Twenty-four's not such a bad age for rock & roll. Though much has passed in the years since Mötley Crüe formed in 1981 feuds, addictions, near-death experiences, and many, many blondes the four original members look (from the safe distance of 30 yards, at least) and sound nearly as good as they did in the days when their lifestyle often overshadowed the music. With the help of a televised VH1 makeover, Vince Neil fits into his leather pants once again, and his voice is surprisingly undiminished. Nikki Sixx, a vision in tattoos, eyeliner, and Aqua Net, still shreds like a teenage dropout (rather than the married father of five that he is), and Tommy Lee is, well, Tommy. Only guitarist Mick Mars, who suffers from a form of degenerative arthritis, exhibits the ravages of time.
Legions of the hesherhaired, heavily cleavaged, and already drunk milled inside Fort Lauderdale's Office Depot Center on Feb. 17, awaiting the kickoff of the band's Red, White & Crüe tour (this lineup last toured in 1999). Some wore their holey T-shirts from 1985's Theatre of Pain tour; others were probably conceived on it, but they all roared as one when the Crëe appeared in a burst of flames.
''We're back, motherchuuucckkerrrrrs!!!'' (For you, gentle reader, we paraphrase.)
A rallying cry from Neil, and the 1983 classic ''Shout at the Devil'' shook the stadium. ''Too Fast for Love'' and (we're sensing a theme here) ''Ten Seconds to Love'' brought bendy dancers descending from circus-tent poles to writhe against Neil like feral kittens. The crowd exploded; if anyone didn't know the words to every chorus, they were probably working security.
After a 10-minute intermission, the band reemerged on tricked-out custom choppers for ''Girls, Girls, Girls'' and ''Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),'' before Neil pulled up a stool for the slow-dance doubleheader of ''Without You''/''Home Sweet Home,'' taking the more than 7,500 faithful back to the junior high school gym of their collective consciousness. Lee's high-wire double-kit interlude couldn't beat the spinning drum cage of yore, but the momentum was recovered with golden oldies ''Same Old Situation (S.O.S.)'' and ''Kickstart My Heart,'' which sandwiched the new single ''If I Die Tomorrow.'' And with that, nearly 120 minutes of xxx-treme pyro, leather-clad acrobats, midget devil clown tricks, and pure Mötley röck came to a sparks-showering close.
What would a Crüe show be, though, without an encore of the Sex Pistols' ''Anarchy in the U.K.''? Sid Vicious no doubt dies again each time his gutter-punk manifesto is appropriated by the L.A. metal millionaires. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it means to inhabit the glorious, irony-free world of the Crüe; you might not actually want to live there, but for two-plus hours, it's a pretty great place to visit.