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Monday, June 27, 2011

Mötley Crüe, Poison and New York Dolls @ The Bradley Center

June 25, 2011

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Though it faces stiff competition from rap-rock, hair metal is still the most widely derided sub-genre that rock has ever spawned. Seemingly created for people who loved the shred and wail of heavy metal but could do without all the doom and gloom (as well as those who dug the dress-up of glam but not the gender politics), the genre took a nose dive when grunge broke in the early 1990s, making all its self-indulgence and excess seem ridiculous. Although continually (and usually fearfully) noted to be next in line on the retro revival chain, the style has shown little sign of resurgence, and, despite notable defenders like Chuck Klosterman, the general public doesn't really seem to mind.

Yet, there are enough people who love this music dearly to nearly fill the cavernous Bradley Center. Nostalgia seemed to be the driving factor, considering the general age range of the crowd, but there was also a surprisingly large contingent of younger fans. Aside from the religious protesters outside (whom I found amusingly misguided—though to be fair, it's tough to stay current on pop music when you're busy shaming people), the overall vibe was something like a county fair being held in an airport.

The choice of New York Dolls as openers is at once understandable and completely baffling. Sure, the band's fingerprints are all over any rock group wearing tights and teased hair, but they also carry considerable weight in much hipper circles. Or at least they did. Without founding members Arthur “Killer” Kane and Johnny Thunders, respectively the beating heart and doomed soul of the group, an ancient-looking Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen (in an outfit that looked like what Mick Jagger wears to business lunches) limply ran through their classic catalog as well as cuts from their new album, propped up by a cartoonishly “punk” backing band.

Next up was Poison, with a slick, highly choreographed set featuring all of their hits, a few covers (“We're an American Band”) and some egregious soloing from guitarist C.C. DeVille. I don't think drummer Rikki Rockett stopped twirling his drumsticks the whole show, lest someone be looking.

Playing a set determined by online fan voting—fans, mostly, like hits—Mötley Crüe did everything they could to make you feel like you'd walked into a music video. Fireworks, lights, girls with flamethrowers, Tommy Lee's absurd drum-kit-rollercoaster-loop-thing: It all combined into a blindingly gaudy cacophony. Musically, “Shout at the Devil,” “Girls, Girls, Girls,” etc. were faithfully rendered, with plenty of time in between for endless guitar and drum solos.

To be clear, I'm a strong supporter of flames shooting out of stuff, but between the endless gimmicks and the rote renditions of aging hits, the whole tortured spectacle felt like a cross between a jukebox musical and professional wrestling. The fans seemed to love every minute of it, but one got the sense that Poison and the Crüe cannily figured out what the fans wanted a long time ago. Now they just have to roll through town once a year, with a new tour T-shirt and a new set of bells and whistles.