KISS vs Motley Crue

As many of you know, I’m a huge KISS fan. It happened one day when I heard the live drum/rap during 100,000 Years and then saw the face-painted super heroes with guitars on the cover of Alive I. How could a ten-year-old kid in 1978 NOT like KISS?

Time wore on and KISS took off their make-up in 1983. My interest waned a bit. I still picked up every album and I enjoyed seeing them on MTV when MTV still played music videos. However, I found a new band that was for all intents and purposes KISS-lite: Motley Crue.

Motley Crue wore make-up. They played hard driving, hard drinking, hard dick rock and roll. I saw the video for “Looks That Kill” and immediately bought the cassette tape. If KISS was right coast, then Motley Crue was left coast 200%.

Over the years, I expanded my musical tastes (no, really…). However, I still consider KISS my favorite band and I have the Motley Crue boxed set and I think no less than four different greatest hits CDs. I’ve seen KISS live, I think, ten times. Believe me, some of those shows all run together. I’ve seen Motley Crue only once, bought a concert T-shirt, gave it to a pretty girl and never saw the shirt or the girl ever again.

So anyway, I still followed the bands through their various incarnations and even bought a few of the off-shoot bands and solo efforts. Can you say Frehley’s Comet and Tommyland?

KISS reunited a few years ago and basically took the concert world by storm. They reminded people what a rock show is supposed to look like and everyone brought their A-game to the scene. All you have to do is watch the KISS: Second Coming DVD to get a good sense of how well the band was doing on stage and off. It was great to see the boys back in make-up and doing what they do best. It was great to see Ace and Peter back with the band. The promise of a new studio album and a general re-emergence of the band started happening.

It all crashed and burned. Not all at once, but Ace and Peter reminded me why they weren’t in the band for quite some time. They suck musically. Peter is old and he can’t play the drums anymore. Ace is sloppy and while he can still play, they sounded muddy and off on plenty of songs. Neither could do any of the material between Creatures of the Night and Revenge and that’s a ton of good songs. Their concerts became boring and repetitious.

Motley Crue crashed pretty early. Theater of Pain has two songs on it and the rest is filler. Girls, Girls, Girls has two songs and the rest is filler. Dr. Feelgood is better, but not by much. After that, it was drugs, overdoses, sex tapes, hot blondes, bloated lead singers, solo albums, books and the list goes on and on.

Their reunion happened this past year and it was one that I thought would never see the light of day. Some of these guys truly hated each other. Read The Dirt to get the whole story. Finally, someone explained to the four that the amount of money that could be made was mind blowing.

First things first though, they needed Mick Mars healthy. I saw an MTV special on the beginnings of the reunion and the looks on the rest of the band’s faces as they see Mick for the first time in many years is truly shocking. He looks like death warmed over. In fact, on the tour he still looked like death warmed over.

My point being is that both bands are still viable. Both put out live DVDs and I’m going to review each. In short, both DVDs are worthy of purchase, especially if you love concerts, and are definitely worth a netflix rental.

Motley Crue: Carnival of Sins
I had heard that this tour was amazing, that they played a huge number of songs and that the stage show was second-to-none. After watching the DVD, I’m quickly in the “this was the best concert Motley Crue ever put on” camp. I only hope that they make a swing through Champaign. Assembly Hall could use some unicycle-riding midgets, fire-eating lesbian strippers, topless female fans and some good, old-fashioned Motley Crue music.

The DVD faithfully captures all the decadence and delivers on the promise of a mind blowing 2 and a half hours of music and mayhem. Before purchasing the DVD, I downloaded the set list in mp3 form to listen to. I didn’t know what to make of the opening until I saw the DVD and realized that it was a Claymation-style animated video. It’s fairly funny.

The video ends and the show starts. First, a midget in a clown mask cavorts on stage. Then two fishnet-and-lingerie-clad strippers emerge from a box on the stage, simulate sex, then make way for Vince Neil and the rest of the band who kick into the not-needed remix version of “Shout At The Devil.” Flames shoot out behind the drum kit and threaten to set the whole big top stage aflame.

Much like KISS used a few years ago when they used to play “Take it Off,” the strippers are there for in-between moments. However, the aerialists are pretty amazing and give the audience that crazy circus atmosphere and something to look at during the slow songs.

The band is tighter than I’ve ever heard them before roaring through their material like a football linebacker. Highlights include, “Looks That Kill,” “Too Young To Fall In Love,” “Home Sweet Home,” Live Wire” and “Kickstart My Heart.” Although, I tired quickly of watching Mick Mars’ skeletal pallor, Tommy Lee’s clown makeup, Vince Neil’s baby fat (didn’t he lose a ton of weight before the tour?) and bassist Nikki Sixx doing his best Gene Simmons impersonation.

A highlight of every tour, Lee’s drum solo was different this go around in that he was the one flying from drums to drums a hundred feet in the air. It was a cool effect and killer drum solo as well.

I remember when every other word out of the band was “Dude.” Now, it’s “fucking” used as a modifier for just about anything. The song isn’t “Red Hot,” it’s “Red Fucking Hot.” And I guess everyone in the band changed their middle name to “fucking” as Sixx and Lee introduce the band. I think I’ll start doing that with all my future projects.

The most entertaining portion of the show is when Tommy Lee gets out his “Tommy Cam” and attempts to convince the female fans up front to drop their tops. If you’ve ever been to a rock show, girls pulling up their shirts is par for the course. Tommy’s antics border on the “Girls Gone Wild” schtick and is amusing the first go around.

There are plenty of extras with videos, short documentaries and the like on the second disc. It’s fun for the Motley “Fucking” Crue fan in all of us.

KISS: Rock the Nation Live
I happened to see this tour twice and thought that it was by far one of the better KISS shows I’d ever seen. The musicianship was tight, the stage show was new and different and the set list was something that I’d been waiting for since I heard that Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer were in the band.

The DVD packaging is high quality and I was impressed with the video and audio. It’s clear that Tommy Thayer, who helped produce the DVD, knows what he’s doing. I like the attention to detail for the most part, but there’s a line that confuses most people regarding a documentary, which doesn’t appear like most documentaries on DVDs. Also, the DVD insert is amazingly sparse, but the photography is quite good.

As far as set lists go, this one is better than anything they’ve put together since before the reunion. Of course, now they have the musicians in the band that can actually play the songs. Peter Criss and a double bass kick do not go hand in hand. Thayer and Singer play circles around the originals, yet keep those old songs sounding as fresh as the day they were born.

The band plays some great 70s material and that’s the bulk of the list. There really isn’t anything wrong with the songs chosen. However, I’d probably drop “She.” The addition of “Makin’ Love” was nice though. They open with “Love Gun,” but I really wish they would have opened with “I Stole Your Love” like they did during the Alive II/Love Gun era since it’s one of my favorite songs.

Their 80s and 90s material is alright, but where’s “Creatures of the Night,” “Heaven’s on Fire,” “Forever” or “Psycho Circus?” I never liked “War Machine,” but hearing the rocked out version of “Tears Are Falling” is always fun. Again, if I had my druthers I’d drop “God Gave Rock and Roll To You.”

With KISS you not only get the songs, but the incredible visuals as well. They’ve finally abandoned the retread of the Alive II set and put together something new with the various video screens surrounding the stage. While the visual element was something new, I wasn’t totally happy with what they did with it. Next time, I’d add even more video and really do something new and innovative with it.

Gene and Paul get their moments to shine with Gene flying to the rafters after spitting blood and Paul flying out to the audience to sing up close and personal on his own individual stage. Tommy and Eric don’t get solos or much of the spotlight, but that’s alright. Their playing speaks volumes.

One of more interesting features on the DVD is what they call Powervision. With Powervision the viewer can choose to watch just one performer throughout a single song. The seven Powervision songs lets you be the director and switch between who you want to focus on.

The vignettes (the documentary pieces on the DVD packaging) are interesting. I especially liked the sound check and the warm up in Australia with the four just jamming and getting their harmonies down. I would have liked to have had the vignettes all in one documentary rather than interspersed with the concert because I think it breaks up the flow too much.

All in all, it’s a great show with the performers not showing their age too terribly much. I mean, yeah I know Gene and Paul are wearing wigs, but I don’t have to think too much about it. Vocally they are pretty much there, even though Gene growls too much and Paul can’t hit those high notes anymore. Both are helped by the impressive voice of Singer who hits many notes and generally makes Mssrs. Simmons and Stanley sound better.

When it comes down to it, they still make me wanna rock and roll all nite and party every day!