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On Tour with The Carnival of Sins

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"Everybody wants some, what the hell. Everybody needs some, everybody yell"
Mötley Crüe - Sex - 2012

‘The Tour' is what happens when two of the world's most theatrical rock bands collide to spend the summer together – Mötley Crüe and Kiss. They also happen to be two of my favourite bands. Come with me as I check out a couple of the tour's final U.S. shows in the New York City area during September 2012.

Well it's always a blast when Mötley hits the road and comes to town. All hot summer long, the band has worked its way around the U.S. on a co-headlining tour with Kiss, simply dubbed The Tour, presenting one of the most theatrical rock concerts ever assembled. However, seasons must change and as the tour reached the New York area this weekend for its final shows of this leg, there was a distinctive autumn chill in the air.

This was one show I was not going to miss: for many, many years, I considered Kiss to be my favourite band. This changed in the mid-nineties as I discovered the Internet and began to create this website. When it came to choosing an account name for Chronological Crue's web hosting, I selected cruekiss… Crüe number one, Kiss now second. To see them together on the same concert bill was something I used to dream of. A lot has changed in the last seventeen years – both with my life, and for these bands – but after buying some tickets a couple of months ago, I was really looking forward to this weekend, and looking forward to seeing Nikki Sixx, who hooked up my weekend's backstage access. The last Nikki and I saw each other was in Tokyo at the end of the band's 2008 Japanese tour. I watched that tour's last show from the side of stage and vividly remember Nikki coming over to me between songs and remarking how he had such a strange job.

The day had finally arrived and I caught a train packed with the workforce escaping Midtown Manhattan, and then a shuttle bus to the New Jersey suburb of Holmdel – a leafy, picture-perfect township an hour or two away where Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen have both lived. When the bus dropped me in the grounds of the PNC Bank Arts Centre, I headed towards the Will Call booth, checking out some of the pre-show tailgating along the way. This unfamiliar American concert car-park tradition typically consists of eating barbecued meats and getting hammered while blasting the night's bands on the stereo, and it seemed this Friday night party was already well underway for many.

I headed to the backstage area and met with the Crüe's Tour Manager Tim Krieg. As English opening act The Treatment played inside, Krieg ran me through Motley's standard protocol of shooting their show, making it clear that all photographers were to only shoot the first two songs from the sound desk in the crowd, before being escorted back out to take up their seats. As the Crüe was now in their dressing rooms getting ready to hit the stage, he said it would be best to see Nikki at the end of their set before he splits on his tour bus. After reacquainting with some of the band's crew members, I got some dinner and headed into the venue.

It wasn't long before a giant sepia-toned clock (somewhat reminiscent to me of the header image of this site's pages) hit the video screens, signalling to the crowd that Mötley's show was commencing. The non-conformist band is well known for their theatrical show, and this time it started with a procession through the 17,000-strong crowd that featured a hooded Tommy Lee hitting a drum (harking back to his marching band days), and Nikki Sixx randomly shooting clouds of smoke from a hand gun. With them were dancing back-up singers Sofia Toufa (Tommy's girlfriend) and Allison Kyler, carrying large banners emblazoned with the band's MC initials as they rode atop the shoulders of some costumed crew members. When they reached the stage, Mick Mars and Vince Neil joined them from the wings and they launched into Saints of Los Angeles, as skimpily-dressed aerialists twirled and contorted high above them.

Wildside was next as flames lit up the stage and pyro explosions punctuated the familiar chorus. The living hell then continued with Shout At The Devil (the version that the band updated for their 1997 Generation Swine album), once Vince Neil had taken opportunity to inform the crowd that he broke his foot recently on the tour, lifting his trouser leg to show the crowd his own ‘Kiss boot'. Years ago, Vince had broken his foot and played some solo shows by sitting on a stool on stage, so it was good to see that these fractures had not immobilized him to that degree, as he moved from one side of the stage to the other with enough easy that it wasn't too distracting, but certainly with an understandable limp.

At the end of the song a stilt-walking lady wearing a full skirt entered the stage – picture the band's video for Afraid in your head – and as her huge dress was lifted, a nasty S&M-styled woman appeared and handed Vince his guitar so he could strum some rhythm during the next song Same Ol' Situation. The band's latest single Sex was up next, with Vince remarking that the band has been writing songs about sex for the last 31 years. The song fitted in nicely with their hit-laden set. During the song's entirety, crew members manned water cannons at either end of the stage and hosed the crowd members who had paid the most for their tickets. This interactive stunt seemed to annoy some of the punters; perhaps it was better received during earlier shows of the tour when the summer heat was still present.

Somewhat fittingly, Don't Go Away Mad was played next, before a piano was wheeled out to front of stage. This brought Tommy out from behind his kit to greet the crowd and encourage them to drink more booze, generously offering a face-full of champagne to some lucky recipient in the first row. As each Mötley Crüe member joined Tommy at the piano, the camaraderie displayed was symbolic of the strength of their relationship these days. They have endured many issues over the years, yet found a way to make things work between themselves – something that many marriages these days could take something from, I'm sure. The band played their beloved, sing-along ballad Home Sweet Home, complete with a fresh string arrangement backing it and a beautiful laser light show.

Tommy remained in the limelight when his 360 degree rollercoaster drum solo kicked off. As his kit moved sideways up and around the tracks, he played along upside-down to an EDM soundtrack with a bass tone that rattled ribcages. A New Jersey senior citizen was strapped in for a ride in the love rollercoaster's backseat, and told to hang on to her titties. Tommy is renowned for his drum solos and this was another highlight of the show.

Mick moved to front of stage and played a short solo before ripping into the old school classic Livewire. Nikki followed suit by briefly addressing the crowd before the next number Primal Scream, and shot flames from the head stock of his bass as an aerialist swung around on chains above him. Three of the band's biggest hits closed out the set, Dr. Feelgood (which saw a female put in a straightjacket and strung up to dry), Girls, Girls, Girls and Kickstart My Heart.

As Mötley's final song played, I headed backstage where Krieg soon told me that Nikki would be too snowed with meetings before he left the venue, so it wasn't a good night to hang with him. This was somewhat expected, as Nikki had told me that it's always busy for him at the New York area shows – understandable. So I chatted with some familiar faces until Kiss kicked off their set with Detroit Rock City and I headed back inside.

Kiss played a solid set of hits that included all their signature theatrics, like Gene Simmons spitting fire at the end of Firehouse, Paul Stanley zip-lining to a platform in the crowd during Love Gun, the Ace Frehley (I mean, Tommy Thayer) guitar solo with pyrotechnics, Gene drooling blood and flying up to the rafters at the start of God of Thunder, and the ticker-tape spectacle of Rock'n'Roll All Nite to close out the show. Song highlights for me were the menacing War Machine, and encore song Hotter Than Hell – the first time they've played it on this tour.

As the lights went up I decided to head off rather than go backstage again, as I was keen to make the shuttle bus back to the train station, instead of risking being stranded out near the Jersey Shore. During the twenty-minute wait for the train, I was subjected to some drunken diatribe from fans critiquing and debating points of the show. Whilst they could not agree on much, favouritism seemed split pretty evenly between the two bands. So with the irony of hearing an obese man ridicule Vince for being too bloated these days, to another criticizing Paul Stanley's voice only to sing a few off-key lines himself moments later, I was looking forward to getting home to my bed and then the next night's show.

Saturday's show was held a couple of hours east of New York City, out on Long Island in the Jones Beach State Park. I arrived at the outdoor amphitheatre after another train trip and bus shuttle, immediately feeling the cool wind whipping off the Atlantic Ocean as I walked through the carpark and headed to Mötley's backstage area where a Meet and Greet with fans was just winding up. Spotting me there, Tommy came over to say hi, followed by Nikki who told T-Bone that I live in Manhattan now (which was old news to Tommy). We chatted about lots of things – everything from broken dicks and blue balls to teen porn... I guess it IS all about the sex, as their new single attests.

When they headed back to their buses-come-dressing rooms for this show, I went inside to catch The Treatment, since I missed them the night before. The young lads put on a solid show and have some catchy rock songs in their repertoire – check them out.

After meeting up with some friends at the alcohol-free concessions, we headed back in for the start of Mötley's set. I took up position at the sound desk again, where Vince's current squeeze, makeup artist Rain Andreani, was also getting set to watch the show. Nikki gave me an acknowledging nod as the opening procession passed me by, and the Hollywood bad boys were soon ripping into Saints of Los Angeles again.

The set list was the same again tonight, as it's been each night of the tour due to the highly-produced theatrical show with so many timed cues. The main difference that stood out to me tonight though was the vibe: it seemed the band had to work harder (too hard) last night to extract enough crowd response, whereas tonight they were getting sufficient energy back on which they feed, and it showed in their performance. Tommy dedicated Home Sweet Home to his (deceased) parents and said he misses them, while people in the crowd scampered for cover during Sex as spray from the water cannons on stage squirted with the strong sea breeze.

I certainly felt this production is Mötley's biggest and best behind their massive Carnival of Sins comeback, where a lot of this tour's elements originated.

As Kiss were about two-thirds of the way through their set, the heavens opened and the rain ensured that everyone in the crowd was now wet. Kiss also seemed to be more on-song tonight and they also sounded better, including Paul's voice that is sometimes not as strong in upper registers as it has been for so many great years. They played Cold Gin for their first encore song and again closed the show with the traditional Rock'n'Roll All Nite, with canons shooting confetti paper sky-high before it descended and stuck to the drenched crowd.

I took up the offer of a car ride back to Coney Island with friends Dano Panariello and Kevin Strang where we hit up a diner, before getting the subway back to my Manhattan home. The journey gave me some time to reflect on the shows of the last two nights, which seemed to be flashing associated moments of my own life before me… from eating Kiss ice-creams at the park as a kid in the late-'70s, to hosting Kiss parties at our home in Western Australia, to Nikki and Tommy contacting me when I first launched this Mötley website at the start of '97, to driving Kiss drummer Eric Singer to Melbourne airport one morning, to writing the liner notes inside Mötley's live album before I'd ever seen the band play live, to contributing to The Dirt and writing five books on the Crüe, to having now seen Mötley fifteen times across three different continents… and so it went on.

As my ears still rang from the show's explosions and the train tracks created a backbeat, I sat there feeling good that my hard work, dedication, ethics and persistence had brought me this far. If someone had told me twenty years ago that during a weekend in September 2012 I'd be heading home to my New York City apartment after seeing Kiss and Mötley Crüe play a couple of shows together, I would have told them they have rocks in their head! But that's life: you never know what will happen if you dare to dream and make them come true.

All photos on this page by Paul Miles - See more in these galleries:
New Jersey | New York

Rock on,

Paul Miles

Thanks to Nikki Sixx and Tim Krieg.


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