon into philanthropist nice guy and tones his show down for the suits and ties who donate to his Solid Rock Foundation. This was not the case during his set, which started with a cover of Judy Collins' "Hello Hooray" and fiery sparks and plenty of stick tricks from drummer Glenn Sobel. Cooper wasted no time digging into his bag of crowd-pleasers with "No More Mr. Nice Guy." From that point, his dominance was on display during his hour long set. "I'm Eighteen" sounded very relevant as the 66-year-old had the crowd screaming the chorus. "Billion Dollar Babies" followed, and it was clear that Cooper wanted to give the hometown fans a treat.
While the 1970s were Cooper's golden years, he also included '80s tracks like "Poison." He tossed out silver beads to the crowd during "Dirty Diamonds," which featured a shredding guitar solo by new guitarist Nita Strauss and more impressive drum work by Sobel. Cooper staple "Welcome to My Nightmare" had the singer sporting a large top hat and boa constrictor wrapped around his neck. He was out for blood during his other visit to the '80s with "Feed My Frankenstein," as he sported a bloody butcher coat as an over-sized 12-foot zombie roamed the stage. Probably the most surprising part of the Alice set was how well his voice has held up after all these years.
The theatrics continued during "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" when Cooper was dressed in a straight jacked as he performed the song, with wife Sheryl Cooper joining him onstage dressed as a spooky nurse diagnosing the singer. Eventually Alice would make his way out of the straight jacket and strangle the nurse. It was a perfect segue way into partial versions of "Killer" which Cooper was be-headed on a guillotine before only the head of Cooper was present during a portion of "I Love the Dead" before a roadie tossed the headless Alice across the stage. The impressive set ended with a rocking version of "School's Out" with each of the three guitarist in the band trading off solos. Strauss was a beast on guitar duties, and she may have been the best replacement of former lady shredder Orianthi as she fit right in. The band also for in a portion of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In the Wall Part 2" into the track as balloons filled the pavilion as closed things down. The Crüe clearly had their work cut out for them.
The 20-song set began with the 2008 title track "Saints of Los Angeles," with plenty of backing tracks during the songs chorus, which didn't seem like a good sign of things to come. The band followed with one of the best tracks of their catalog, "Wild Side," which was not one of Neil's finest moments of the night, as he skipped plenty of words during the versus. For as rough of a start as Neil had, the band was as tight as ever, and drummer Tommy Lee's drums sounded huge. He was abnormally quiet throughout the show and let the music do the talking. Vince seemed to get better as the show progressed during older arena rock hits like "Looks That Kill" and "To Fast For Love." They mixed in a great rendition of the Gary Glitter's "Rock N' Roll Part 2" into their cover of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' In the Boy's Room." They slowed things down for "Without You," as Neil explained that many attendees may have been conceived when the song came out in 1989.
Neil asked "How many motherfuckers are there out here tonight" before "Motherfucker of the Year." "Shout At the Devil" sounded like a monster, as the crowd chanted the chorus as they did during most the set. Guitarist Mick Mars had one of the evilest sounding guitar solo's before a heavy version of "Live Wire." In fact, Mars, who isn't the most mobile guy in his late 40s, was incredible all night, and his guitar tone was huge as he was decked out in a black top hat and all-black attire. The girls on stage with the band would have been better suited just dancing and looking amazing because each time they had microphones in their hands and pretended to sing much like Nikki Sixx it was obvious the vocals were on backing tracks.
After "Kickstart My Heart" the band walked through the crowd and played closing song "Home Sweet Home" at the soundboard on a riser that lifted them above the crowd.
Even after a solid set by Mötley Crüe it was hard leaving without thinking how much harder they had to try when it seemed that Alice Cooper at 66 could do it in his sleep.
Last Weekend: Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper at Ak-Chin Pavilion
Logistics: It took me a full hour to get out of the parking lot to get out of the venue, which caused me to miss the secret Alice Cooper set at Alice Cooperstown downtown. I was very frustrated with the lack of direction venue employees had as they allowed two lanes of cars to enter the venue and one lane to exit a sold out show. FAIL!
Personal Bias: I was a big Mötley Crüe fan as a kid; the "Home Sweet Home" video was my first introduction to girls taking their tops off at rock concerts. I have really grown to love Alice Cooper over the years and know that without him many of the artists I like would never exist.
Overheard: "Wow...Vince sounds like shit".
The Crowd: A mixed bag of rock fans but plenty of older rocker '80s chicks and dudes passed out in parking lot.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.