It's been just five measly years since the Crue gave singer Vince Neil the ax, and now that it's reunited with a new album called Generation Swine, something has seriously changed. Gone are the babe-heavy videos, the mannequins being quartered by chain saws, the fishnets and the hair spray. The only mutinous behavior you'll see these days is drummer Tommy Lee parading around in air-sealed leather briefs, and even that is just history repeating itself.
No matter. Thousands of Crueheads purchased tickets to an eight-city CD-listening-party extravaganza--mere minutes after they went on sale. At the kickoff party in Los Angeles, 1,200 ravenous fans began lining up four hours before showtime at the Mayan Theatre, an illustrious, Egyptian-styled venue nestled in the armpit of downtown. Some wore concert tee shirts dating back to the early Eighties, when the members of Motley Crue were swaggering, glamorous punks living life with reckless abandon off the cash they made from gems such as "Too Fast for Love" and "Shout at the Devil."
Inside the Mayan, Vince Neil is reeling off directions to several stagehands, who don't seem to be getting his drift. So far the band's props look pretty low-budget--two rubber pigs dangle from the catwalk next to a pair of red lips sucking on a cigarette--and Neil is desperately trying to remedy the situation. "Can somebody please drape a piece of black cloth across these monitors?" he asks edgily, running a hand through shoulder-length, rhubarb-tinted hair. "Yeah, these ones up front."
All interviews with the press have been canceled, but Neil takes time out for a reporter who didn't check the answering machine back home. He exits stage right and disappears down a dark staircase where crew members are carrying plates of food into the Mayan's underbelly for band members and hangers-on seeking after-show hospitality.
Neil plops down on a divan and braces himself for a round of questioning, then fires off an answer regarding the title of the new release as if he's been well-prepped by a publicist: "First there was Generation X, now it's time for Generation Swine. The album's kind of like putting a mirror in everybody's faces and saying that as a human being, you always want more out of life. Everybody's guilty of that, and if you're guilty of that, then you're a pig."
"Does that mean we're all pigs?"
"That's right," snorts Neil, who's trimmed down considerably since his breakup with the Crue. "Everybody's a pig, no matter who you are: You're a pig."
For a band that so masterfully redefined the art of rebellion, it seems odd that the Crue would hang its hats on such a silly gimmick. During the show, Neil goes so far as to address his fans as "piggy wiggies" as he stands in front of an American flag on which the word "SWINE" has been scrawled.
Perhaps the swine concept became a reality when Neil and his estranged bandmates were trying to resolve their differences with the help of a dozen or so lawyers. "Me and [bassist] Nikki Sixx were in a room together with all our attorneys," Neil recalls, "and at one point, we looked at each other, nodded at the same time, then went into the other room. We just kind of sat there and started laughing at everybody. We realized we both wanted to do the same thing, to make music, and we do it the best when we're together, and all these other people were trying to screw it up. So we went back out and said, 'We're making music together, just make it work.'"
Neil grabs a Pepsi and makes time for a few more questions. If it weren't for the hokey question-and-answer session scheduled to follow tonight's live performance of Generation Swine, he would be a happy camper right now. "I don't know about this Q&A thing," he says. "But we definitely knew we wanted to play the disc live. The CD-release parties we've always done in the past are just bullshit. You rent a nice club, you deck out, then you put on your album which you've just spent a couple of years recording, and everybody's at the bar talking over the music. It's like, 'Fuckin' listen!'"
Tonight is the first time in 17 years that the Crue will play every song off the recording live. "With the exception of 'Too Fast for Love,'" notes Neil, "this is the first time in our career that we actually know how to play every song on the album. There are a lot of songs that you put together in the studio and you don't play them live, but tonight we're making history."
But how will kids weaned on Nirvana and Pearl Jam relate to songs like "Shout at the Devil 97"?
"They won't," says Neil, shrugging. "Most people think 'Dr. Feelgood' was our first record. But maybe they'll hear our remake of 'Shout at the Devil' and then go into the record bins and look for some of the older stuff. Besides, people are ready to have some fun with music again. We're just a great rock 'n' roll band and we're also a walking soap opera. We've always been trendsetters, and we'll continue to be that for our fans."
At 9 p.m., Neil descends onto the Mayan's stage on a chandelier suspended from a catwalk. He's decked out in a silver-sequined shirt and star-spangled spandex. The band launches into "Afraid," the heaviest, most tuneful single on Swine, and Neil struts and whirls about the stage in true rock-diva fashion. Despite an obvious absence of youthful bravado and outrageous theatrics, Motley Crue remains the same old band it was five years ago. Tommy Lee is still banging out the same tired backbeats, guitarist Mick Mars still stands in one place looking white as a corpse, and Nikki Sixx is still delightfully energetic. Midway through the set, Neil calls out to the crowd, "People, we're the same fuckin' boneheads who played at the Troubadour 10 years ago. We just have more tattoos!"
Then an awkward, embarrassing moment occurs. As soft, violet beams caress the stage, Lee seats himself at a nine-foot concert grand wearing skintight, black-leather briefs, then proceeds to plunk out the melody for "Brandon," a five-hankie ballad about his 11-month-old son. While Lee fishes for the right notes, a lone violinist plays a soft melody behind a rice-paper screen.
Fortunately, the Crue has the good sense to follow up by ripping out classics like "Wild Side" and "Dr. Feelgood," proving it hasn't gone completely to mush.
The Q&A session that follows the show is totally lame, a chance for groupies to gather MTV-style on sofas onstage and ask stupid questions such as, "How often does Nikki Sixx have sex?" Sixx, now a father of four, looks cool and calm in striped overalls and a cowboy hat. "If management would give us a day off," he replies, "maybe I'd have a little more."
And when someone asks, "How does it feel to be a reunion band?" Neil grabs the nearest microphone and roars: "Fuck you. We took a vacation from each other and picked up where we left off!"
Clearly, Motley Crue has not reinvented itself. It's only reunited.