Do Motley Crue Owe Fans an Apology for Reuniting? Roundtable
After four not-very-long years in retirement, Motley Crue are back. How should fans feel about it?
After literally blowing up the cessation of touring agreement that they created to keep themselves from performing together again at the conclusion of their farewell tour, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars are reportedly planning to hit the road with Def Leppard and Poison next year.
Some fans are crying foul, saying they were duped into spending money on what was supposed to be a final goodbye; others are excited to have their favorite band back. We asked four of our writers what they think of all this commotion and what they expect from Motley Crue's return to the stage.
Describe your feelings about Motley Crue’s reunion: excited, amused, angry?
Matthew Wilkening: Amused, slightly bewildered, hopeful. It's only rock 'n' roll, right? I mean, you could say they really painted themselves into a corner with that contract and all those promises, but all along all they had to do was say "screw it" and decide that they didn't care about getting tracks on the floor. It's hard to imagine anybody getting real-life angry about this. Just don't go, and that last tour can still be your farewell to Motley Crue. But you're probably missing out on one heck of a spectacle. It is really surprising how quickly they changed their minds after making such big promises not to do so, but none of us are getting any younger, so they might as well do it now.
Mitch Lafon (Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon): The Crue reunion and talked-about package tour is the greatest news since Kiss played for (no) sharks. It’s epic. My music world will fall silent soon enough. We’re down to 10-15 years, then all our heroes/artists will be gone. So, GIVE ME MORE!
Martin Kielty: Unsurprised and a little bit amused. The fact that the “Cessation of Touring” document was never revealed, and that they more or less admitted at the time they could break it if they wanted to, added up to a great big nothing. I do think they intended to split, and I think it was an interesting gimmick to achieve the “go out with a bang” vibe they wanted – but it was always just a gimmick. I’m grateful to them for giving us news guys a new headline to use – although a lot of people just went with the straight story: that Motley Crue were playing a farewell tour.
Michael Christopher: I’m psyched. I love those songs and can’t wait to see them perform live again. And if this rumored tour with Def Leppard and Poison comes about next year, even better. That’s one night instead of three to see a trio of iconic '80s bands with a ton of hits between them. It’s going to be great for music and people-watching, and will make the summer that much more enjoyable. I am surprised it happened so soon, but with the success of The Dirt, they couldn’t wait.
Many fans on social media are upset because they spent a lot of money thinking the last tour was really a farewell. Is their anger justified? Does the band need to apologize?
Wilkening: No need for apologies. Motley Crue are far from the first band to renege on a retirement promise, although they set new standards that may never be matched in both the "Here's how serious we are about never coming back" and "Here's how quickly we came back" departments. I guess if you spent a ton of money to buy great seats because you really thought this would be your last chance to see the band, I feel a little bad for you. But also, I gently ask: How could you actually believe that? With the notable exception of Mick Mars, they were all in their mid-50s when they concluded their farewell tour. Of course they were going to come back.
Kielty: I’d say it can still be the last time you saw Motley Crue if you wanted it to be. The band mentioned a “new generation of Crueheads” as one of the reasons behind their return, and with the buzz around The Dirt, I don’t think that’s just a gimmick phrase. I’d say to anyone who still thinks that a farewell tour always means farewell: Look around. I don’t think they need to apologize for living through the experience of having split up, gone away, missed it, found themselves in a blur of new attention and thought, “Hey, maybe it’s worth another go.” Changing your mind is allowed in life, and should maybe happen more often than it does. Now, if they come back only to do another farewell tour, well, that’s different.
Lafon: Won’t get fooled again. You saw what you saw. Embrace it. But be it the Who, Kiss, Scorpions, Status Quo, Thunder ... should I go on? People change, situations change. Creative people can’t simply walk away, even if they say the can. Plus, the money ain’t bad.
Christopher: No, because at the end of the day they did some smart business, and it goes against Nikki Sixx’s late-career adoption of a punk aesthetic to apologize for anything. But if they were smart, they’d make some sort of concession for those fans who paid upward of $4,500 for the meet-and-greet package the last time around to meet everyone except for Tommy Lee. That’s a massive amount of scratch to drop, even if they did get a limited-edition commemorative laminate and lanyard, and it was a ridiculously inflated cost because it was under the pretense of being the very last time to get to see the guys all in one room. Do some sort of free cattle-call VIP thing for those folks to thank them for coming back out and seeing the band again, and ask if they ever learned to play the custom autographed guitar they got the last time for shelling out all that dough.
In addition to potential fan backlash, do you foresee any other possible pitfalls?
Wilkening: Hopefully Vince Neil figures out a new approach to performing these songs live. YouTube and social media sites are filled with videos documenting his recent struggles, some even adding sarcastic subtitles and commentary from vocal coaches. Obviously, singers face difficulties guitarists and drummers don't have to deal with in terms of aging and changing vocal ranges. But the gaps in his performance on the last tour were made even more noticeable because of how great the rest of the band sounded.
Kielty: Sure, some folk will feel ripped off, but for a real fan I’d say the chance to see their favorite band again isn’t something to lash back about. But the most obvious pitfall is that they can’t deliver. I saw Crue four or five times in the years leading up to the “end,” and while they were pretty good once, they were more often average, and once (at Sonisphere in 2010), they were brutally, unacceptably shit. We know people can go away, reset themselves and come back as strong as they need to be – Bruce Dickinson and Elton John, for example – but is that what Crue have done? Is there a reason why they’ve placed themselves among two other big-name bands in a package tour? Time will tell.
Lafon: Stadiums are tough to fill. That could be an issue. Health and playing to tapes could be a pitfall. But if you come out swinging live, truly live, then this can only be a shot in the arm to the biz.
Christopher: It’s too soon. Yes, they may have gotten a bunch of new fans based on The Dirt movie, but not enough to fill a stadium every night. Look back at the Final Tour: When the second leg of that came through the secondary markets, a bunch of them had really soft tickets sales. Doing a reunion tour this quickly could backfire, and it remains to be seen if Def Leppard – who already tour regularly – and Poison will be enough to offset that. Then there’s Vince Neil. The knock on his live singing is nothing new, but there’s no question his vocals have been a special kind of mess in recent years. To get back to a minimally acceptable level, he’s got to lose a bunch of that weight so his breathing isn’t so labored and he can get out every fourth word of a verse instead of every 14th. Then there’s the health of Mick Mars. The public hasn’t seen him in four years, and back in 2013 Neil and Lee cited the guitarist’s arthritic condition as the reason they couldn’t keep touring – though Mars denied it. So it will be interesting to see the shape he is in. Finally, there’s the relations between band members. It’s pretty common knowledge that Lee is totally uninterested in playing rock 'n' roll. He’s said so as early as 2005 when that VH1 documentary Resurrecting Motley Crue was being filmed that he didn’t want to go out and play those same songs every night. And if they do go on the road with the proposed triple bill, it will be a somewhat truncated set with only the hits, which he could get tired of really fast and create tension with the rest of the group.
Exactly what is Tommy Lee going do to top himself in the drum-solo stunt department?
Wilkening: Much like the Fast and Furious movie franchise, it seems the only territory left to conquer is rocketing into outer space. It's also fun to wonder if they're gonna reclaim the stage props they say Kiss stole from them.
Kielty: There will be limits on the stage set given that two other bands will be using it, so that’s got to be considered. What about instead of the kit moving, Tommy moves? Have hundreds of drums slung in a circle above the stage, facing in, and have Tommy levitated to fly round them, using the ones in his reach to keep a beat going while he circles the stadium? Or maybe, at the end of the set, his kit actually blasts into the sky, taking him with it, and landing by parachute somewhere beyond the performance area? Or maybe not.
Lafon: How about not do one. Do the unexpected! How about that. I only need so much time to pee during a show.
Christopher: Go back in time. The people that never got the chance to see the Crue in their heyday also never got to experience the spinning kit as seen in the “Wild Side” video or the one that went out over the crowd during the Dr. Feelgood trek. Do something that combines all those aspects, because, honestly, attempting to top the Cruecifly is going to put someone in the hospital.
if you could wave a magic wand and make any band in rock history reunite for one show in your hometown, who would it be? Why?
Wilkening: Since we've got magic powers, Led Zeppelin with John Bonham noses out Jimi Hendrix and a Bon Scott-fronted AC/DC by the smallest of margins. Take away the reincarnation option and my answer becomes Talking Heads.
Kielty: Scottish rock icons the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Firstly, because I never saw Alex perform live despite having written his band’s official memoir, and secondly, because I miss my dear friend, SAHB drummer Ted McKenna.
Lafon: Really? The answer is Ace, Peter, Paul and Gene -- you know, the Kiss that is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the hearts and minds of many rock soldiers around the globe. It’s the will of the people!
Christopher: While the Beatles are the obvious answer here, they never got to grow into a truly great live band, so I’m gonna go with the Doors. Listening to some of those recently released archival albums like London Fog 1966 and Live in Pittsburgh 1970 shows that when they were having a good night, they were on. To witness that in person would be incredible.
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