Review and photos by John Jeffrey
Buffalo, NY - When it was announced that Motley Crue would be coming back to the Western New York area for another leg of their "Farewell Tour," which will wrap up on New Years Eve at the Staple Center in Los Angeles (with talk of one FINAL show in 2016 at the Whisky A Go Go to coincide with their 35th anniversary), we here at Rock Music Star were undecided on whether we would review the tour again, since we reviewed the concert they did last summer at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. Considering it was over a year later, and this concert would be held in an indoor venue (Buffalo's First Niagara Center), we were interested in seeing how the tour (featuring opener Alice Cooper) had evolved - if at all - and were at least optimistic that we would see Tommy Lee's "Crucify" drum solo spectacle, considering most of the outdoor venues were unable to accommodate the massive roller coaster type structure, which elevates Lee and his drumset up and over the crowd while performing his solo. Now with all of the controversy surrounding this show, due to the fact that Tommy did not play the drums during Motley's set (he did play the piano parts of the encore, "Home Sweet Home"), it seems like it would be remiss if we did not review this show.
Usually when reviewing a show, I stick to my own viewpoint and how I perceived the concert from my own vantage point and try to not really read any other people's reviews, if there are any that get posted before we get ours up on the site. However, in this case, within a matter of hours after the show, there were tons of fan reviews all over social media and by morning, even the Buffalo News had posted their review, which was perhaps the most scathing review I ever read about any concert...EVER! Yikes!
The general consensus of most reviews was that the concert was a complete bomb, with Tommy Lee's absence (which there are conflicting stories circulating regarding Tommy being MIA, from initial reports of Lee having tendinitis in his elbow, to an inflamed wrist from a reported pre-show skate boarding incident, and even a Facebook video posted by Nikki Sixx stating that Tommy has something wrong with his hand) being the main cause for this supposed sub-par performance. I understand that some people may have been disappointed, considering this may be last time they see Motley Crue perform, and that it was not the original band playing the entire set, but having seen their "Farewell" tour 2 times prior, if anyone was dissatisfied with the quality of the show, it had nothing to do with Tommy Lee not being behind the drums.
What I personally witnessed was a half-filled First Niagara Center enthusiastically enjoying what will most likely be the last time "Motley Crue" will ever play the WNY area. I didn't hear any booing, I didn't see anyone complaining or people walking out in protest. I almost feel like I was at a completely different concert than the one people are depicting in their reviews. In fact, I think some of these people who wrote these disparaging reviews didn't seem to know what to expect and/or never seen Motley Crue live before.
For people claiming that Alice Cooper drummer Glen Sobel (who filled in for Lee this night and the next 2 subsequent shows) was being hidden by dim lighting on the drum set, let me tell you something, the lighting is exactly the same as when Tommy Lee is behind the kit. And with it being no secret that Motley Crue plays to backing tracks (featuring pre-recorded background vocals, guitars, keyboards and percussion), while Sobel did an admiral job filling in, any drummer who can play to a click track and has basic knowledge of the Crue tunes could have filled in easily. While Glen may have missed a couple of fills and botched a few endings, he certainly kept up his end in the performance. If anyone should be to blame for a poor performance, the most guilty party would have to be guitarist Mick Mars. As of late, Mars has displayed the tendency to play off-time and off-key and falling out of sync with the backing tracks, like he did this night on "Looks That Kill," completely train wrecking the song.
Aside from Lee's absence, the second biggest complaint was regarding front man, Vince Neil. If any one has followed Motley Crue and seen them live, they know that Vince and co., do not come from the Pink Floyd school of doing everything live - like it is on the record. If anything, Vince comes from the school of David Lee Roth, usually singing 1 outta 3 lyrics in a line of any given song. I really didn't see much difference in Vince's performance than any performance I've seen him do over the past 10 years.
Like I posted in my review of last year's show at Darien Lake, Motley Crue has never been a "great" live band, but over the years they've learned how to compensate their shortcomings by putting on a hell of a show, and in my opinion, last Wednesday's show was a typical Motley show. And a typical Motley show is a better production than many of the rock shows you will see on the circuit today.
To play "Devil's advocate," perhaps one of the reasons some people came away disappointed with Motley's musical showmanship is due to how great and nearly flawless opener Alice Cooper is live. Since Alice left the ACG group in the mid 1970's, 'da Coop' has taken it upon himself to always assemble a kick-ass backing band and his current lineup is no exception. Alice and his "#1," Tommy Henriksen (rhythm guitar) are flanked by the best lead guitarist (Ryan Roxie) and bassist (Chuck Garric) Alice has ever had in band since Michael Bruce and Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Glen Sobel is right up there with drummers Eric Singer and Neal Smith. Guitarist Nita Strauss fills the role of "eye candy" for the testosterone filled, mostly male audience. Nita is a great performer, but her style reminds more of the 80's 'shredders' Alice had in his band years ago, like Vinnie Moore and Al Pitrelli, which in my opinion, detracts from the authentic sound the classic Cooper material requires.
All in all, I really enjoyed the concert as a whole. Instead of looking at it at as a downer that Tommy Lee wasn't playing drums, I looked it at as being at a "special" show, seeing a talented drummer like Glen Sobel step up when needed. For all the people who bitched and complained about the whole ordeal, I'm sure more people who have been upset if Motley Crue had canceled their last concert ever in Buffalo, NY. Motley Crue R.I.P.