Released: 2005, Clear Channel Entertainment
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The eighties were a time of unheralded debauchery on the metal scene. Sex, drugs, booze, partying…it was all the name of the game and no one played it better than Mötley Crüe. The band seemed to be in the news as much for their respective jail sentences, drug overdoses, lawsuits and failed marriages as they were for releasing classic albums such as SHOUT AT THE DEVIL and DR. FEELGOOD. As big as Mötley Crüe was at the end of the eighties, the loss of vocalist Vince Neil in 1992 proved to be a death knell that the band’s self-titled album from 1994 with John Corabi behind the mike couldn’t remedy. An ill-fated reunion with Neil spawned the out-of-character GENERATION SWINE album in 1997 and a better, though still unsuccessful album—NEW TATTOO—in 2000 that finally put a moratorium on all things Crüe. Seeing the band on tour in 1999 with The Scorpions was an embarrassment from all sides. Tommy Lee had left the band after a public falling out with Neil, Mick Mars was in ailing health, Neil was out of shape and the band was a shadow of their former selves. The dismal LIVE: ENTERTAINMENT OR DEATH album from 1999 only goes to prove it. When it was announced in 2005 that Mötley Crüe would be reuniting once again, I had some skepticism after witnessing a tired band that seemed bound for has-been status just a few years earlier. So what does this latest reunion to soldier across the metal landscape have to offer?
Well, CARNIVAL OF SINS LIVE is a testament to the fact that Mötley Crüe has returned, maybe not to their glory days, but certainly looking and sounding better than when we last heard them. This double DVD set documents the band’s show in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 27, 2005, as well as some added bonus materials that show exactly what goes into making the Crüe’s touring sideshow gel. Fans who didn’t already shell out for last year’s RED, WHITE AND CRUE CD “best of” will find all the band’s hits here (tracks from NEW TATTOO and MOTLEY CRUE are glaring omissions) as well as live versions of the two new tracks from that collection. Certain annoyances still remain—Neil’s habit of not singing entire verses or the increasing Wiggerization of Tommy Lee (in white clown makeup)—but the videography has a real live feel to it. Shot with over twenty cameras in hi-definition, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the final product is crystal clear. Sepia effects are used here and there but are not overly distracting. The audio portion is available in three formats: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby DTS 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Obviously, the two 5.1 programs are the ones to go for as the music wraps itself the listener and is mixed accordingly to tear your house down to the foundation. Unlike the companion CD of this show, the “live feel” extends to long periods of the band speaking to the crowd and each other. Neil gets the most crowd interaction (he uses the word “fuck” like other people use the word “the” or “a”) and Nikki Sixx adds a few choice comments here and there, as well, but the real gems are found when Tommy Lee takes center stage (more on that later). Neil sounds good in general and better than he has in years, while Lee is still one of the hardest-hitting drummers in rock and considering Mars’ health problems, it’s a wonder he is even above ground let alone unleashing the spot-on riffs and solos he does. Nikki Sixx still looks like the true rock ‘n roller he always has with high, jet black hair and enough attitude for two punters. Sixx asks at one point, “Can you believe we finally got our shit together?” The band is definitely “back” and as good as can be expected of a bunch of guys in their mid- to late-forties who have been through what they have (read THE DIRT for proof), so without a promise of new material from Mötley Crüe circa 2006, this may just be the last we see of them and CARNIVAL OF SINS LIVE would be a fitting swan song should that be the case.
A claymation video of Mötley Crüe opens the show followed by “Mighty Mike,” a midget used in the band’s stageshow, setting the aerialists and contortionists free from a large jack-in-the-box. Right from the opening crash of “Shout At the Devil,” it is obvious that Mötley Crüe came back to level its fans with an amazing show. Exploding pyro, Lee’s thunderous drums, Sixx’ throbbing bass, Mars’ memorable riffs and Neil hitting the high notes generates goose bumps as this is all about garish rock ‘n roll spectacle. Furthering that, within twenty minutes, the band’s earliest (and best) material from TOO FAST FOR LOVE and SHOUT AT THE DEVIL rumbles out like twenty years never passed. The versions of “Too Fast For Love” and “Red Hot” are amazing here, the band showing the same ferocity, energy and passion that made them one of the hottest bands to come out of California at the time. Lee’s double bass into to “Red Hot” still gives me chills 23 years after first hearing it. As the show wears on, Neil’s voice begins to waver and he sounds positively winded on “Too Young To Fall In Love.” “Live Wire” suffers even worse with entire lapses in Neil’s singing, not to mention the fact that Lee hollers out to the crowd to “Bring it, bitches!” “Primal Scream” nearly bests the original version with a smoking intro from Sixx and Lee and Mars later nails the swirling solo perfectly. Mars is more mobile than I would have expected but he still appears extremely stiff and is clearly not well. It is nice to see “Same Ol’ Situation,” a track which is among the best found on the DR. FEELGOOD album and a “lost gem,” in my opinion, included here but the medley of ballads—“Glitter,” “Without You” and “Home Sweet Home”—pulls down some of the momentum. “Home Sweet Home” is the penultimate concert staple and when the place is illuminated with a sea of lighters and waving arms raised, it is quite awe-inspiring. “Kickstart My Heart,” one of the best Crüe tracks ever, is absolutely butchered here. Mars delivers the goods on guitar and the rollicking riff that drives the song is still intact but Neil sounds like he has forgotten the words because his delivery is a mishmash of gibberish and totally dropped verses. Following that, the band’s embarrassing versions of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and, even worse, The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.” are a real low point. Neil growls his way through the former while his snarled impression of Johnny Rotten on the latter should be grounds for a stiff fine. Speaking of low points, the “solo” executed by Sixx is a bunch of cacophonous keyboard noise, smoke and pyro that sounds like utter crap. Visually, the girl using a grinder on her privates showering the stage with sparks might be somewhat appealing (once) but the noise of Sixx’ keyboards is absolutely horrendous. The biggest disappointment, though, is Lee’s excruciatingly long, ten minute solo. Word of a three-kit setup had my mouth watering but the dependence on samples, saw blades and beer kegs leaves things sounding more like an industrial/DJ exercise than one of this generation’s greatest rock drummers is a complete waste of time and talent.
The second disc features 42 minutes of documentaries and short featurettes surrounding the tour itself. The main feature, "Inside the Big Top: A Mötley Docrümentary,” boasts interviews with the director, tour designer, the various fire-breathers, aerialists, chefs and other tour personnel. A short fan meet-and-greet feature, a discussion of the pyrotechnics, two music videos and a twelve song “jukebox” feature are also included. The “Titty Cam” is what will draw many viewers over to the second disc, though. Like the GIRLS GONE WILD videos, it never ceases to amaze me that women will remove their shirts and expose themselves not only to the few thousand in attendance with a little liquid courage but knowing full well that this show was being filmed for DVD release, their wares—both good and bad—are now immortalized and plastered across millions of TV screens around the world. Mom and Dad must be proud.
The track selection here is pretty solid, despite a few curiosities. “Louder Than Hell” is B-grade Crüe material and the fact that it is played here and not, “Smokin’ In The Boys Room,” for example (one of the band’s biggest hits) is strange. Also, why does “Glitter,” the “hit” (if you can call it that) from GENERATION SWINE, get a brief treatment but why did NEW TATTOO not get any acknowledgement? I would also have enjoyed hearing some solo material played. Of course, I am only speaking of Neil’s stuff (“Sister of Pain” would sound real slick coming from this band) and not Methods of Mayhem, Brides of Destruction or 1958! What pains me most, though, is seeing Tommy Lee, a 44-year old Caucasian man, sinking ever deeper into the pit of clichéd hip-hop slang, delivering lines like “Yeeeeeah!” and the aforementioned “Bring it!” to a crowd of mostly over-thirty suburban White people. If the image of Lee honking a boat horn with his penis hasn’t burned itself into my brain forevermore, seeing a man I once looked at as a drum god in rainbow dreadlocks rapping with Methods of Mayhem has surely done irreversible damage. I guess the saying is true that “once you go black, you can never go back.”
CARNIVAL OF SINS LIVE is tagged at around $20, so value-wise this is a no-brainer over the double CD of the same show that was released late in 2005. The whole premise of the band’s tour was to create a circus-like spectacle to coincide with the music and give fans a real visual treat and they certainly succeed. Mötley Crüe has sounded better but those days are long gone. They have also sounded a lot worse and, thankfully, those days are also (hopefully) gone. Fans looking for a bit of nostalgia will be delighted with this package and find much to rekindle memories of the time but it is difficult to look past the limitations of the band as they are today. The first half of the show is nearly flawless but things really fall apart in the final hour and the inferiority of the band’s later material is clearly evident. Nobody ever accused Mötley Crüe of being an overly-talented band and there is no telling how much of a future this group of misfits has but CARNIVAL OF SINS LIVE shows the group still has some flex left in their tiring muscles.