Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago one of the most important documents in the history of the future United States of America was written bringing forth the great Nation and a country of people who love their freedoms. Since then the Fourth of July has become a massive celebration complete with fireworks rife with brilliant flashes and loud reports. Its fitting when you think of those fireworks and how two hundred thirty-eight years ago those flashes sounds were associated with cannon fire and muskets. Is the "birth of the Nation" and the freedom that we enjoy merely forgotten or noticed, or between the hot dogs and potato salad is there still that flame still flickering true?
The birth of the United States of America is possibly the greatest thing that happened to the planet in which we dwell if not for the simplistic reasoning that every person of the world has a beacon of hope, of justice, of dreams, of religious freedoms. Certainly the country is also a point of disdain and hatred for many that loath the very freedoms that we enjoy and at the same time internally some believe that those freedoms should be only enjoyed within their personal parameters.
Although the birth of the Nation is considered to be the day we thumbed our nose at the King of England and told him we wanted to separate ourselves from his kingdom, twelve years later the Constitution was ratified and in 1791 the Bill of Rights completed the shaping of our freedoms that from that time to the present that we still enjoy. Arguments of what our rights are based on the interpretation of the Constitution with the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for
a redress of grievances.) being attacked with surprising frequency. Within the auspices of the First Amendment music is often attacked because of perceived moral grounds with one of the largest pushes of what is right and wrong in music taking place in the 1980's - 1990's.
The '80's saw the bastardized "birth" of a genre of music called "heavy metal" and its illegitimate child, "hair metal." In 1981 a small band formed in Los Angeles, California called "Mötley Crüe" followed by their first album "Too Fast for Love." In its earliest stages the band was attacked for hedonistic behavior, substance abuse and a "bad boy" persona that religious groups, music writers and parents thought to be a detriment to its young fans. When Mötley Crüe released its second album "Shout at the Devil," a fever pitched assault of the band was launched. That assault never waned and although groups like the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) and religious groups thought they were helping to shape the youth of America by introducing moral shaping assistance, bands like Mötley Crüe thrived.
While some bands followed the bell curve of popularity Mötley Crüe stayed on level ground, releasing nine studio albums and countless tours that were bigger and more successful each and every time. Yes the band encountered a few lineup hiccups, conflicts, illnesses and substance abuse but the band knew its identity never losing track of themselves and more importantly their fans. So important are their fans that anyone that considers themselves a fan has stories about how a song (or songs) has some significance in their own lives and the relationship of the bands music can be felt through their daily lives. Of the music catalog the band enjoys I have a connection with the song "Home Sweet Home" and an uncle that I lost many years ago (and quite a few more for that matter).
January 28th, 2014 Mötley Crüe fans were shocked when they learned that the band was calling it quits with a 70 date "retirement tour" and left them scrambling to get to a venue to experience the band one last time. July 2nd, 2014 was the first date of that tour (in Grand Rapids, Michigan) with the second date July 4th, 2014 the band made its second stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have seen the band several times but despite that familiarity I was excited to be sharing my July 4th with my wife and children (both children are big Crüe fans) at Summerfest and with Mötley Crüe.
Following a delay before the show, and after the first act Alice Cooper, the band came out with a vengeance and energy that is still making me shake my head in some sort of awe. The set that the band came out was full of songs that I have either not heard them perform live before, forgot I had seen live (it was the '80's and '90's don't judge me) or I hadn't seen since the tours they were associated with. In all honesty I was slack jawed when I heard "Anarchy in the UK" and "Without You" and much to my surprise the intro to "Shout at the Devil", "In the Beginning" but I was far from surprised at how amazing the songs sounded. Watching the band perform you can see the respect and adulation these four performers have for their fan base and their stage show reinforces it.
With the show happening on the Fourth of July, I thought that there would be fireworks of sorts but I was shocked with the edition of fire pots, smoke, flashing lights (epileptics and/or people with seizure disorders beware), and female dancers. Did I mention there were flame throwers mounted on the drum riser? No? I would be remiss if I didn't mention those, but did I mention that Nikki Sixx had a flame thrower mounted on his bass? No? Well he did and it was completely awesome.
With Sixx on bass, Mick Mars on guitar, Tommy Lee on drums and for a couple of songs Vince Neil on guitar, Mötley Crüe was tight. Mars who has a condition called "ankylosing spondylitis " had a few extended beginnings into songs as well as a solo or two, owned the stage while showcasing his phenomenal guitar skills. As a drummer Lee has a larger than life persona coupled with the energy and talent befitting only a select few drummers in the history of rock music. As I watched Nikki Sixx perform it became abundantly clear that he has this connection with the throngs of fans that kind of defies an actual description.
Sixx shows his love for his fans unlike 99% of his contemporaries can and I swear that it seems that if he could, he would meet every fan, thank them and sit down just to shoot the bull. All of the band has energy but Sixx never seems to stop while he is performing. I can't help but be impressed with his work ethic and his bad ass persona. I suppose Sixx could become the archetype bass player but also performer while remaining a humble "force for good" and an example of what a great bass player is.
Mötley Crüe has been a steadfast institution in rock music since 1981, a mere 33 years of history so it isn't surprising that their talent has kept them relevant while maintaining a catalog of music that is unsurpassed. The band has everything that one would expect in a success story, positive and negative points within their history. If you want to find a reflection of the success of a pop music in comparison to Mötley Crüe, stop trying. To do so would be like a vampire trying to see its reflection in the mirror, its not happening.
Throughout the life of Mötley Crüe attempts have been made to restrict the band by violating the basic premise of the words and personal freedoms of the band and its fans but to no avail. Yes the band has said and done things that some will find offensive but to those I say get over it. Mötley Crüe has done more for its fans and the rock scene to an extent that is unfathomable. I can't express in words how much this band has affected me in some way (not to mention its innumerable fans) while remaining true to themselves. Two hundred thirty-eight years ago one document was written that changed
the destiny of a British colony and that led to unprecedented
freedoms. Those freedoms have protected the free speech of all
Americans and today I enjoyed my freedoms by peacefully attending
concert for a band that has been using their free speech for
thirty-three years and never wavering from them.
To the chagrin of the critics, naysayers and those that think this band is some type of aging, fame grasper is dead wrong. This band is every bit as good as it was from its earliest days and the four guys that are Mötley Crüe make me remember my past, the good side and the bad side and the always will. Take the time to see Mötley Crüe on this final tour because you will not be disappointed and maybe, just maybe you will remember your own connection to the music, the good and the bad. If you can take away from the experience a smile, it is then worth it. If you take away a memory, or make a new one, then its worth it. Hopefully you too will find this tour the best they have ever done.