Motley Crue @ SECC, Glasgow, 09/12/11

Def Leppard/Motley Crue/Steel PantherUp until tonight I’ve never seen Mötley Crüe live. Though never their biggest fan, I’ve been listening to them for years and yet never spent the exuberant ticket price to go see them before. I’ve heard great things about their live shows in the past, and I’ve seen all sorts of stuff on the internet that I thought looked really cool, and so I built up the anticipation of a blinder of a gig. In my head, I’d already enjoyed the greatest show on Earth even before they come on stage.

But it’s said you should never meet your heroes, and although I wasn’t that lucky, I should have treated this event with the same trepidation as I believe I haven’t been so disappointed by a band in my entire life. Perhaps some of it was my own fault, but the dream just didn’t match the reality at all.

Before Mötley though, I wanted to see Steel Panther and so got in nice and early. They are a hugely entertaining band, putting on a superb show despite their extremely immature base humour. Where the two main headliners songs may strongly allude to sex and drugs, Steel Panther’s songs such as “Asian Hooker” and “17 Chicks In One Night” dispense with the subtlety from the outset, but instead of being just a cheap knob gag and some power chords, songs are built around great hooks, solo’s, tremendous vocals and some old school crowd pleasing showmanship worthy of their tour peers. Anyone thinking they’re just a ruder version of The Darkness is dead wrong, as they are a talented bunch of musicians.

Most surprising to me was the quality of the sound. It’s well documented in other reviews I’ve written that I do not like the SECC at all. It’s not a music venue, just a large tin shed that happens to host gigs as well as caravan, wedding and cooking road-shows and the like. I expect it to be poor and so when Steel Panther sounded almost immaculate, I was stunned. The drums were a little dull, but the guitar and bass were crisp and clear and sounded great, and most importantly the vocals could be heard clearly above the instruments. When the lyrics have such sly humour to them you really need to be able to hear them well and though I didn’t know a lot of the songs I could hear the words clearly and loved every second of it. There was also a fair amount of chat between the band and the crowd – surprising in a 30 minute or so support slot – but it was all humorous and pure entertainment.

After Steel Panther left the stage a lot of action took place behind a large curtain that had been present during the whole set as the crew got Motley set up. Then all of a sudden, with no notice, introductory bumf or fanfare, there was a huge bang, the curtain dropped, and Mötley Crüe were there. “Here we go!” I thought as the stage looked great with a huge metal Stargate like circle near the drums, some screens and a few lights that promised a decent stage show. And then Vince Neil sang and it all came crashing down. He sounded like he was doing a chipmunk impression for the entire show. I know he might not have the most dulcet of tones, but his vocal was god awful. And sadly it wasn’t just that.

Sound wise, it was all too loud, overpowered and overloaded. Any of the crispness from the support slot was gone and replaced by some hideous noise. Nikki Sixx might as well have left his bass at home as it was lost in the haze, and although Mick Mars’ guitar sounded not too bad during songs as I could follow the rhythm’s and riffs, he performed mini-interval solo’s every 4 songs or so which were a wreck. They were laden with distortion and effects and just failed to show what the man is truly capable of which is a damned shame. I’d like to say that it wasn’t just me that thought so. My compatriots I was at the show with were just as bemused by the poor quality of these solo slots as were a few other folk I spoke to during and after the show.

More bemusing to me was Tommy Lee’s drum solo. The coolest part was that the metal circle was in fact a mini roller coaster with huge screen behind it, and the drumkit spun around it back and forth to some cool visuals and fireworks as Tommy Lee took his turn at some solo action. Well, I think he did some drumming, because the spinning around was accompanied by a techno like soundtrack that the only clearly defined part that I could say he actually played was some heavy cymbal crash. I didn’t object to the soundtrack per se, but like my disappointment in Mick Mars’ guitar solo’s, I wanted to see Tommy Lee’s skills in action and felt left short changed. The visuals were cool and everything and I need to give them points for the stage show, but I’ve seen many a drummer giving it yee-haw in my time and this had too much pomp and not enough content for my liking.

Now I’d normally put most of these problems down to the venue, but after hearing Steel Panther’s great sound, there’s no reason why Mötley should’ve have sounded the same or better. The sound guy should’ve been shot. Or maybe they’re all just getting on a bit and should give it a rest as many of my grievances stem from not seeing or hearing what I wanted to from a Mötley Crüe show. I’m reliably informed they were a hell of a lot better on Sunday in Manchester, so maybe it was just an off night, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better about this night.

To be fair, they did begin to sound a lot better by the end, as if someone had either woken up or replaced the sound guys, but by then it was too late. The damage had been done and my dreams of an immense Mötley Crüe show were busted.

At this point in the review I’d normally carry on to the headliner slot Def Leppard. I’m not much of a fan and only really went to see Steel Panther and Mötley Crüe, so I must admit I didn’t really take much notice of them at all and in fact left early. It should be stated the early exit was not because of their show or sound as both blew Mötley out of the water being bigger and better in almost every way. I feel it’s unfair to review them when I didn’t really watch it, so I’ll just say the half set or so I saw was pretty good.

I’ve been told that last time Mötley Crüe hit Glasgow with the “Carnival of Sins” tour they were considerably better and so I wished for something as exciting. Some of the visuals and flair were there, but sadly the music just wasn’t there to back it up. It’s a real shame, and a very disappointing performance in a week of great gigs.

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