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Concert Reviews:
Hard Rock Conquers Heat At Crue Fest 2

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- "You're not sick of the heavy music yet, are you?" Drowning Pool frontman Ryan McCombs asked the fans gathered Saturday (Aug. 15) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. But he likely knew the answer already.

The near-sellout crowd that turned out for Motley Crue's Crue Fest 2 was indeed a hearty bunch, rocking and roasting in sweltering sunshine as it hopped between two stages and soaked up a 10-band, seven-hour survey of hard rock, with just enough metal thrown in for the headbanging purists. It's a credit to the Crue that it's willing to throw so much music out there before it hits the stage, though circumstances -- particularly the heat -- ultimately worked against the headliner on Saturday.

Not that the Crue didn't give fans plenty to absorb at this year's show. This is, after all, the 20th anniversary of its most popular album, "Dr. Feelgood," and the quartet is celebrating by playing it front-to-back during Crue Fest -- complete with psychiatric hospital staging that had crew members running around in scrubs and white lab coats. The band even started its hour-and-45-minute show playing in a padded cell until the walls expanded to reveal the larger, pyrotechnic-laden stage.

On top of that there was drama with Tommy Lee, who burned his left hand while playing with sparklers late last week and was unable to play drums. Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose "came charging in like a knight in shining armor" according to a note on bassist Nikki Sixx's MySpace site, but Lee was still part of the proceedings. Frontman Vince Neil brought him on to explain his absence -- "First of all, I suck," Lee, his thumb and forefinger bandaged, confessed to the crowd -- and came on later to hand a bottle of Jagermeister to fans at the front of the stage. During the encores Lee played piano on "Home Sweet Home" and thumped a drum with his right hand during "Girls, Girls, Girls."

Where the Crue lost it was in the transition from "Dr. Feelgood" to the rest of the show. Although the album run-through was a genuinely refreshing experience thanks to little-played material such as "Slice of Your Pie," "Rattlesnake Shake," "Sticky Sweet" and "She Goes Down," the lush closing track, "Time For Change," brought the tempo down to the point where fans were streaming out for the rest rooms -- or the parking lots. A lengthy and seemingly pointless set change only stalled the momentum further, and the Crue never really regained its stride, with just three songs -- albeit hits such as "Wildside," "Saints of Los Angeles" and "Shout at the Devil" -- seeming like an afterthought before the encore.

Godsmack did not have that issue during its 70-minute performance. The Boston quartet, returning from a couple years of hiatus, played a tight, sinewy set of favorites ("Awake," "Keep Away," "Voodoo," "Whatever," "I Stand Alone") and also a new single, "Whiskey Hangover," that's expected to be part of a new album frontman Sully Erna promised for the first half of 2010. Erna and Shannon Larkin also combined for an intriguing double drum solo, which wove in licks from AC/DC's "Back in Black," Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" and Rush's "Tom Sawyer."

Other Crue Fest 2 highlights included:

* Vinnie Dombroski and Andy Patalan of Sponge playing their 1995 hit "Molly (Sixteen Candles)" with the Detroit trio Shram on the second stage.

* Crue guitarist Mick Mars slyly bringing a bottle of water to a surprised Theory of a Deadman frontman Tyler Connolly during its main stage set.

* Second stage headliner Rev Theory weaving a cover of nine inch nails' "Head Like a Hole."

* Drowning Pool's McCombs striding through the front of the pavilion during his band's big hit "Bodies."

* Cavo drummer Chad La Roy sporting a Barack Obama mask during the opening moments of the St. Louis quartet's performance on the second stage.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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