Mötley Crüe in the final stretch: I can’t believe we’re still alive

Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue
Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue

There will be fire and explosions. There will bone-shaking guitar riffs, scantily clad dancers and an upside-down drum solo. Middle-aged men and women will pump their fists and bang their heads, remembering back to younger days when monsters of rock roamed the Earth.

Mötley Crüe is coming to town.

The four founding members of one of rock’s most notorious bands — singer Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee — will take the stage at AmericanAirlines Arena Sept. 2 (Livenation). Expect heavy-metal anthems such as Shout at the Devil, Girls, Girls, Girls and Kickstart My Heart that thrilled Reagan-era teenagers and horrified their parents.

Thirty-four years after exploding out of the Sunset Strip in a blaze of hairspray, skintight leather and power chords, Mötley Crüe is kicking off the last stretch of the final tour of its career, a global farewell that will culminate at the end of the year with three shows at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Say what you will, this is a band that has never done things halfway (why just one umlaut when you can have two?) and its members are determined to go out with as big a bang as possible. “We’re like, ‘Hey, this is it — let’s blow the place up,’” Sixx said.

That they made it this far is remarkable enough. With Mötley Crüe, everything has always been cranked to 11, including offstage decadence and drama. Over the years, the band has weathered drug and alcohol addiction, internal strife, arrests, jail time, public scandals (including an infamous leaked sex tape involving Lee and then-wife Pamela Anderson) and shifting fashions in music — all of it chronicled with unflinching candor in their bestselling 2001 tell-all The Dirt.

Yet through it all, even as other ’80s glam-metal acts have faded into teased-hair oblivion, Mötley Crüe has persevered. The band has released just one album of new music since 2000, but keep filling arenas from Anchorage to Abu Dhabi. Even the group can’t fully explain it.

“I can’t believe all four of us are still alive,” Lee said.

Neil is more introspective. “You see a lot of people crying when we’re doing Home Sweet Home,” he said of the 1985 power ballad that closes the band’s show. “Then you start getting choked up and you try not to look at them. For a lot of the real fans, they know this is the last time they’re going to see us.”

More than that, it may be the last time they see anyone like them. “There are no more rock stars — we’re some of the last of them,” Neil said. “It’s sad. But we'll see what happens. Hopefully there’s some kid in his garage somewhere, playing with his band and lighting himself on fire.”

Sixx, 56, explains why the band decided to hang it up.

“Let’s be real: Rock ‘n’ roll is not meant to age,” Sixx said. “We’ve worn our welcome out a few times, and we’re still here. We’re in tatters and covered in tattoos, but somehow we survived our own insanity. Eventually, though, the wheels are going to fall off the fire truck, and then no one is going to want it.”

Unlike in the ’80s, these days Lee is careful about what he puts into his body before a concert.

“I eat breakfast or a super-light lunch and then I don’t eat until 11 or midnight after the show’s over,” he said. “Spinning around upside-down on a full stomach. …” He laughs.

“That would probably be pretty awesome and punk rock,” Lee said. “But we’re just a little smarter than we used to be.”

Josh Rottenberg

Los Angeles Times