Motley Crue: Carnival of Souls (DVD)

Do the Crüe.

When the guys from Mötley Crüe decide to put on a show, they do it right. This concert film, recorded at the band’s 2005 show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, doesn’t just feature the guys on stage going through an especially energetic performance; it also captures the pure theatricality of the concert. The action on stage isn’t just the music, but a complete three-ring circus of evil, with scantily clad girls, motorcycles, fire breathers, evil-looking clowns, more scantily clad girls, a flying drummer, and pyrotechnics galore. The show bombards the audience with visual insanity to go right along with unbelievably loud rock and roll.

The “concept” here, as explained in an opening animated segment, is that the Earth is about to be destroyed, and so the band members have taken it upon themselves to throw humanity’s last great party. What would such a party entail? Excess. And that’s the goal for this concert — to hold nothing back, as if there’s no tomorrow.

One of the criticisms of over-the-top spectacle rock shows such as this is that all the explosions and the female nudity are only there to compensate for the band’s lack of talent. This might be true in many cases, but the Crüe wowed me early on with just how good they still are. You’d think that years of singing at such a high pitch would have torn Vince Neil’s throat to pieces, but he belts out every tune with ease. He even picks up a guitar at one point and jams with the other guys. Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars are starting to look like the years have caught up with them, but they too can still play and give the crowd the middle like they always could. But the real surprise here is drummer Tommy Lee. I had long ago dismissed this guy as naught but tabloid-fodder sleaze, so imagine how shocked I was to discover that there’s a genuine musician here. His solo segment, where he flies around the stage moving among three different kinds of drum sets, shows he’s very adept at his craft. This drumming is more than just keeping the beat; it’s an artist at work.

The theatricality of the concert, then, serves to enhance the music. And it does just that. The girls are present and writhing during hits such as “Too Fast for Love,” and (of course) “Girls, Girls, Girls.” The ending to almost every song is punctuated by huge fireballs going off behind the band. For Nikki’s solo performance he dons a mad scientist outfit and plays while sparks and smoke shoot out from all around him. The filmmakers do a fine job of capturing it all, too, keeping the entire affair visually interesting, rather than relying on the same few shots over and over, making it look like a music video stretched into a feature.

Keeping it interesting is essential here, because at three hours and 20 minutes, this thing is long. Although I enjoyed it, I’ll admit I did have to take a break about two-thirds of the way through. If you’re not a hardcore fan, this DVD might be better served as a “put it on for atmosphere during a wild party” disc, instead of a “have your sweetheart over and watch it while sipping some wine” disc.

The filmmakers play an interesting little trick on the audience when it comes to the picture quality. At first, the colors are all saturated, so everything takes on a yellow-ish hue, and there are scratches and grain everywhere. This is on purpose, though, because once the music kicks in, the picture becomes so perfectly clear it looks like you could reach your hand right into the screen and wipe off some of Nikki’s eyeliner. Whenever the music plays, the picture is clear, but at any other time — such as in talking to the crowd in between songs — the picture goes back to yellow and scratchy. As you’d expect from a rock concert disc, the sound is superb. Even at a regular volume, where I’d watch something like the news, all the speakers just roared with pure sound. Cranking it up, I’d suspect that music fans in the next county were rocking out to “Shout at the Devil.” Differences between the DTS, Dolby 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 tracks seemed slight, but the DTS did appear to be a cut above the others, at least to my ears.

As if the main feature isn’t sensory overload enough, there’s an entire second disc of bonus features here. The “Inside the Big Top” documentary — excuse me, docrüementary — reveals how much planning and hard work it took not just to put the show on, but to take it on the road. Everyone is interviewed, from the band members, to the set designers, and all the way down to the caterers. The “Meet and Greet” featurette shows just what happens when you buy a VIP backstage pass, as a gaggle of hardcore fans enjoy all the perks of such. The “Blow it Up” featurette is about the concert’s pyrotechnic displays, and the “Greatest *its” featurette showcases some of the women in the audience during the show who…let’s just say they weren’t shy. Three impressively produced music videos are included, as well as time lapse look at the show’s production, condensing the entire day and night into a few minutes, revealing the small army it took to put the whole thing together. Rounding out the extras is “Disaster! The Movie,” a goofy cartoon short by the same folks who did the main feature’s intro. The set also comes with a foldout poster of the cover art, suitable for framing.

I know this type of music isn’t for everyone, but there’s a lot to enjoy here. It’s a pure spectacle of a performance, filled with loud rock, sexy girls, and big fireworks. It probably can’t compare to being there in person, but it’s a lot of fun. If this Carnival of Sins sounds like something you’d enjoy, give it a shot.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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