By Kyle Osborne/The Examiner
KISS and Motley Crue launched their co-headlining tour last night at Jiffy Lube Live, and while opening night exposed a few minor technical bugs that will have to be worked out, the advantage of fresh voices, not yet ravaged by road fatigue, made for the best appearances either band has had at the Bristow, VA venue in years.
Motley Crue, last seen here opening for Aerosmith, were afforded a headliner’s full stage set-up and lighting. A Jumbotron screen featured a clock counting down to 8pm. As the second hand got closer and closer to the hour, it was apparent that things were a bit off—roadies still scrambled to finish a few important touches and, one noticed, it was already 8:07pm.
A minute later, lead singer Vince Neil led a mini-parade from the back of the house to the stage. Hoisting a flag and marching forward, Neil was followed by two scantily-clad women who, it turns out, would be very important to the show that was about to kick off. The stage set had a circular track made of tubular steel—and one of its first uses was to have the ladies hanging from it, performing aerial stunts that were a mixture of circus meets Vegas casino. It looked dangerous, and was immediately understandable why the technical crew needed extra time to ensure things were locked in and locked down securely.
Vince Neil, looking bloated and barrel-bodied, nevertheless sounded upbeat and on key. His last appearance marred by vocal difficulties, he seemed determined to go for the high notes and hit them. He may not have done many sit-ups lately, but he’s clearly been conditioning his vocal cords. The band kicked through “Saints of Los Angeles” “Wild Side,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.),” and “Looks That Kill”, barely taking a breath.
Drummer Tommy Lee’s drum solo took a new turn—for many years he’s done his solo strapped into a platform for a rotating, go upside-down, solo. This time, the circular track at center stage became his roller coaster and his drum riser was the de facto car. A preselected fan got to come onstage and take a ride with Lee, which was a nice touch.
Neil announced a newer song, “Sex,” which, in its live debut, was not particularly memorable or necessary, though it didn’t seem to send the crowd out for a mass restroom break. Nikki Sixx didn’t say much, but he did point out that, in 1982, KISS had taken Crue out on their first big national tour, and they’ve always been grateful to their musical heroes for the support.
Finishing with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart,” Motley Crue had run through eighty solid minutes of old songs played with renewed vigor, and they knew it. Neil’s final words were simply. “F*ck…YES!”
During intermission, it became clear that this tour will be a massive undertaking. Usually, after the opening act performs, a black curtain can be pulled down, the gear rolled offstage, and the headliner’s stage is nearly ready to go. In this case, Motley Crue’s full set had to come down, and the extra time it took would have consequences later on.
KISS opened, as they have for decades, with “Detroit Rock City.” In fact, very little has changed about a KISS concert since the mid 1970’s, and that’s not a criticism—there are simply certain touchstones that cannot be left out. The audience would be disappointed if Gene Simmons did not breathe fire and spit blood, or if “Ace” (Tommy Thayer) didn’t have a solo where the Les Paul guitar didn’t smoke or, in more recent years, shoot sparks. And the show simply cannot conclude until Paul Stanley has smashed a guitar against the stage floor.
But having done most of the beloved KISS “stunts,” it was obvious that the clock was working against the band, in terms of the set list. Prince William County has a noise ordinance in place that forces music at Jiffy Lube Live to stop at 11pm sharp, or pay a steep fine. One employee of the venue told a reporter that the fines can range from “three thousand to five thousand dollars per minute.” And yet, KISS had only been onstage for 59 minutes when the clock struck eleven.
“They told us that they were gonna shut the power down,” Stanley told the crowd. But he said they were going to play on. A shortened solo on “Black Diamond,” and a one song encore, “Rock and Roll All Night” finished out an eighty minute, thirteen song set—exactly the same as Motley Crue. Was precious time lost during set up and the intermission transition? It’s impossible to tell on the first night.
However, fans waiting for staples like “Beth” or classics like “Strutter” and “Deuce” on this night were left wanting. It’ll be interesting to check the set lists in the coming days to see if those hits make it into the show. The band played one new song, “Hell or Hallelujah” from a forthcoming album to be released in September. The reaction was polite but not euphoric.
Like Vince Neil, Paul Stanley’s last Jiffy Lube Live appearance in 2010, was not his best—Stanley’s voice broke often, and he struggled with some of the notes. Happily, and also like Neil, Stanley was in much better voice this time, hitting notes and going for some rock star vocal gymnastics.
The eight musicians from these two bands have gone through everything from near death drug overdoses to mid-age hip replacements. If these guys were still wearing their cod pieces, it would be to hold in the expanding bellies. But there is nothing as exciting as seeing veterans of the business doing what they do best and, at least for this first night, doing it better than they have in years.
KISS and Motley Crue continue “The Tour” through the summer. You can access their dates at: http://www.kissonline.com/tour