MOTLEY CRUE LAY 34-YEAR CAREER TO REST WITH “THE END’,

Concerts, Music reviews

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Farewell tours are tricky affairs. Bands come and go—and come back—members leave and return in revolving door fashion and some bands have only one original member left. In short, its not always pretty. In the process certain artists hurt their legacy by staying in the game too long. Mötley Crüe wanted a different kind of farewell.

Mötley Crüe shocked the world in January of 2014 when they announced to decision to call it quits. The Saints of Los Angeles had chosen to end the party sooner rather than later. The band signed a cessation of touring contract, a first in rock history, prior to embarking on a two-year long farewell. In true Crüe fashion, the event served as a tremendous publicity stunt. With displays of “RIP Mötley Crue”, complete with tombstones that read each band member’s name, it would prove to be one can’t miss funeral.

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The End press conference, London, England, 2014. Photo credit: Rolling Stone

If The End has taught us anything, it’s that Mötley Crüe was a wild, untamed beast for more than 34 years. A Mötley Crüe show remained a spectacular, reckless and even chaotic event right up to The End.

Complete with big choruses, pyrotechnics, stage production values, female backup singers and dancers in scantily clad outfits, tears and displays of emotions from the band and fans alike, The End is an exciting visual memento and the end of an era. From the bombast and fire that begins with “Girls, Girls, Girls” to Nikki Sixx adressing the audience, Tommy’s roller coaster drum solo, the flamethrower bass and Vince Neil in tears during the last song of the set “Home Sweet Home”, it’s a relentless, unforgettable journey. It’s one last big, epic, blow-out to top off a truly memorable career.

Let’s get one thing out-of-the-way. Anyone who’s been to a Crüe concert in the last decade can attest that frontman Vince Neil’s voice is not what it once was—by a long shot, some would say—and its true [It becomes especially evident on the live CD of the concert]. In the dysfunctional environment that is Mötley Crüe, however, it works.

Vince Neil’s voice and charisma is part of what made the band so successful. Neil remains one of rock’s ultimate frontmen. Even if his voice isn’t quite up to par at times, the energy and excitement level is there.

Nikki Sixx does a commendable job of looking like one of the coolest human beings on the planet. These are his songs and this is his band. The flamethrower bass bit would make Gene Simmons blush.

Tommy Lee lays down a beat like only he can, providing a solid groove and backbone for the band. While performing a drum solo on his roller coaster contraption, the whole stops unexpectedly in mid-air, Lee’s reaction is nothing short of exceptional.

Perhaps most impressive of all is Mick Mars, Crüe’s sole guitarist. Mars often falls under the radar whenever the band is mentioned, but his playing never ceases to impress even after all these years.

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An emotional Vince Neil in tears during “Home Sweet Home”.

Mötley Crüe’s imperfections are exactly what made them a perfect rock band. Rock was never about perfection. Somehow, when these four beings come together magic happens. New year’s eve 2015 would be the last time this magic would be displayed. Thankfully, the Crüe’s send-off was captured in high-definition for the whole world to relive over and over.

The End comes in standalone DVD or Blu-Ray edition and in DVD/CD, Blu-Ray/CD packaging.

Objectively, the live CD is not incredible—most of the blame can be attributed to Neil’s singing— but the excitement of Mötley Crüe’s last concert was captured and that’s enough. The heart wrenching version of “Home Sweet Home” is almost worth the price of admission alone.

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Nikki Sixx, litterally in the heat of the moment. Photo: Motley.com

The cinematography however, is among the best I’ve seen in a concert film. The cameras capture every bit: the action, emotions and pyrotechnics with beautiful wide angles, just enough slow motion bits, subtle close-ups and depth-of-field shots that would make any rock band envious. Concert cinematography has always been about the emotion and feel, less so about the visuals. The End stands in a category of its own. It sets a template for the next generation of live rock documentation.

There’s a documentary portion just before the concert that serves as a reminder of the dedication fans have for this band. It also legitimizes how big of a draw and band Mötley Crüe really was. The End comes with a few extras. Nikki Sixx talks about his flamethrower bass and Tommy Lee details the history behind his roller coaster drum set.

There are a few more interview that will no doubt be interesting and give insight to fans. Take this particularly one with Nikki Sixx for instance:

“The fact that we’ve lasted is a miracle. Maybe that’s why we’re putting a bullet in its head…We know it’s inevitable that we’re going to break up or blow up or something. Maybe we’re just doing it before it happens anyway. We shouldn’t have lasted this long,” says Sixx in the interview portion of The End.

If anything, The End is a proper send off for Mötley Crüe and one heck of a burial. One final motorcycle ride under the sunset for one of the all time great rock bands. It’s reassuring to see a farewell done right in the world of rock, a landscape where the word “retirement” isn’t always taken seriously. I’ve never been this happy and sad watching a concert on home video.

RIP Mötley Crüe, 1981-2015, you will be missed.

mcrue2.jpg                                                                           Photo cred: Ultimateclassicrock.com

LIVE DVD TRACK LISTING:

1.) Intro
2.) Girls, Girls, Girls
3.) Wild Side
4.) Primal Scream
5.) Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S)
6.) Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
7.) Rock N Roll Part II / Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room
8.) Looks That Kill
9.) Motherf***** Of The Year
10.) In The Beginning / Shout At The Devil
11.) Louder Than Hell
12.) Drum Solo
13.) Guitar Solo
14.) Saints Of Los Angeles
15.) Live Wire
16.) T.N.T (Terror ‘N Tinseltown) / Dr. Feelgood
17.) Kickstart My Heart
18.) Home Sweet Home
19.) My Way (Credits)

LIVE CD TRACK LISTING:
1.) Intro
2.) Girls, Girls, Girls
3.) Wild Side
4.) Primal Scream
5.) Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
6.) Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
7.) Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room
8.) Looks That Kill
9.) Mutherf***** Of The Year
10.) Shout At The Devil
11.) Louder Than Hell
12.) Saints Of Los Angeles
13.) Live Wire
14.) Dr. Feelgood
15.) Kickstart My Heart
16.) Home Sweet Home

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Entertaining but should have been more -3 1/2*

Movie reviews

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Super Duper Alice Cooper, Banger Films, 2014.

I’ve been following Canadian television and film production company Banger Films and their numerous projects with great interest for years now.  Sam Dunn and his crew have done wonderful work paying tribute to bands like Rush and Iron Maiden, as well as producing cultural relevant films on Metal (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey is still a favourite, and Global Metal is worth its salt) and two TV series no less in the form of Metal Evolution and Rock Icons aired on VH1.

When Banger Films announced Super Duper Alice Cooper in 2013 I was excited. I’ve been a fan of Alice Cooper —the man and the band— for most of my life and Banger Films had done tremendous work covering subjects I loved up to that point.

I had hopes that Super Duper Alice Cooper would cover Alice’s entire career, but much to my chagrin it did not. Some events and entire decades are glossed over. The documentary ends rather abruptly and would have you believe all Alice Cooper did anything after 1986 was tour. That is not the case. Alice experienced renewed creativity and one his most prolific decade as an artist in the ’00s, he is constantly touring and still records to this day as a solo artist and with side projects (Hollywood Vampires).

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“Welcome to my documentary, I hope you’re gonna like it.”

I get that with a man who had such a long and illustrated career it would have made for a what would’ve surely amounted to overly long documentary project.  I still feel like this documentary was a missed opportunity. For instance, his early 80’s output —as out there and bizarre as they were— are fascinating and musically diverse, yet completely ignored here. Instead they focus on Alice’s personal problems. It would have been nice to hear more about them and ask Alice (even though he doesn’t remember them he can still share thoughts, the man has admitted to hearing genius when he listens to albums like DaDa). Or perhaps why his Lace And Whisky album was such a brilliant album but a complete departure musically.

Banger Films focused more on a Behind The Music approach and the good old shock value factor associated to the Alice Cooper name. For the uninitiated, curious mind or casual fan, Super Duper Alice Cooper is a much more rewarding experience because it paints a portrait of Alice Cooper the man and the band. The die-hard will lament what isn’t in the movie or the fact that we’ve seen or heard this before and that this is the same under a new decor. As such, it seems the filmmakers mostly show the viewer what is on the surface without scratching underneath. Therefore it ends up being a more appealing project to someone who isn’t obsessed with Alice Cooper but very appealing to a casual fan or intrigued viewer.

With that said, what they do cover, what made it in and the presentation are all marvellous. The cinematography is incredible. Some footage and interviews I had never seen and they make for a rare treat providing insights of where Alice Cooper as a band was and who Vincent Furnier was (or at least, becoming). One particular moment during an interview from 1982 shows Furnier as an almost tragic figure, effectively demonstrating his descent in a downward spiral psychologically and physically.

Some of the footage paints very vivid and strong images of the band and Alice. The live footage is great, watching the band play, executions, Alice kissing girls.. There’s a lot of captivating footage and visuals but maybe not as much for the die-hard fans who may have seen (or know) it all already. The bonus interviews that didn’t make the cut are certainly worth watching.

The storytelling is vivid and effective, mostly done by Cooper himself along with some guests and people who contributed (featuring Bob Ezrin and Iggy Pop among others). Even though we may know the story of the Alice Cooper band it never gets old hearing it from those who lived it. It’s great to hear former members of the classic AC band, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, but a shame that Michael Bruce didn’t make it in. They don’t get a lot of air time but it was nice to have their voices heard at least.

Most fans seem to absolutely love Super Duper Alice Cooper while a few seem to think it’s lacking or doesn’t tell them anything they don’t already know. It think it falls short of being the definitive Cooper documentary. One can assume that had Banger Films had more screen time (or a second disc) this could’ve been it.

The documentary itself makes for great viewing and is very enjoyable. Between the presentation of audio, visuals and animations (who reminded me of History of the Eagles and served to enhance the product), Super Duper Alice Cooper  brought the story of Alice Cooper to life. I can’t deny that even though I enjoyed the documentary, I anticipated more. This time Banger Films went for a more traditional approach to filmmaking and used a lot of footage and voice overs and ultimately it makes it less effective than their previous work. As much as I love Banger Films and Alice Cooper I’m giving Super Duper Alice Cooper a 3.5/5. Worth the price of admission but don’t expect the world.

An original Alice Cooper band members speaks up

Book reviews

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Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My adventures in the Alice Cooper group, Thomas Dunne Books, Dunaway Dennis, 2015.

 

For the longest time there had been no official account (so to speak) book or memoir on the subject of one of my all time favourite bands: the original Alice Cooper group. I’m talking of course about Alice Cooper the band, not the person who later found fame using that same name.

At last we have an original band member write a book (Alice himself did, but a lot of it was about golf) covering the journey of the original band from 1969-74 where this crazy band produced a string of fabulous and classic Rock albums and shocking, dangerous live shows all while being a parent’s worst nightmare. Former bassist Dennis Dunaway gave himself the duty of presenting fans with a such book that would essentially cover all aspects of the group from it’s inception to it’s imminent break-up. Dunaway set out to give fans something to really sink their teeth into.

Reading about the band’s personalities prior to their ascension in High School and the subsequent changes in band names was interesting, like you were there yourself. Their clubbing and moving to LA and the colourful characters they met (including Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin) made for fascinating stories. Dennis’s relationship with drummer Neil Smith’s sister and future Cindy made for good reading as well although you’d think he would’ve talked of her more.

There’s a lot of alcohol, sex and debauchery as one would expect from a Rock N’ Roll memoir, but it’s not particularly glorified. Developing the Alice Cooper sound and creating the stage show and effects was a band effort, but clearly Dunaway had a major presence in terms of pitching in, coming up with ideas and making it happen. I sincerely don’t think he is given enough credit. I also believe he’s not trying to get more spotlight by sharing all the important things he did as part of the Alice Cooper group.

Dunaway can tell a story and keep you guessing. He dismisses some myths and tells is exactly where it came from (for instance, Alice Cooper always says he got the band name from a Ouija board, but Denis tells another story). Or how about the fact that Frank Zappa wanted to call the band Alice Cookies? Meeting Jim Morison alone is a few stories.

What’s truly amazing is how well he encapsulates his band members’ personalities into these pages. How vividly they come across. Almost as if you knew them your whole life, you don’t know them but you feel like you do. THAT is a rare thing in books, especially in the autobiography department. This is as much insight as you’ll ever get into the Alice Cooper Group.

One gets the feeling that there isn’t enough of Dennis Dunaway himself in the book. Sure, his output speaks for itself and he tells splendidly the tale and debaucheries of the early days. Yet the book begins and essentially ends with Alice Cooper, the band and person.

You get the feeling that his life leading up to meeting Cooper wasn’t much worth speaking of including and the boon would lead you to think that he barely did anything after the band was over (ever so casually mentioning he has two kids, did a side project and played in Blue Coop. The book essentially starts with meeting Alice and ends with the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame ceremony Dunaway’s book is focused solely and exclusively on his experience in the Alice Cooper band. So much that there are no pictures after 1974!

It’s great to read early tales of a young Dennis and his friend Alice -then known as Vincent Furnier- as fun and immature students in art classes. Some interesting moments such as Dunaway working on his grandparents’ farm to earn money to buy a bass. Or how his father was reluctant about his becoming a musician. Yet the book leaves you wondering what happened in Dennis’s life after the original Alice Cooper band’s implosion. Barely anything other than a wikipedia entry in that sense.

The tale itself is something hardcore fans will want to read, no doubt. They will devour it l’m sure with as much anticipation and intensity as l did… But end up finishing quickly and wanting more. More stories and wanting to know the author a bit more which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

Why not five stars? It’s a good read and some moments stand out it’s just that knowing how long Dunaway has talked about his book (since the late 90s) l was inclined to expect well, more. It’s a quick read that goes by all too fast. I thought after all these years it would be longer and have more content.

It’s one of those bios that although they cover the subject, leave you feeling like you don’t know them. It works much better as a biography of the Alice Cooper band but even then it’s very quick for the time spent on this project. What l like is how Denis is just focused on telling it like it was and he never says about word about anyone and doesn’t hold grudges; quite opposite, he’s thankful. The Alice Cooper band was a journey and a lot of the essence and aura is captured here. It was time we someone set the story straight and told the fans. 4/5 stars.