Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 | 6 p.m.
It is a rock concert by the strictest definition, as a rock band is playing a series of songs over a two-hour stretch for a paying audience.
But it is so much more than that.
Motley Crue is playing it big and wide, weird and small and, naturally, loud.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil says in a phone conversation an hour before returning to rehearsal for the band’s “Motley Crue In Sin City” run of shows at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. “I think people are going to walk out of this show going, ‘What the (heck) just happened to me?' ”
The answer would be prolonged exposure to classic hard rock punctuated by an array of theatrics, pyrotechnics, aerialists, wild video displays, a rollercoaster drum set and even a “little people” version of the band.
“We’ll have a Little Crue in there,” Neil says of the foursome that features Las Vegas’ own Brian Thomas (known as Lucky the Leprechaun at O’Shea’s and Lowercase g at Kiss By Monster Mini Golf). “We’re going a little more than two hours. It’s a long show, full of amazing visuals and stuff you would not expect from a rock concert.”
“Motley Crue in Sin City” begins Friday night at the Joint and runs through Feb. 19. Tickets start at $76.80, fees included, and are available at the Hard Rock Hotel website. The series of shows represent the first residency of its type, nearly a month in duration, for a rock band in Vegas.
Without giving away details of the production, Neil says there are nine aerialists and dancers working the show and “people being lit on fire.”
“This isn’t a thing where we just set up some amps and go out and play,” he says. “The production is so over the top, man. It’s a full-blown show.”
Neil agreed with the suggestion that the shows are similar to the type of productions that permeate theaters and showrooms up and down the Strip.
“It’s Cirque meets rock,” he says, referring of course to Cirque du Soleil. “This is not a show where you just sit there and look at the stage. It’s happening all around you. We’re utilizing the whole place, the whole Joint, as the stage. We came up with some of the craziest ideas we could, then went to the engineers to see if it was possible.”
Neil says little was left to the imagination, thanks to the vast Joint stage that is the equal of any arena in the country. The 360-degree rollercoaster drum set manned by Tommy Lee, which was a centerpiece of the band’s show to open Red Rock Amphitheater last June, is being loaded intact into the Joint.
“If you look at what was a smaller version of what we’re doing now, it was the ‘Carnival of Sins’ tour,” Neil says, noting the band’s 2005-2006 world tour. “This is that show times 100.”
Neil says the Crue will churn out the familiar titles, “the hits that people expect,” but also songs the band hasn’t played in decades.
“We’re actually rehearsing now, doing all these different versions of old songs. We’ll have an acoustic set inside the show that we rarely ever play. There will be a lot of stuff that, even if you’ve been to see Motley Crue a bunch of times, will be new for you.”
An example is the song “Piece of Your Action” off the band’s debut album, “Too Fast for Love.”
“We have not played that live for 20 years, but we rehearsed it and went, ‘Wow, that sounds pretty great,’ ” Neil says. “Sometimes we surprise ourselves.”
A slice of the show will be left open to guest artists who turn up and will want to jam with the band.
“Some people have actually called us and asked about being in the show, and we’re going to have a spot in the show where someone can come up and jam with us,” Neil says. “Not every night, but there will definitely be a spot for that.”
What remains undetermined is what happens after Feb. 19, when the scheduled Motley Crue run ends. For the hotel and venue to consider extending the run, or adding another at a later date, the show needs to sell well.
“I never really ask about tickets,” Neil says, “but I have been told that this is the fastest-selling ticket that the Hard Rock has had, ever (tickets at all levels are still available for opening night). It’s more about scheduling.”
Neil lives in Vegas, so he’s OK with staying and playing. “Absolutely. I would get to go to work and go home at night,” he says. But the band is scheduled to tour the summer and fall, with the latter segment of the tour rumored to be a one-two punch of the Crue and Kiss (though nothing official has been announced). The Crue has committed to a set of festival shows in Europe, too.
“It could be a year from now,” Neil says, gauging how long it would take for the Crue to return to an extended residency in Vegas. “I was thinking we could just extend it into the summer tour.”
Don’t rule that out. But first things first, there are aerialists, dancers and a quartet of tiny tribute artists to arrange.