Arena of Pain

Mötley Crüe's still got it -- lotsa fans blowing money on them, that is.

The Cre puts in another day at the office, last week at - Gund Arena. - Walter  Novak
The Cre puts in another day at the office, last week at Gund Arena.
At a bit past 10 two Tuesdays ago, Cleveland was formally introduced to the Grandmaster of Pussy. More popularly known as Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, the gangly sticksman was bestowed with his new title by beaming Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. Throughout the evening, Lee tried hard to live up to the prestigious designation.

"I've got a question: Where all the bitches at?" he demanded of the near-capacity Gund Arena crowd. "We're in Cleveland fuckin' Ohio and I've seen two titties." He then brandished a digital video camera to film mostly middle-aged ladies hoisting their tops, all of which had the feel of an episode of Girls Gone Wild shot at a PTA meeting. "God bless the fuckin' titties!" Lee said with a leer midway through the latest oversexed, overlong show in the Crüe's current comeback attempt.

But if Viagra commercials have taught us anything, it's that a two-hour boner is not always a good thing. In fact, it can be downright fatiguing, as was the Crüe's two-hour reunion concert, pretty much one giant erection with Marshall stacks (plus midgets in top hats, swearing puppets, and, of course, strippers on stilts).

Aside from minor technical difficulties that marred the opener "Shout at the Devil" -- the bass and guitar were temporarily lost in the mix -- the band sounded strong. They beat the stuffing out of old favorites like "Too Fast for Love" and "Live Wire," with Lee battering a kick drum the size of Rhode Island and Sixx sucking in his cheeks and puffing out his lips like a heavy metal Zoolander. Frontman Vince Neil looked fit, bounding about the stage in a glittering green vest and flared jeans, sporting the grin of a dude who's won a yearlong reprieve from playing county fairs and casinos. The same can't be said for pale, skeletal guitarist Mick Mars, who looked in dire need of a blood transfusion and a Big Mac.

But though the band tried hard to re-create the Bud-and-booby bacchanalias that made it famous two decades ago, all the girls, girls, girls the Crüe once sang of have become moms, moms, moms. Throughout the night, just one bra hit the stage. This from a band that used to get hit with more underwear than a laundromat. There weren't even that many ladies in the house to begin with: Dudes outnumbered chicks by a margin of at least three to one -- a ratio normally reserved for Star Trek conventions and midnight showings of Lord of the Rings.

What eager young gals were present were mostly confined to the stage -- and paid to be there. The Crüe brought a busload of stripper-looking chicks with them to make out, don power tools, and make out some more. A pair of buxom gals in shiny black-and-white vinyl boots bent over to expose their thongs as Lee's thundering bass drum opened the show. Two gals in red satin panties did the splits and humped the stage, while a couple more climbed towering black ladders and dangled upside down like naughty gymnasts.

By now, it was abundantly clear that the night was all about spectacle. Boasting a circus theme with a red-and-white big-top tent covering the stage, the show featured midgets juggling fire, multicolored flames shooting every which way, and more explosions than the director's cut of Apocalypse Now.

It was all loud, lewd, and larger than life. It sounded good, it looked good, but it also felt more than a little forced. Half the band is married with children. Party-hard womanizers they're not, no matter how many underdressed vixens they parade on stage. These guys are going to be guests on Regis and Kelly this week, for chrissakes. The drunken debauchery that was once the Crüe's reality is now just a pose. They seem to think blowing off pyrotechnics is enough to replace the fire lost from their guts.

But some things can never be re-created, like the dumb, devil-may-care impetuousness of youth that once defined this bunch. Of course, the rebel posturing continues: "Everything we do is because someone tells us not to do it," Sixx announced at one point to loud applause.

In that case: Don't quit while you're ahead.