Tommy Lee - drums; Mick Mars - guitar; Vince Neil - vocals; Nikki Sixx - bass
A foul wind was blowing down the Sunset Strip at the dawn of the '80s, withering the last remaining petals of Flower Power and ushering in a new era of decadence and debauchery unencumbered by social responsibilities. The source of this wind was not the sleepy Pacific coastline a few miles away, but a dingy apartment around the corner from the Whiskey a Go Go, where the members of Motley Crue were inventing what would fast become the dominant musical genre of the next decade.
Hair metal, hesher rock, glam metal - by whatever name it was called, the ubiquitous formula of teased, preferably bleached blonde or dyed black hair, leather and spandex, misogyny and implied Satanism, plus explosives and unnecessarily flashy guitar solos began with the Crue - they wrote the book (metaphorically and literally, with the publication of their lurid band 'autobiography;' required reading for anyone not already associated with the depths of human depravity). With a musical foundation in the punk and glam rock of bands like the Dolls, Slade and T. Rex, Motley Crue created a name for themselves by bringing Kiss' stadium-sized evil space kabuki into tiny clubs before rocketing to super-stardom. Their success, however, was not entirely due to their spectacle, as bassist/songwriter Nikki Sixx proved adept at turning wretched excess into catchy rock 'n' roll. What better soundtrack for the Reagan years?
This performance from Boston's Orpheum is a shining example of the Crue's crowd-pleasing formula. Drawing equally from their first two albums, Too Fast for Love and Shout at the Devil, the band tears through a blistering set for a crowd of the initiated. The tedious drum and guitar solos were maybe more fun to watch 20+ years ago than they are to listen to now, but it's all worth it to get to "Live Wire," the first track from the first Motley Crue record and one of the all-time great opening statements from a band whose sum was greater than the whole of its parts (even those they were fond of exposing on stage).
It's popular now to admit a sort of ironic appreciation for this music, but these guys lived it for real - a fact that's simultaneously admirable and despicable. Those sensitive to obscenity should tread lightly; just remember it's mostly for fun, and enjoy the ride back to a time before rock wore baggy pants and flannel shirts.