Kiss and Mötley Crüe - Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach - July 27

Better than: Jon Bon Jovi's solo show at the Hard Rock on Thursday.

Slideshow of Mötley Crüe and Kiss performing at Cruzan Amphitheatre
Nikki Sixx talks Lady Gaga and Elton John
Kiss Superfan and String Strangler Juan Montoya on His Band of Choice

Back in, like, 1989, when Ozzy was biting the heads off of bats and Nikki Sixx was shooting up heroin and leaving a trail of destroyed hotel rooms in his wake, we wondered how rock bands of the future would ever top this era of decadence.

We needn't have worried. After hair bands became parodies of themselves and Nirvana ushered in a new era of serious rock, music took a detour into a more self-conscious world of boy bands, indie rockers, and shoegazers.This left plenty of room for Kiss, Crüe, and others of their ilk to return and give us something we need every once in a while: a fuckin' spectacle.

We knew it was going to be a killer night even from the parking lot, where a sherbet-colored sunset lit up the cloudless sky, tailgating strangers shared beer, and a group of dudes in pink spandex, black pleather pants, wigs, and headbands jogged past us up to the gate.

On the stage, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, and Tommy Lee all seemed surprisingly, well, happy. They might all be dads and old dudes, but they haven't stopped rocking or cursing, and as 61-year-old Mick Mars told us the other day, they're about to release a song called "Sex," of course.

Yes, Vince Neil has a little pot belly, and he doesn't skip across the stage quite as fast as he used to, but on the whole, the Crüe were pretty energetic as they steamed through their greatest hits. Among them were "Home Sweet Home," "Live Wire," "Shout at the Devil," "Girls, Girls, Girls," and "Kickstart My Heart."

Nikki told the crowd about a fan he'd met outside of his hotel who had seen the band 117 times. "This place is fuckin' awesome!" he declared, and then, "Help me burn this fuckin' place down!"

Tommy Lee did a raging drum solo on the same kit he's been using for a few years. He rolled around on his 360 drum roller coaster. He declared "This is the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on!" and then invited a fan named Randy to get strapped on the back and ride with him. "Put your goddamn hands together, motherfuckers!"

Vince Neil said, "What I'd like to do on a night like tonight is get on my fuckin' bike, put a hot fuckin' old lady on the back, and head down the fuckin' road to a fuckin' Mötley Crüe concert."

During intermission, fans in Kiss in makeup refueled on Bud Lights and rum and Cokes. People clamored to buy $40 T-shirts, sweaty drunk dudes went around feeling up strangers, and a superfan named John Ladislaw, who plays drums in a tribute act called Kiss Alive, gave us a tutorial on all of the various Kiss tribute bands and how they have splintered off over the years. He also explained that this is just a little summer tour for the real Kiss. The band is supposed to release an album called Monster in September. After that, they're likely to go on one final, final tour and retire for realz, though they have threatened to retire before.

Then the lights went dark, the Muzak went quiet, and Kiss descended from a platform with flaming rockets, surrounded by smoke machines, onto a stage that blinked and lit up like a casino slot machine.

An ominous voice boomed over the speakers: "You wanted the baddest band in the world? You got the baddest band in the world... KISS!" And then the band -- all clad in their makeup and ensembles of spandex and rhinestones, with Gene Simmons in a cape and clothes with spikes that looked like brontosaurus teeth -- launched into "Detroit Rock City."

Paul Stanley's muscles were lookin' pretty taut for his age, and he said in a weird Southern lilt (he addressed the crowd as "y'all" throughout the night), "It's cooler than we expected, but we're gonna heat this place up, because tonight is gonna be a great night for rock n' roll" before launching into, "I love it loud/I wanna hear it loud/right between the eyes!"

And so it went, with the band pretty much delivering what you'd expect: anthemic tunes like "Love Gun," "God of Thunder," and "Lick it Up," call-and-response choruses, and fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

At one point, Paul rode a zip-line over the audience to play on a platform. Later, he made the audience shout until we got the volume up to the red zone on his "loudness meter." There was one heavy moment when Gene Simmons did a bass solo and looked genuinely scary. The Jumbotron showed close-ups of him singing with dark maroon blood spewing out of his mouth.

They closed down with "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night" before Gene levitated back into the sky like a creepy fairy, and the band disappeared -- sadly without ever playing "Beth."

All in all, it was a solid show by two pros who will rock it unapologetically all the way to the retirement home.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: First record I ever bought was Too Fast for Love on vinyl from a Record Bar in the Boynton Beach Mall.

Random detail: Kiss Alive is playing August 17 in Port St. Lucie.

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