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Motley Crue/Poison - July 24, 2011 - Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA

By: David E. Gehlke

'Twas a very balmy night in Pittsburgh and without the benefit of pavilion seating at the freshly-opened Stage AE, lots of people were to going to bake in the sun for Poison and Motley Crue. Not that anyone seemed to mind in their relatively inebriated state (yours truly and his girlfriend drank water...and lots of it), for this was a veteran rock crowd, which means the visual of women dressing half their age and dudes operating without a shirt who really should be operating with a shirt, was going to be in full-effect. Oh, and there was lots of cowboy hats, thank you very much Bret Michaels.

Seen as a logical pairing considering both came from the same era of arena rock, the tandem of Motley Crue and Poison (along with New York Dolls) has enjoyed a kick in the rear from the hype machine, most notably Nikki Sixx, who was gone out of his way to bad-mouth Poison whenever he can. Apparently Sixx has an issue with Poison's "credibility," which is a tad bemusing - Sixx perhaps realizes his band isn't the draw they once were, needing an ample support act to fill the seats. Such an attempt at saving face should be seen merely as a matter of creating some faux feud...these bands are too old to fight. Plus, how can anyone not like Bret Michaels? Dude is like the nicest guy, ever.

Anyway, The New York Dolls were up first, fronted by the very Mick Jagger-like David Johansson. Mobility apparently isn't of his long-suits, as the singer was pretty stationary throughout, letting his band do most of the work during a fun, but shallow 40-minute set. For a bunch of guys who used to prowl the boards in the early 70s, it's awfully difficult to see men trying to keep songs like "Pills," and "Personality Crisis" alive.

Always a good draw in Pittsburgh, Poison were quick to make repeated references to the various sports teams in this town, something that causes this scribe to cringe given his unabashed love for Cleveland sports teams. Perhaps the most unintentionally comedic moment of the night came when a "Terrible Towel" landed on the throne of drummer Rikki Rockett, who proceeded to use it to wipe the sweat off his brow the entire set! Rockett must be unaware that these towels are considered a sacred article here...but it was a great visual. The band sounded pretty crystalline, rolling out the expected array of shallow, vapid hits such as "Look What the Cat Dragged In," "Ride the Wind," and "Unskinny Bop."

Minus Rockett’s unneeded drum solo (perhaps Michaels needed to switch bandanas), Poison’s set was all-fun, all the time. The expected “Every Rose Has A Thorn,” “Talk Dirty To Me” and set closer “Nothing But A Good Time” finished out a 50-minute set, demonstrating that while there is absolutely zero substance to the band’s songs, they really are nothing but a good time…as long as we do have to listen to them for another few years.

Enjoying a reception that was half that of Poison's, Motley Crue played it safe by playing a virtual "best-of" set. Vince Neil started off strong on "Wildside," "Saints of Los Angeles," and "Shout At the Devil," only to gradually fade as the show progressed. With the annoying habit of pulling the microphone away from his mouth while trying to finish a vocal line, Neil was infinitely less audible than Michaels, struggling to keep songs like "Home Sweet Home" and "Dr. Feelgood" above water. Suitably, a pair of scantily-clad dancers provided the necessary distraction and vocal support for Neil, who is a mere shell of his former self.

Still, there's plenty of gas left in the rest of the band's tank, specifically drummer Tommy Lee who remains one of the better rock drummers of this generation. His 360-degree drum solo (set to the tune of “Love Rollercoaster”) was fun to watch, and his double-bass skills are still strong (see: “Livewire”). And while it’s clear the band is well past its prime (how Mick Mars is still functioning is anyone’s guess) and the fire just isn’t there, the songs hold up remarkably well. Just makes someone want to jump in a time machine, that’s all.



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