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Motley Crue’s Las Vegas sendoff a real blast from the past

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Tom Donoghue / DonoghuePhotography.com

Motley Crue at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Motley Crue at MGM Grand

Motley Crue at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Motley Crue at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Motley Crue at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Motley Crue at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas.

It is tough to say what outnumbered what during Motley Crue’s performance at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday night: F-bombs or real bombs.

Profanity and pyro, that’s the Crue’s rule even in its Las Vegas sendoff. It was a real blast, though the show’s feverish pitch was doused by a quartet of stagehands dressed as Orkin men who fired water semi-automatics at those in the first couple of rows.

I didn’t see that coming. Nor did I hear it. The show was not only a sendoff for the hard-rock mavericks, but for the eardrums, too. I’ll miss both.

Mostly, the show was a big-ol’ Bunsen burner experience, nuclear power in place of nuance (if you want cool style, check out Michael Buble at MGM Grand on New Year’s Day).

The band’s blasts of fire and fireworks blazed from cannons at the back of the stage, and often the music emanating from the stacks of amps was a secondary consideration. The music produced sounded just fine, dialed up to a level that certainly exceeded the capabilities of a 1982 Sony Walkman.

The Crue, which I’ve now come to refer to as Motley, in its final run of shows (that’s how Vince Neil sometimes refers to the band) performed its final show ever in Las Vegas before a packed house that stood for most of the spectacle. This is remarkable because, even as Motley’s fans have stood for many of their performances, they now reside in a demographic that likes to be seated.

Remember that Motley’s career dates to 1981. They’ve been around long enough to have played the U.S. Festival, sharing the bill with such rockers-of-the-moment as Quiet Riot, Triumph, Scorpions and the original Van Halen. That was in 1983, and that’s a long time to rage, kids.

But from the opening heartbeats of “Girls, Girls, Girls,” possibly the least-ambiguous song ever recorded, Grand Garden Arena was ignited. The band cranked through the familiar hard-rock classics, including “Wildside,” “Looks That Kill,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Dr. Feelgood” “and “Kickstart My Heart.”

They played the rare (for them) cover “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” carrying on as though they were teenagers. Despite the inevitable advancement of age — and Mick Mars has taken on a distinctively wizened persona over the years, curled over his six-string in a pale blue sort of way — the finale was loaded with youthful bursts.

The Tommy Lee drum solo was once more a Cirque du Motley extravaganza where the musician and his drum set were suspended on tracks over the audience, harnessed into 155-foot-long rigging called “The Cruecify.” During this five-minute acrobatic performance, Lee performed full aerial somersaults while banging out the beats.

Save Mars, all Motley members talked to the crowd. Or maybe bellowed is a better way to put it. Nikki Sixx, whose guest list included guitar great DJ Ashba of his side project Sixx:A.M., talked of his youth in Jerome, Idaho, and a knife given to him by his father.

“Never tell anyone you can’t do something!” he called out, wielding what appeared to be that knife or a reasonable facsimile. As Lee spun over the crowd, he shouted, “Vegas! I (effing) love you (effers)!”

And Neil, the Las Vegas resident of the group, shouted, “Who are the badass mother (effers) out there!” the whole crowd roared, even as, let’s face it, some of the more, shall we say, refined audience members had to be exaggerating that claim.

The finale was the lone ballad of the night with the band seated on an auxiliary stage, again high above the crowd, for “Home Sweet Home.” With just three shows left as a singular unit, Motley Crue is done for as an active band.

Maybe they’ll pull a Cher or KISS and reconvene for a sequel to their final tour, but I doubt it. Neil and Sixx, especially, are focused on their solo careers these days. We’re left with the final callout from V.N. himself, who said, “Las Vegas! We’re gonna miss you mother (effers)!”

Likewise. But we’ll always have the Walkman, or whatever is the mobile device of the moment, to eschew our age and rock out to the Motliest Crue of them all.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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