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Crue still alive and kicking like mad as festival headliners

Who knew that a quarter-century after Motley Crue became the first Los Angeles band to follow in the steps of Van Halen and make it from the Sunset Strip to the arenas of the world via a sharp blend of power-pop and cheese-metal, that the band would be headlining its own festival, and playing to massive crowds throughout the summer?

Frankly, it's surprising these guys are even alive. Just ask 'em, if you happen to end up with a backstage pass sometime. I'm sure they're as surprised as the rest of us.

Motley Crue is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of its multiplatinum effort, "Dr. Feelgood," and Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil performed the majority of the bloody thing before adoring throngs of the motley on Saturday.

By the time the band took the stage, following some five hours of mostly bad metal, hearing the sort of pop-friendly hooks bassist and primary songwriter Sixx is known for felt like a blessing.

Adhering to the album's theme -- loosely, a bad boy's take on substance abuse and the roguish lifestyle that surrounds it, and the plain luck that allows one to survive it -- the Crue took the stage surrounded by roadies dressed as hospital interns, while drummer Lee shrunk behind a massive bass drum with a variation of the Red Cross emblem emblazoned on it. The title song from the album opened things up, and as usual, singer Neil was in strained voice. But the band, as ever, kicked it.

Neil is a great frontman, even if he routinely sings like a cat caught in a bear trap, and he certainly doesn't seem to be going through the motions, even if his vocal tone is far from dulcet.

You don't want to cross him, though -- a fact that became apparent quickly. Prior to the commencement of the second tune, someone clocked Neil with a beer bottle, and the singer was less than pleased, swearing a blue streak and demanding the removal of the perpetrator before he'd start the next song. Neil didn't appear to be injured. Therefore, this was completely hilarious.

It should be noted that Sixx is a fully credentialed power-pop/metal songwriter, and deserves credit for his clear, obvious and full immersion in the works of '70s bands like Sweet, Starz, and to a lesser extent (because these guys write purely brilliant songs) Cheap Trick. So when the Crue broke into the meaty riffery of "Kickstart My Heart" -- a song with, most likely, added poignancy for Sixx, since he OD'd on heroin twice and required exactly what the song title suggests to revive his lame carcass -- only a fool could've denied the song's instant likability.

Similarly, "Same Old Situation" -- which was helped along by the presence of two strong-lunged female backing singers -- boasted the sort of hook that made a Sweet song along the lines of "Love Is Like Oxygen" irresistible to so many. Naturally, drummer Lee played impeccably in his pile-driving, double-bass drum style, and guitarist Mars split the difference between composed, melodic solos and mega-picked metal bits.

For the Crue, it works. They are a band of lovable, but still potentially dangerous, pirates, and they play that role to the hilt. A Crue concert is not necessarily the sort of event you'd like your daughter to attend. Regardless of her age.

Godsmack fared less well than did the Crue. Why? Well, the only energy the band seemed to bring was negative. Singer Sully Erna appeared to be in a foul mood for much of the evening, and following what appeared to be time-killing bits -- a lengthy drum and percussion duet, which was actually kinda cool, followed by a brief bit of AC/DC's "Back In Black" -- Erna harangued the crowd with an obscenity-laden litany which, I believe, revolved around the fact that they weren't making enough noise, and were repeatedly failing to catch the cups of beer he spent roughly 10 minutes of the set throwing at them.

Bogus, dude.

The Crue delivered the goods, though. Maybe next year, they should leave the rest behind. I'm just sayin'.

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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Crue Fest 2

With Motley Crue, Godsmack, Theory of a Deadman, Drowning Pool, Rev Theory and Charm City Devils on Saturday at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

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