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Live review: Motley Crue, Bush, more at Sunset Strip festival

August 21, 2011 |  1:56 pm

Motley Crue

Going home is an enduring theme of rock 'n' roll, and it had special resonance for Motley Crue on Saturday, as headliner and honored guests at the fourth annual Sunset Strip Music Festival, three decades after beginning its long journey of loudness and debauchery along the boulevard.

“I'm just tripping out right now,” drummer Tommy Lee declared from the festival main stage, steps away from the Key Club, the former site of Gazzarri's, an essential venue for '80s hair metal. “I have stumbled down these ... streets so many times -- from that club to that club to that club, played that club, threw up in that club. I've done it all on this street.”

In front of him the crowd stretched out for blocks as he sat behind a mirrored baby grand piano to play “Home Sweet Home,” the kind of heartfelt, manly ballad once required by metal acts hoping to cross over. It was a genuine moment.

The band's 90-minute set opened with rapid-fire explosions, and singer Vince Neil stood center stage with an American flag sewn onto the crotch of his silver pants, punching the air to 2008's “Saints of Los Angeles.” There were big classic solos from guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx spit up fake blood on the front rows, and huge blasts of pyro accompanied every “shout!” during “Shout at the Devil.”

Lee's drum kit rode a circular roller coaster on stage, taking his entire setup (nine drums and eight cymbals) upside-down and sideways as he pounded beats. “You guys look real good upside-down,” Lee said, then invited surprise guest Deadmau5 to ride the crazy train with him during the Ohio Players' “Love Rollercoaster” while the DJ held tightly onto his bright red mouse head.

Motley Crue then ignited a trashy medley of inspirational '70s rockers: Gary Glitter's “Rock and Roll Part 2” and Brownsville Station's “Smokin' in the Boys Room,” the latter a crucial early hit for the Crue in 1985. That took them back, and by the end of the night, these sometimes warring glam-metal vets embraced in a huddle to take it in, and Lee could be heard saying, “We're home, boys, we're home.”

Earlier, Public Enemy bounced with as much energy as it had in the '80s, pacing a stage crowded with musicians and crew, and reflecting lifelong commitment to music and message. “America is in a financial recession. A lot of people know about the ... blues,” declared rapper Chuck D, who repeatedly noted the group's 24 years in action. “This ain't no normal rap group out here.”

The band was joined by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian to recreate their 1987 genre-busting rap-metal hit “Bring the Noise,” as Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Ian shouted instructional rhymes: “Soul control, beat is the father of your rock 'n' roll!”

Among the dozens of acts playing the street fest or inside the clubs was the reunited Bush, which had its own local history to note Saturday. From the main stage, frontman Gavin Rossdale talked warmly of playing the Roxy during the grunge act's first trip to the U.S. and performed a song from 1992, “Everything Zen.” He dropped in a few lines from the Talking Heads' “Once in a Lifetime” (“You may ask yourself: Well, how did I get here?”) as if commenting on the journey from Roxy showcase to big stage on the same boulevard.

Matt & Kim faced the late-afternoon sunshine with some giddy minimalist garage-pop. Kim Schifino pounded a tough danceable beat alongside keyboardist Matt Johnson, both frequently rising and standing on their seats. Schifino flashed a tattoo below her beltline and before “It's a Fact” encouraged the crowd: “You should go ... nuts today. Do it for me -- make this day regrettable.”


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-- Steve Appleford

Photo: Vince Neil, from left, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue at a tribute to the band launching the Sunset Strip Music Festival on Thursday. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press