Theatre

Saturday night was a night of firsts for Ravinia, hosting its first Hip Hop show that included a lineup of first-time performers on the stage, and featuring the one and only Common. One does not typically think of Hip-Hop when thinking of the outdoor picnic grounds and pavilion of Ravinia, but tonight even with the chance of rain (rain ponchos provided) fans from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs showed up in high numbers to groove and dance the night away.

With sponsorship from United and 107.5 WGCI, DJ Anthony took to the decks, making his Ravinia debut to open the night at this all ages concert. Fans know him from his radio spots on GCI and his current work as a producer on Cody Chestnut’s and the new Gorrilaz album.

Next up, was Tay (Taylor Bennett), another Chicago native from 79th Street and brother of Chance the Rapper, also making his Ravinia debut. With samples of tracks from his album Restoration of an American Idol and Broad Shoulders, the audience got a good feel for this up and coming rapper and his style of music. He was invited by Common as a late addition to the night’s musical lineup.

After twenty-five years in the music business, the Golden Globe and Grammy winner, and Oscar nominated musician for the theme song from Selma (“Glory”), once again took the stage in his hometown Chicago (well, Highland Park, anyway – close enough). This appearance marked Common’s first ever performance at Ravinia. I have seen quite a few shows at Ravinia, there are often a handful of dancers sprinkled throughout the crowd, scattered among the seated in the pavilion and across the grass, many standing on their feet for portions of a show. But the crowd response for Common was the most avid I have personally seen at the festival. The moment, Common stepped onto the stage, the entire pavilion arose from their seats, most remaining on their feet dancing and cheering for the entire show. Those with lawn tickets pressed themselves against the barricades while others danced atop the grass. Common pulled the crowd in, never letting go, playing his award-winning hit "Glory" along with songs that spanned throughout his twenty-five-year career known and loved by his fans. His was a high energy performance, and with meaning, as Common reinforced the purpose behind his Black America Again album. His message is simple in that supporting a community of people working together, enjoying music and life together, we are building a safer and more connected Chicago and world.

There is much more to see and be seen of Common in the future. With Common’s newfound success at the festival, perhaps more Hip-Hop acts will be scheduled for Ravinia. “I wondered if they liked Hip-Hop at Ravinia”, the artist jested to cheers across the venue. Yes, we do. With so much energy and love in the air, it was an unbelievable night of Ravinia firsts. www.Ravinia.org

Set List:
The Corner
The People
The Food
U, Black Maybe
Get ‘Em High (Kanye West)
Come Close
Testify/Darling Nikki (Prince)
I Used to Love H.E.R.
Take It EZ
Go!
Love Is…
The Light
Forever Begins
Be (Intro)
Glory

Published in In Concert

Collaboraction Theatre Company announces Darkest Before Dawn: A Dark Circus of Music, Theatre and Fashion, an immersive event to raise funds for their celebrated Youth Theatre Ensemble, The Peacemakers.

The event's all-star line-up includes the DJ trio Dark Wave Disco, Black Plastic, a fashion spectacle by The Order, Kelroy, DJ Heaven Malone, The Peacemakers and Founding Collaboraction Company Member Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid).

General admission is $15. 

Funder tickets are $40 in advance/$50 at the door, and include access to a private balcony, a Darkest Before Dawn gift bag, appetizers and drinks.

Friday, June 30th at The Chop Shop 2033 W. North Ave in Chicago.
The Funders reception starts at 7 p.m. 
Doors open at 8 p.m. 

Black attire encouraged.

For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633.

Darkest Before Dawn Artist Lineup 

 
Dark Wave Disco
 
After receiving national attention from big names such as SPIN and BPM, Dark Wave became known as "one of the hottest parties in the country." Big acts like Steve Aoki and New York's notorious MisShapes all dropped in to mix sets with the new kings of the hipster set over the next two years, securing Dark Wave's notoriety and also, stellar guest list. - Chicago Scene Magazine

 

Black Plastic

A self-titled debut album was released last year on Cleopatra Records, its ten tracks filled with an indelible sense of dread combined with manifestations of dark wave and synth pop. Grady is best known as the founder of the award-winning cult magazine Lemon, which has featured collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Daft Punk and Sonic Youth. This will be the band's first ever performance in Chicago.

 

THE ORDER
Jet-black, rebellious and compelling, THE ORDER is a conceptual women's fashion label that weaves together innovative design, high quality craftsmanship and wearability to create a powerful story that is both dark and feminine. 

 

Kelroy

Kelroy is a five piece rock band from the great Goddess Chicago. Their sound is an intense, thoughtful and unique mix of post rock psychedelia with a whole lot of mood. Dark and raw yet uplifting.

 

Sandra Delgado

Sandra Delgado is a Colombian-American actor, singer and writer born and raised in Chicago. She is a regular on the stages of the legendary Steppenwolf Theater and the Goodman Theater. She is a founding ensemble member of Collaboraction and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista, where she served as Associate Artistic Director from 2006-2008. Delgado is also on the National Steering Committee for the Latina/o Theatre Commons, an advocacy group for Latino theater artists. In 2011 she received the prestigious TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship in residence at the Goodman Theater in Chicago where she developed her solo show, para Graciela. She has since written and starred in her own show, La Havana Madrid, a theatrical, cinematic and musical history of Latino Caribbeans in Chicago.


Heaven Malone

Malone has DJed around the country in New York City at Girls & Boys and the notorious TRASH! party at Webster Hall in New York City, at A-list celebrity poolside hangout, Nightswim at The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, and several Lollapalooza After Parties hosted by Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman of Breaking Bad). As "David Bowie Is...", the multi-media museum fashion exhibition of acclaimed rocker David Bowie came to Chicago, Malone DJed and produced multiple Bowie Ball events sponsored by The Museum of Contemporary Art.


About Collaboraction's Peacemaker Teen Ensemble


Led by Collaboraction Director of Youth Programming Luis Crespo, Collaboraction Peacemaker's Teen Ensemble creates original devised theater focusing on peace in Chicago. Collaboraction works with over 200 Chicago youth per year, with the most committed and passionate students advancing to Peacemakers. The Peacemakers appeared in Collaboraction's 2016 PEACEBOOK Festival and perform throughout the Chicago to promote peace. They return this fall in the second annual PEACEBOOK Festival, launching Saturday, August 26 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Published in In Concert

Talk about an interesting night of music at Ravinia Festival. I knew about Gipsy Kings for a while now. I knew there were guitars involved. What I did not know was the rest of the story.

Flamenco is a Spanish tradition. It is a fiery, romantic style of music defined by the Spanish Guitar. It may seem a little strange that The Gipsy Kings actually are from the south of France, but there is no true border to this tradition.

The origins of this band go back to 1978. Some of the members are sons of original members. They are descendents of some of those who fled Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War in 1930. That explains some of the band’s makeup. This also explains the name of the group. The Kings are not just a Flamenco group, however. They have incorporated Salsa and Pop into their repertoire.

The one thing you cannot ignore is the rhythm of the music. The Gipsy Kings gets the audience clapping. You just can’t help it. As a musician myself, this was a study in rhythm. Syncopation is a big part, feeling the “and” of the beat. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, clap along with a song and count…1,2,3,4…right? Yeah okay, but most people clap either on beat one and three or two and four. Two and four are the “back beat”. With Latin rhythms there can be multiple back beats. You can clap along with the “and” of the beat…1 and, 2 and, etc. The rhythmic accent is not always the same.

Now let’s take eleven musicians, up to six guitars, bass, two percussionists and vocals and play with the rhythm. Some band members accent different parts of the beat creating a texture of metronomic complexity. Now, on paper that sounds like something hard to dance to. The security at Ravinia (whose job in part is to keep a clear pathway to the stage) had to ask people to stop dancing in the aisles. So, they went back to their seats and danced…and clapped…and sang. Concert attendees could not help themselves. I took my wife with me. She does not dance, forget about it. Guess what? The woman I have known for many years was dancing! I couldn’t believe it. This was a party!

I really wish I would have paid closer attention in Spanish class in high school, though not understanding all the words didn’t stop me from enjoying the music of The Gipsy Kings. I was a bit surprised at how packed the place was since the group is well below what I would call “main stream”. But the band obviously has a major following. This proves you don’t need a Top Forty hit to pack seats in a concert environment. You just need to throw a good party. The Grateful Dead proved that for many years but this was not a counterculture event. These were not hippies dancing. These were regular people having the time of their lives.

The set list was lively and very appetizing including such favorites as “Djobi Djoba”, “Bem, Bem Maria”, “Hotel California”, “Bamboléo”, “Vamos a Bailar”, and “Volare”.

If you have a heartbeat I recommend checking out The Gipsy Kings. I am not really sure if their recordings could actually capture the magic of their live performance, but their live show is nothing short of amazing. Their show is a celebration of life, and celebrations seem to require dancing. Escaping a civil war is a good reason to celebrate, or even just a Friday night. It doesn’t matter, let the party start. 

Ravinia Festival is one of the best summer music venues near Chicago and it's always worth getting out there a few times a year. To see Ravinia's upcoming schedule, visit www.Ravinia.org.

Published in In Concert

After a delay in touring due to singer Bruce Dickinson’s bout with cancer, Iron Maiden has finally returned to the Chicago area in tour of their 2015 release, The Book of Souls. Now, fully recovered, Dickinson and company performed in front of a packed crowd at Tinley Park’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre along with opening act Ghost.


The concert itself was a mixed bag. It was exceptional in the sense that Dickinson’s vocals were crisp, strong and delivered us to vintage Maiden-dom as only the signature sound of the collective band can possibly do. The 58-year-old Dickinson seemed in prime form vocally and even physically. Guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were riffing as though it were 1985 and madman bassist Steve Harris plucked away at his instrument while channeling the energy of an eleven-year-old kid. Nicko McBrain was still Nicko McBrain, bashing the cans with complexity and power laying down the foundation for each song along with fellow rhythm-mate Harris. Yes, the band was on. So…what was the problem?


Two things.


Janick Gers (whom I have the utmost respect for his musical ability) doesn't really fit in with an Iron Maiden progressive metal live show – at all. Joining the band in 1990 to help finish No Prayer for the Dying after Smith’s brief departure over musical differences, Gers can no doubt play the part musically, but his stage presence makes us think that we may have entered a Poison concert by mistake. While energy-filled Dickinson and Murray run around the stage, it’s just that – running around the stage from end to end, Harris’ head thrashing about and Dickinson just being the cool front man we associate with a serious metal band like Iron Maiden. Gers side-to-side hair flinging, goofy high steps, kicks (reminiscent to the band Kix), guitar spins and cheesy dance moves would have been great – if Iron Maiden was a 1980’s hair band, but they’re not. They’re Iron Maiden. (Sorry Gers fans, I know he's talented but do they even need three guitar players?)


The other issue with The Book of Souls concert (at least the one in Tinley Park) was that the set list. Though The Book of Souls sold well and gave Iron Maiden their highest boost in some time, the band’s current set list was far too dependent on their latest studio release. With six of the fifteen songs coming from The Book of Souls album, fans who went in the hopes of hearing as many Maiden classics as possible were shorted. Left to the wayside were greats such as “Two Minutes to Midnight”, “Aces High”, “Run to the Hills”, “Flight of Icarus”, “Heaven Can Wait”, “Running Free”, “Can I Play with Madness”, “The Wicker Man”, “Flash of the Blade” and so many more. Now, naturally a band that has spanned for five decades that has produced so many amazing songs cannot be expected to cram every hit into a two-hour set, but playing just two or three songs from The Book of Souls would allow for a few more greats that Iron Maiden loyals would certainly appreciate jamming along with.


So that was the disappointing. Now for the good.


As stated prior, musically Iron Maiden was on top of their game. As expected (and always hoped for), the band’s mascot Eddie made a couple appearances, one as he walked across the stage dwarfing over Murray, Smith and Harris while Gers ran between his legs eluding the creature’s grasp until Dickinson fought and defeated the beast parading his severed heart high into the air for the crowd to see, meeting his victory with bloodthirsty cheers. Later an even larger Eddie peered from behind the drums as the band went into “Iron Maiden”.


Iron Maiden classics were sprinkled in throughout the set as Dickinson donned a British coat from the Revolutionary war while waving the flag of his homeland during “The Trooper”. The singer also surveyed the crowd to see how many fans were born after 1982, the year “Children of the Damned” was released, nearly half the hands in attendance being raised as the band went into the song.


Dickinson also made a heartfelt tribute to late actor Adam West, who he called a childhood hero and an inspiration.


Iron Maiden finished strong with a three-encore power play starting off with “The Number of the Beast” before going into “Blood Brothers” and delivering the knockout blow with “Wasted Years”.


Make no mistake. Iron Maiden still rocks and can deliver a fully entertaining arena show infused with enough metal to satisfy the most hard core of fans. Hopefully, the band’s set will have more songs that truly define Iron Maiden as most know their next time around. And there will be a next time around, as Dickinson altered the lyrics in “Number of the Beast” to “We will return (Chicago)!”.


Iron Maiden set list at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park June 15th 2017


If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years

 

Published in In Concert

“You were always on my mind …You were always on my mind”
 
Summer warmth and clear skies are finally here. It is time for summer concerts. Highland Park’s Ravinia was the setting for an amazing show. Willie Nelson and Family were in town and the show was spectacular to say the least.

The beautiful lawns we're decorated up with concert-goers that were excited about the show. Happiness and anticipation could be seen within each fan. The weather predictions were calling for rain and they couldn’t be more wrong; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Coolers were filled with beverages and the heat was starting to fade into the evening. It was time for a high-class concert, and, with that, Willie Nelson and his family brought several masterpieces to the stage for a nostalgic musical journey.

Ages of the fans in attendance greatly varied as it was a family friendly show. A young girl by the name of Sienna was attending her first concert. She was just learning to walk and was being corralled in by her family with the help of a few others in the lawn. It was a delight to see the smile on her young face and she quite possibly the youngest person there. With pretzel in hand and baby curls in her hair, she was the preshow entertainment with her cute chubby cheeks.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were the opening act for the evening and without a doubt talent runs through the veins of this young man. His voice, writing style, and guitar ability was like seeing a young Willie Nelson. They were nothing less than incredible.

The song “Find Yourself” was a highlight in Lukas’ show. “Find Yourself” is a funky reggae style song that has a groove and feeling to it that just runs through deep into your soul. A ballad type song singing to a love with disappointment with a blues feel that just tore it up. Lukas undeniably has his father’s genes.

The time came for the main act Willie Nelson. A feeling of joy instantly took over the crowd that glazed their faces when the first lyric was sung; “Whiskey river, take my mind”. The opening three songs, “Whiskey River”, “Still is Still Moving to Me” and “Beer for My Horses” were just amazing choices to kick off this Friday evening show. Everyone sang along with every word.

The band was on fire, following the lead of the country genius as he jam-packed his show with a no nonsense approach. “You Were Always on my Mind” was played while the words were coming out of the mouths of the sea of people in attendance. A lady in the audience had tears in her eyes. She said with a joyful heart, “We can go now.” She was truly happy.

“Mamas’ Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, “Crazy”, “On the Road Again”, and “Georgia” were among the set list prompting one sing-a-long after another. “It’s All Going to Pot”, “Shoeshine Man”, and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” were played so well that everyone had to be impressed with the overall performance of each.

Lukas plays with Willie’s band as well and the most powerful moment of the show was during their performance of “Texas Flood”. Lukas took the lead vocal and the pipes were like a gift from the heavens above. The song wasn’t just another cover of a song. He became the song and he did as good if not better than anyone else had ever done. It came time for his guitar solo and the man’s entire body twitched with convulsions with every note played, his soulful rendition seen, heard, and felt. If anyone didn’t enjoy this masterful jam, they’re probably not a fan of music.

Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s older sister, graced the stage on piano. She is always referred to as “little sister” by the band leader and for this show it was no different. She really can just tickle the keys and did so in a dim light to one side of the stage.

Since the early seventies Mickey Raphael has been in the band. It just wouldn’t be a Willie Nelson concert without the man. Some of the greatest moments in music history involved him playing harmonica. Raphael is son entertaining, most people could probably have listened to this man just stand there and play by himself. All the members within the band are stand-alone musicians, each as impressive as the next.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The show was highly engaging and the atmosphere just perfect. Every note was flawless and carried with it the perfect sentiment. It was priceless to see one of the musical greats of the twentieth century. Ravinia is an incredible setting for a show as always. Having Willie Nelson and Family just goes to show the high caliber of talented acts brought in by the famous concert grounds in Highland Park. The weather cooperated and it was a great start to the summer concert season. It’s a time that will not be forgotten. To see a list of upcoming musical acts appearing at Ravinia, visit www.Ravinia.org.

 

Published in In Concert

Classical Music sounds so much better in person. Music is always better live in my opinion. And hearing magically composed sounds in a hall constructed for the occasion is the icing on the cake. The caliber of the musicians plays a huge part.

Vladimir Spivakov conducted the entire show this past weekend at Orchestra Hall that featured some of Russia’s highly talented musicians working together in a chamber orchestra. A chamber orchestra is a bit different than a symphony orchestra. At times, the music delivered was all strings, violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Some selections had French horn and oboe added.

Spivakov has been a respected musician since the 1960’s. He directed the ensemble with a high level of passion for what he was doing. The dynamics were flat out amazing – something you don’t get with your average Rock band. The softest of piano leads to the loudest of forte, all with a high level of grace.

Another interesting thing about seeing musicians play live is seeing the expression on their faces. Classical Music can on the surface appear stiff. Many might think classical musicians play straight off the page as written. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the notes are already chosen. Interpretation means a lot. The passion of the performance makes the page come alive. When the players do that, it is amazing.

The performance was divided into two sets. The first was mostly the chamber orchestra. Towards the middle of the set, Danielle Akta joined in on cello. She came out, looking like a kid of fourteen-years-old or so. The emotional intensity knocked the room out. I was watching the four other cellists on stage watching her. Two of them were at least double her age, yet she had their full attention. I can understand why. She took it to another level.

The second set featured Hibla Gerzmava. She is a soprano. It takes a strong voice to fill the hall with a microphone. I know there were mics set up, but I don’t believe they were being used as sound reinforcement. I couldn’t really tell from my vantage point. Having said that, I heard every inflection perfectly. Again, dynamics play a gigantic role in this type of music. It was very theatrical. Hibla at one point was singing to the lead violinist, other times to Spivakov. You can see why a good portion of the great Classical Music out there was written in the Romantic period. It is romantic. Almost, I dare say…erotic. Both Akta and Gerzmava had that quality at times. There was even a bit of humor, too. In a real quiet part of one of the songs sung by Hibla, someone dropped a bottle or something. Everyone heard it, but she kept a straight face. After the piece, she was all smiles.

I was impressed by the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra overall. I loved the vibe of the pieces played. There was a playful interaction between performers that truly resonates.

I have heard a lot of amateur chamber orchestras. Violins are very unforgiving in regard to the intonation of the instrument. What a treat it was to hear this group of in-tune stringed instruments. I have also been trying to hear music and not just listen to it. The idea is to listen without analysis, just hear the music. Musicians know this struggle. Sometimes it is easy to forget the joy that art like this brings to our lives. Anyone can be a critic. I would rather be a lover of the arts. From Russia With Love? Yes, I saw that completely.

 

Published in In Concert

It was an interesting pairing of solo singer/guitar players last night at City Winery. I often check out artists I review that I don’t know before I go and see them. Often, I end up finding they can be quite different than the usual Youtube videos you see. This can be good or bad. A couple reasons for this. There is the energy of the room that cannot be captured on video or sometimes you end up checking out the videos that do not exemplify the band as much. In this case, both artists were better in person than video.

 

First up was Edward David Anderson. I would call him a bit of a story teller type of writer and singer. Most of his songs had entertaining introductions and good story lines. I found it interesting that he sat down and played bass drum while he sang and played guitar - a one-man band. His left foot seemed to be getting something like a tambourine sound. I could not see how he did that, exactly. After opening with a nylon string guitar that looked like it had survived a war, he switched over to banjo for a few songs. After that, he played slide on one of those cigar box guitars. He killed it on the cigar box playing a great version of Bill Preston’s “Go ‘Round In Circles”. I really liked that. 

 

Edward was a very funny guy between songs as well. His own songs were great. I really liked one called “That’s My Dog”. He was not too serious and very down to Earth. I thought his music was very accessible, and the crowd was in agreement. He got a great response. He even did some Dylan-esque harp work and, believe it or not, some kazoo while plying guitar and bass drum.

 

After a short intermission, Seth Walker took the stage. He was sporting and old Gibson hollow body guitar at first. He plugged into a little tube amplifier. He was a little more Blues based, but not a bunch of twelve bar repetition. He had some really good songs, too. He was a switch from Anderson but it was a smooth transition, either one could have been headliner. 

 

He switched to a steel string acoustic after a few songs, joking it was a borrowed guitar. His version of “Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain” was just amazing. Willie Nelson would surely approve. He switched back to the old Gibson for the rest of his set. He also seemed to put a little humor in his delivery. This tends to work rather well in a club this size. The crowd was very relaxed. There was a lot of clapping on two and four during Walker’s set.

 

Anderson came up and joined Walker for the last couple songs. “Ophelia” was a knockout song I first heard The Band do years ago. It had that kind of Levon Helm vibe. 

 

It was yet another great show at City Winery, which is a real nice place to see a show. The wine is excellent and so is the food. They also have a top-notch staff. The crowd was a nice mix too. I would highly recommend both the venue and the two artists highly. It was a great way to spend a Thursday evening.

 

Published in In Concert

It’s as though the minds behind Motley Crue’s farewell tour, “The Final Tour”, thought of every possible stunt, gimmick and visual spectacle that would blow one’s mind and then compacted them all into a single evening. First and foremost, the band hand-picked the perfect act to send them on their way into their, now famous, permanent retirement – Alice Cooper. That’s right, a permanent retirement as Motley Crue. Not wanting to be yet another band that has a farewell tour every few years, the band actually signed legal documents stating that they cannot play together as Motley Crue again after December 31st, 2015. Guitarist Mick Mars declining health has also played a factor in the band’s decision to call it quits, not wanting to go on with rotating tour musicians in place of the originals. One of the few remaining true hair bands of the 1980s that still feature their original lineup, Crue has decided to hang it up while they can still kick some major ass on the stage – and that they do in this final year and a half tour.

Formed in 1981, Motley Crue has been still going strong despite a couple temporary lineup changes and a lack of relevant releases since “Primal Scream”, an added track on the 1991 compilation album Decade of Decadence, to the balls out, in-your-face album Saints of Los Angeles that hit shelves with a bang in 2008 (though, disregarding the reviews of bitter critics, I'd still argue that Generation Swine and New Tattoo are kick ass records). Even in those musically not so productive years, according to some, the band continued to tour and keep busy in the recording studio, successful or not. Now, 34 or so years from their days of opening for Ozzy Osbourne when “Live Wire” and “Piece of Your Action” were cutting edge rock songs, the band returns to say goodbye to the fans that made them the band they have become. Their arrogance and blatant degradation of women that helped make them famous as rock and roll’s “bad boys” now has slowly mellowed into family life behind the scenes, and their rampant drug use and notorious partying that put them in the music headlines so often has now been reduced to having a few beers, if even that. Still, 1980s rock and roll lifestyle aside – like it or not, it was their music that put them high on the charts and made them household names. It is their music and the impact made in such genre that will undoubtedly get them inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at some point.   

Now it is time for one last hurrah. Once more Motley Crue will remind everyone why they are considered one of the best rock bands of our time. 

Led by bassist Nikki Sixx, now fifty-six, he is joined once again by some of the most iconic bandmates of our generation in drummer Tommy Lee (now fifty-three), singer/frontman Vince Neil (fifty-four) and guitarist extraordinaire Mick Mars, who is either now sixty-years-old or sixty-four depending on what you read. Their mission is simple – to embark on a tour that that will blow minds in every way imaginable - a tour that will not be forgotten.

                  Alice Cooper and his minions

When Alice Cooper and his minions hit the stage, it’s go time. Each band member takes on a personality of their own, almost as if they popped out of the pages of a comic book. Already known for his theatrics, Cooper weighs into the night by kicking his set off with “The Black Widow” and follows up strongly with “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels”, the classic “I’m Eighteen”, “Poison” and “Go to Hell”. Each song a theatrical performance in itself, with costumes, heavy duty props and special effects, we even see a twenty or so foot tall Frankenstein monster emerge then run about the stage during “Feed My Frankenstein”. When a frightening nurse leads a straight-jacket wearing Alice Cooper to a guillotine, the anticipation continues to mount. The nurse urges the crowd to drop the hammer on Alice and with massive shouts of approval – SLICE! The blade crashes down and Cooper’s head falls to the floor before being picked up by the executioner who parades it around for all to see to the tune of “I Love the Dead”. 

Colorful, exciting and shocking, Alice Cooper’s set would have already more than satisfied my taste rock and roll that evening. Baby heads surround Glen Sobel’s drum kit as he wails away while guitar duties are shared by Tommy Henriksen, Ryan Roxy and Nita Strauss, who was a show in herself. Chuck Garric plucks the bass and adds his own distinct flavor to Cooper’s band. Often the band triumphantly gathers center stage led by Cooper, exchanging riffs and showboating for the crowd.  

At sixty-seven-years old, Alice Cooper may have still his best touring days ahead, especially if his band is as engaging as the one he has now. Thoroughly entertaining in every aspect desired in a ball’s out rock show, Cooper’s show was pure rock and roll bliss.  

In what we could only wish was a longer set, Alice Cooper finishes off the crowd with a power-charged rendition of “School’s Out” that medleys with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.  Nothing short of amazing, at that point it seemed Cooper may have stolen the night.

A short breather.

After appropriately hearing The Sound of Music’s “So Long Farewell” throughout the stadium, the familiar revving of a Harley Davidson engine thrusts Motley Crue onto the stage with “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Mick Mars, looking that of a New Orleans crypt keeper, strums the crunchy chords as Vince Neil struts forth. Nikki Sixx looks to be in great shape though frontman Vince Neil's slightly chubby frame doesn’t keep him from rocking at full throttle. Tommy also looks to be in peak form as he slams the cans with the same fervor and precision as ever.

Over the years Motley Crue has made a point of creating a stage spectacle to remember for each tour. This is their biggest show by far. Fireworks jet out at some point in nearly every song only to be complemented with massive bursts of fire, laser lights and gusts of streaming smoke. As per usual the band is accompanied by two dancers to sexy up the set and add backing vocals. Twenty-foot flames are even shot out of Nikki’s bass as they kick into “Shout at the Devil”. Like I said, they thought of everything. 

Outside of the pyrotechnics and amazing special effects, Motley Crue puts out a long, flavorful set that includes favorites “Wild Side”, “Same Ol’ Situation”, “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room”, “Live Wire”, “Motherfucker of the Year” and a rocked out version of “Anarchy in the U.K.” complete with a squadron of masked combatants that shoot water into the crowd with high-powered Super Soakers.  

Somewhere near the half way point, an emotional Nikki addresses the crowd, thanking everyone for their years of support - a nice warm and fuzzy moment amidst one of the best concerts in some time.   

And what would a Motley Crue show be without an insane drum solo? Again, thinking of what would be most mind blowing stunt to pull off, Tommy Lee’s entire drum set ascends up and over the crowd half way across the stadium as be blasts along with a series of clips from his fave songs including some Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath and Beastie Boys. Mick Mars immediately follows up Tommy’s antics with a blazing solo of his own before the band kicks it into high gear with “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart”, a finale number that is definitely one for the books that includes everything but the kitchen sink. In their massive send off number, both Neil and Sixx are propelled out over the crowd as they each man their own pod-like thingy. Mick Mars mans the main stage standing on a riser that raises him a good twenty feet. At the same time, a thirty foot round pentagram burst into flames behind Lee’s drum set while a barrage of explosions take place and streamers fall from the ceiling so thickly one cannot see the crowd across the way. It is a memorable farewell that could only be done in Motley Crue fashion.

 

With yet another ace up their sleeve, the band returns for an encore to a small stage located in the center of the arena for a more intimate version of what Sixx has referred to as the band’s “Stairway to Heaven” in “Home Sweet Home”. Having been to more concerts than I will ever be able to count, I can honestly say that Motley Crue’s  “Final Tour” is one of the best I have ever seen, and speaking with fans after the Milwaukee, Chicago and Toledo shows (yes, I went three times), it seems most would agree. This is it for one of the last true rock bands of an unbelievable era in our music history – a band that carved the way for a countless hair bands - a band that has truly left an impression on the music industry. This is it for a band whose music has passed the test of time and is every bit as significant as it was when first released. Sixx has sure come a long way from hacking bass riffs with London in 1980 then hand-picking a motley assortment of band members (Ding! A Motley Crue!) that could have only made it this far together thanks to the perfect chemistry. 

Watching Motley Crue performing “Live Wire” as an opening act in 1982 at what was then called the Rosemont Horizon, it was apparent I was witnessing what would be a special band. It has been fun to watch them grow musically and as performers ever since and rising above some pretty meaty bumps in the road. I’d guess the band has more than a few good tours left in them, but as Motley Crue members say themselves, “All bad things must come to an end”. And what an end it is. 

 

 

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