Concert Review – Mötley Crüe & Alice Cooper (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 08/22/2015)

Toronto witnessed, for the last time (or so they promised), a true masterclass on how Hard Rock from the 1980’s should be played and done in the 2000’s.

OPENING ACT: The Cringe

Motley Crue_The Final TourFirst things first: I want to apologize for the delay of this review. For those who doesn’t know me, I’m Renata, Gustavo’s friend, and I’m Brazilian. In August, I spent the month in Canada with him and his wife – my BFF for more than 15 years – and now, back to Brazil, I had the proper time to put down in words my experience in this concert. Secondly, I had no idea that there would be an opening act for that night and The Cringe turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. This band from NYC has been following Mötley Crüe on the second leg of their North American tour and it wasn’t different in Toronto, where they were responsible for warming up the fans as the Air Canada Centre was getting filled.

Although sounding very different from the main attractions of the night, The Cringe had a very good performance with their Alternative Rock and got a great response from the fans of Crüe and Mr. Cooper. In nearly 30 minutes, they showed songs from their 10-year career and had time to celebrate good old Rock N’ Roll with a medley of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, and a cover of Thin Lizzy’s classic Jailbreak to close their setlist. Formed by very talented and experienced musicians, they know how to captivate the audience, especially John Cusimano, a very charismatic frontman.

The Cringe will soon release their fifth album, Blind Spot, so if the new trends of Rock N’ Roll please you, keep your eyes on the band’s updates on their official website.

Setlist
1. Anything You Say
2. Don’t Know Where I Belong
3. On and On
4. Big Trouble
5. In God We Trust / Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
6. Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)

Band members
John Cusimano – vocals
James Rotondi – guitar
Jonny Blaze – bass
Shawn Pelton – drums

ALICE COOPER

Alice Cooper 07When Mötley Crüe announced their final tour, in 2014, they added the legend Alice Cooper as their very special guest and this duo makes every dollar paid in the ticket worthwhile. And I can’t believe I spent all those years of my life without seeing an Alice Cooper’s concert! I can’t even describe it as just a “concert”, it’s so much more than that: it’s theatrical, it’s epic, it has feelings, it has drama, it’s a full spectacle! Mr. Cooper has been around for more than 45 years and he definitely knows how to master the stage. Every move, every outfit, every detail has a reason to be there and every song still sounds very captivating and his voice and stage performance are very unique.

It might be hard to summarize more than four decades on the road in a 13-song setlist, so Alice Cooper kept the focus on his classics, especially in songs from his releases from the 70’s, like No More Mr. Nice Guy, Billion Dollar Babies, Go to Hell and School’s Out (this one played with a very appropriate medley of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall). Feed My Frankenstein and Poison were the chosen ones to represent the 1990’s. The “newest” song of the night’s setlist was Dirty Diamonds, the title-track of his 2005 album, also dedicated to the drum, bass and guitar solos.

Alice Cooper 05The band following Mr. Cooper, by the way, is not there only to support him, they also have a very important role in the show. A fast-and-fierce drummer – Glen Sobel -, a very rhythmic bassist – Chuck Garric -, and three extremely competent guitarists – Tommy Henriksen, Ryan Roxie and Nita Strauss (replacing Orianthi since 2014) -, are there to make all Cooper’s magic happen and make his theatre even more intense. There’s also time and space for snake, bubbles, a giant Frankenstein and a very good performance by Calico Cooper, Cooper’s daughter, as the crazy nurse tying her own father in a straitjacket and decapitating him in I Love the Dead.

In summary, Alice Cooper delivered an amazing setlist, although some great songs were left out, and showed why he is still here after so many years, keeping the classics, the acting and the horror more alive than ever. Alice Cooper is more than a very special guest: he is a teacher of Rock N’ Roll and we all should appreciate the opportunity to see artists like him, who still kick ass onstage.

Setlist
1. The Black Widow
2. No More Mr. Nice Guy
3. Under My Wheels
4. I’m Eighteen
5. Billion Dollar Babies
6. Poison
7. Dirty Diamonds (bass, drum and guitar solos)
8. Go to Hell
9. Feed My Frankenstein
10. Ballad of Dwight Fry
11. Killer
12. I Love the Dead
13. School’s Out (including “Another Brick in the Wall”)

Band members
Alice Cooper – vocals
Tommy Henriksen – guitar
Nita Strauss – guitar
Ryan Roxie – guitar
Chuck Garric – bass
Glen Sobel – drums

MÖTLEY CRÜE

Motley Crue 05Mötley Crüe are the only band that made me travel abroad (twice) to see their concerts. The first time was in 2011, in Buenos Aires, Argentina (and I think every rock ‘n’ roll fan should see a concert in Argentina at least once in life – if you ever saw any Argentine soccer game, you have an idea of how passionate their local crowd can be) and now I had the chance to see them in Canada. Yes, they played in Brazil in 2011 and they are going to play at Rock in Rio on September 19, on the main stage with Metallica, Royal Blood and Gojira. But two things make me sad about this upcoming concert in Rio: 1- this is the ONLY AND EXCLUSIVE CONCERT IN SOUTH AMERICA, which means people from all over the continent have to come to Rio if they want to see Crüe live for the last time – and obviously not everybody can afford a trip to Brazil or got the tickets before they were sold out after 3 hours of sales; 2- the concert at the festival and its structure will be reduced: a shorter setlist and less pyros and stuffs on the show. I’m not even sure if they’ll have Tommy Lee’s roller coaster Crüecifly. And that being their final tour and the only concert in the continent, I think all fans deserved the fullest the band can do.

But in Toronto the fans got everything Mötley Crüe promised in a night full of classics, pyros (and I mean lots of pyros!), energy, with a nostalgic feeling of goodbye and I’m glad I could see all of this. I’m not sure if the tickets were sold out, since this wasn’t the first time they were playing in the country with this tour, but Air Canada Centre was definitely packed.

Motley Crue 09The setlist was the same as executed in the previous concerts, and a Harley Davidson’s engines announced the opening with Girls, Girls, Girls. What we saw after this start was a sequence of great hits that set Mötley Crüe in the position of one of the greatest Hard Rock bands of their era: Wild Side, Primal Scream and Same Ol’ Situation made everyone there sing, dance and feel a piece of the 1980’s with a touch of modernity with all the technology at the stage.

The performance of the band was amazing. Mick Mars is a master of the guitars, sounding so heavy and yet so clear. It is amazing to see after all these years and despite of all his health issues, he is still a great and very technical guitarist, respected by his band members and every fan. As for Vince Neil, I was pretty concerned as I saw some videos from previous concerts, especially one at Sweden Rock Festival, where he couldn’t sing well and follow Dr. Feelgood from the beginning to the end. His voice and his acting on stage is not the same as the early days, this is not a secret, but he was singing very well that night in Toronto. Also, there were two backup singers, that helped to put more energy and action in the songs. But let’s be honest: Mötley Crüe is all about Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee performances! And they didn’t disappoint the crowd at all.

There were few times of interaction with the public but the Crüe boys took time to remember that it was in Canada where they started their very first tour, back in 1982, and how happy and grateful they were to play for the Canadian crowd for the last time. There was also a very inspiring speech of Sixx. If you read one of his books – “The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star” (2007) and “This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx” (2013) – you have an idea of how he messed up in the past and how he changed his attitude to a very positive tune. He told a story about his youth, when he used to steal a pocket knife that his grandfather used to leave on the counter everyday, and one day his old man gave him a knife for his own. The lesson learned was “if you want something bad enough, you keep doing it over and over until you get it” and that was his commitment with Mötley Crüe and their fans, that they are the most important part of the band. Right after that, they played a cover of Anarchy in the U.K., from Sex Pistols.

The most awaited moment was, undoubtedly, Tommy Lee’s drums roller coaster, the Crüecifly. There was a huge steel structure hailing from the stage to the middle of the ACC floor and when the lights turned out and the O Fortuna of German composer Carl Off’s cantata Carmina Burana started to play, we all knew the time had come. Suddenly Tommy started his journey above the fans from Toronto, playing songs from other artists, such as The Beastie Boys, while he and his drum kit were spinning and moving in the trail full of lights and cool effects. Tommy does such amazing things while drumming since the first Crüe’s concerts but he put the concept to a higher level on this tour. He also took a minute to thank the fans and say how he loves them all before going back to his place at the back of the stage. Right after that, it was Mick Mars’ time to make his raw, fierce and heavy solo before the band continued to the final acts of the night with Saints of Los Angeles, Live Wire, Dr. Feelgood and Kickstart My Heart. On this last song, there were two steel structures that took Vince and Nikki for a ride through the venue making it a moment of great celebration for both band and fans.

Motley Crue 13They gathered on the stage and thanked the fans for being there, but that wasn’t the wrap up yet. At the end of the Crüecifly there was a tiny stage, the CrüeNest, and the band walked through the fans to hit it for one last song. There were also 12 lucky fans (that paid a little lot of extra money to be there, obviously) seated on chairs on the back of this stage. A white piano was waiting for Tommy Lee and as he played the first tunes of Home Sweet Home, the ACC got full of light spots of the fans’ cell phones, and that was a really beautiful thing to see. Did I mention that the CrüeNest stage also went up and down? You can’t expect a normal thing when it comes to a Mötley Crüe’s concert. On the screens of the empty main stage, pictures from the early years to the recent days showed the path of this band, considered one of the most important of the Hard Rock Era.

With the sound of My Way, by the legend Frank Sinatra, we knew that the bad things had finally come to an end. If this is really, I mean, REALLY the final tour (some bands along the history showed us that there isn’t really an end unless all involved want to – and sometimes they change their minds), that was the perfect way to say good bye. Again, it’s a shame that many of my Brazilian compatriots won’t have the chance to see a full concert, but let’s hope Mötley Crüe can bring to this part of the planet all the amazing energy they showed to the Torontonians.

Setlist
1. Girls, Girls, Girls
2. Wild Side
3. Primal Scream
4. Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
5. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
6. Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room (Brownsville Station cover)
7. Looks That Kill
8. Mutherfucker of the Year
9. Anarchy in the U.K. (Sex Pistols cover)
10. Shout at the Devil
11. Louder Than Hell
12. Drum Solo
13. Guitar Solo
14. Saints of Los Angeles
15. Live Wire
16. Dr. Feelgood
17. Kickstart My Heart

Encore:
18. Home Sweet Home

Band members
Vince Neil – vocals
Mick Mars – guitar
Nikki Sixx – bass
Tommy Lee – drums

Album Review – Godsmack / 1000hp (2014)

Lots of horsepower, groove, great riffs and strong vocal lines are just some of the things you’ll find in the amazing new album by Sully Erna and his bandmates.

Rating3

godsmack_1000hpAmerican Alternative Metal/Rock icons Godsmack have always split opinions among headbangers all over the world in regards to their music: are they heavy enough to stay away from the abhorrent Pop Music world, or too soft to be included in the select group of Heavy Metal giants such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Megadeth? Well, although I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, I’ve always enjoyed the musicality produced by Sully Erna and his crew, considering them a band that is able to combine the “best of both worlds” and deliver their fans lots of memorable heavy music anthems.

Maybe the biggest issue with Godsmack is the fact they do not regularly release new albums: since their beginnings in 1998, they have launched only six studio albums (including their brilliant self-titled debut album), which is not a lot taking into account they have almost 20 years of existence. However, when they do release new material, it usually kicks fuckin’ ass, which is the case with their brand new album 1000hp, the sixth in their career. It might have taken them almost four years to launch the follow up to their 2010 gold-selling album The Oracle, but as I said it was worth the wait.

All the energy (or maybe I should say all the “horsepower”) fans have been eagerly expecting for the past four years is already found in the title-track, 1000hp, a song that translates the legacy of Godsmack into modern and thrilling Hard Rock, with powerful riffs, outstanding vocals and a chorus that truly credits it to become a Rock N’ Roll radio hit without any doubt. Add to that the following track, the also excellent FML (an acronym for “Fuck My Life”), and you’ll start getting addicted to this album: this is the type of song you know it’s Godsmack, with all those heavy riffs we learned to love since their early days.

Although Something Different, an alternative track that flirts with more contemporary rock music, doesn’t keep up with the same level of electricity from the previous tracks (especially due to its generic lyrics), everything gets back on track with What’s Next?, an excellent track that will sound amazing on their live performances and that seems to be extracted from their debut album thanks to its raw sonority, with highlights to the drumming dictating its pleasant rhythm.

godsmackGeneration Day showcases a more experimental Godsmack in terms of the sound each band member can take from their respective instruments, with kudos to guitarist Tony Rombola for the excellent groovy guitar solo in the middle, while Locked & Loaded couldn’t be more awesome than that: it’s pure Southern Rock totally inspired by Sully Erna’s never-ending feud with Mötley Crüe’s bassist Nikki Sixx, which is the reason why it’s track number SIX, got it? Honestly, those two should have a match at Wrestlemania or at least at SummerSlam one day, that would be really fun.

Then we have Living in the Gray, a song with hints of Alice In Chains and a very repetitive chorus, which fortunately doesn’t turn it into a bad song, and I Don’t Belong, a very traditional Godsmack tune which kind of continues where the previous song ended, with Sully’s great vocal performance enhancing its overall quality. And closing the album, Godsmack offer us Nothing Comes Easy, which despite having one of the heaviest riffs of the whole album ends up being too experimental and could have been a lot better if a little shorter, and the melancholic, intense and addictive semi-acoustic track Turning to Stone, some kind of “Voodoo 2.0” which will feature on The Walking Dead’s compilation Songs of Survival Volume 2, and by that you can imagine how good this song is, right?

And what about the album art, which perfectly matches its title, featuring of course the band’s traditional sun logo and a classic car emerging from the flames? Albeit quite simple, it’s totally effective, just as the whole album is. 1000hp might not be a masterpiece nor the most creative album in the world, but it’s a superb collection of kick-ass Hard Rock tunes that will surely please all Godsmack fans, from the most diehard to the new ones, and provide some very good moments to everyone attending their live concerts, enjoying a road trip, having a party or simply relaxing headbanging alone at home. I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone in the band wanted when they recorded 1000hp.

Best moments of the album: 1000hp, FML, Locked & Loaded and Turning to Stone.

Worst moments of the album: Something Different and Nothing Comes Easy.

Released in 2014 Universal Music

Track listing
1. 1000hp 3:47
2. FML 3:38
3. Something Different 4:42
4. What’s Next? 4:20
5. Generation Day 6:11
6. Locked & Loaded 4:12
7. Living in the Gray 4:07
8. I Don’t Belong 3:33
9. Nothing Comes Easy 5:38
10. Turning to Stone 5:16

Band members
Sully Erna – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar, backing vocals
Robbie Merrill – bass guitar
Shannon Larkin – drums, percussion