Last Night: Mötley Crüe, Poison and The New York Dolls at Gexa Energy Pavilion

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Mötley Crüe, Poison, New York Dolls
Gexa Energy Pavilion
June 7, 2011

Better than: sitting on your couch watching the Mavs win. Sure, the game was dramatic, but not as dramatic as Tommy Lee's drum rig.

Let's begin this review by addressing the elephant in the room directly: All the bands on last night's bill featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison and the New York Dolls are old. They built their reputation around being a voice for the hedonistic wayward youth of the late '70s through the late '80s, and these bands lived as hard as they played.

These days, it shows. And it's not always pretty.

But that's completely beside the point. The fans who sold out the Gexa Energy Pavilion last night for the kickoff of this summer tour showed up looking, as Poison might say, for nothin' but a good time, and the bands on the bill made sure that happened in spite of their own shortcomings.

Prototypical punks New York Dolls opened, taking the stage as the sun set. The Dolls are famously unsung heroes in the music world, and this was made painfully obvious by the apathetic reaction of the crowd.

Their first few songs were plagued by sound issues, but when David Johansen and Co. launched into the blistering rocker "Dance like a Monkey," they hit their stride, delivering a solid set that mixed old-school classics with fabulously catchy tunes off the three critically acclaimed albums they've released since reuniting in 2005.

Johansen's Jagger-style strutting and preening, combined with an endearingly snotty disregard for the attitude of the crowd, made it obvious why he is revered as one of the architects of modern rock 'n' roll.

Unfortunately, this was lost on the Gexa crowd, who were there to see Poison and the Crüe.

The crowd began truly flocking into the amphitheater when Poison took the stage. Critically analyzing Poison is an exercise in futility. Poison is what it is. They have steadfastly refused to evolve as a band, which may be a good thing considering what tends to happen when hair metal acts attempt to raise the bar (see: Rose, Axl). They stick to what they're good at, which is playing fun party music, and the audience ate it up, screaming every word of "Talk Dirty To Me" along with Michaels, as tufts of flame burst from the pyro machines at the back of the stage.

Poison aren't the most charismatic live act, but they can sure get the crowd going with minimal effort. Every time Michaels told the crowd to put their hands up, he was met with a sea of outstretched arms as far as the eye could see.

When the headlining Mötley Crüe took the stage, they arrived wiith a literal bang -- shockingly loud fireworks burst as a curtain pulled away to reveal a monstrous stage set.

The past 15 years have found the aging Crüe relying more and more on their stage set to mask the sloppiness of their live playing, and last night was no exception. Singer Vince Neil was a complete mess, forgetting lyrics left and right and getting so out of breath that he even stumbled over the lines he did remember. Nikki Sixx looked like he was going through the motions.

Meanwhile, Tommy Lee, far and away the most talented member of the Crüe, has always had drum rigs that are the stuff of legend, and, on this tour, his kit attaches to a giant circular structure at the back of the stage. When Tommy's strapped into this thing, the whole kit goes up in the air and upside down before descending on the other side. The drum rig, pyro, backup dancers, and costume changes are a complicated act to pull off, and the Crüe took long breaks between songs to adjust everything, which threw off the pacing of the set.

In their defense, though, had they eased up on the gimmicks (which also included Neil at one point donning a Dirk Nowitzki jersey, and the band copvering Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" at another) and just played, their shortcomings -- especially Vince's -- would have been more glaringly obvious.

But it was still a fun show. Really. If you think about it, these bands, with the exception, maybe, of the Dolls, were never about the music.

On this night, the audience itself was the real entertainment, screaming constantly throughout the Poison and Crüe sets and amping up the energy in the ampitheater to the point where it was impossible not to throw the horns and shout at the devil right along with them.

Who cares if Vince remembers the lyrics? The fans remember them for him, and sang along with every word. These bands realize that it is all about their fans, and they are there to give the fans what they want.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I am a huge Crüe-head, so putting on the critic's hat during this show wasn't easy. I'm firmly of the belief that a show can be good if you don't pay attention to how much the band sucks (see: 90 percent of punk bands). I did have an absolute blast, though, and was shouting and screaming along with the Crüe in between note-taking.

By The Way: If you ever get a chance to check out the New York Dolls in a smaller setting, do so. Their set would've been greatly enhanced if performed someplace like the Granada, which is where the Dolls played (to a much more receptive audience) the last time they came to town.

Random Note: To the lady who walked past us during the Dolls set: There must be a story behind your faded "Theater of Pain" tattoo. I was intrigued, and also happy that you had an occasion on which to show it off and have it appreciated for what it is.

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