Picture this: You're a portrait photographer hired to take a Christmas-card photo for an upper-middle-class family circa 1985.
There's Dad in a Tom Selleck mustache and blue blazer, Mom in a perm and pearls and little sister in a floral print Laura Ashley dress. Then there's the seventh-grade son in his black, long-sleeve Mtley Cre Theater of Pain T-shirt. Mom's pleading with the boy, dad's pissed beyond salvation, and sis is giggling, but the kid won't be cajoled. The shirt stays in the picture. This is the power of Mtley Cre. This is the power of Vince Neil.
Say what you will about Neil -- and I'm sure you have plenty you could say (sexist, misogynistic jerk with demonic/shitty/cheesy music) -- but he informed a generation about the values, culture and excesses of rock 'n' roll. Via MTV, teens learned that riding room-service carts into hotel pools, exposing one's breasts to a crowd of 20,000 and smokin' in the boys' room were cool things to do. And, like Led Zeppelin before them, bands like the Cre (and Ratt, Def Leppard, et al.) continue to confuse a generation of spellers.
Now the citizens of Colorado have a chance to see the flesh-and-blood version of the MTV icon they worshipped a decade and a half ago. For those who grew up in the '80s, this will be a chance to see things as they were in the heyday -- Neil still looks like the guy in the white gloves belting out "Home Sweet Home." Aside from a little age and a lot more lozenges to ease the vocal chords, Neil promises the crowd a vintage show.
"You're going to think you're back in the '80s, watching the way the shows were back then," he said. "You're going to know all the songs."
That means a stage show embodying the clichs of metal -- lots of leather pants, virtuoso guitar solos, shouts of "put your hands up," smoke machines, pyrotechnics and booze.
With a little fantasy and the rebirth of hero worship, it's easy to see Neil as a man living the dream of life on the wild side. He lives in Vegas (undeniably rock star-ish), isn't on speaking terms with any of his old bandmates (also undeniably rock star-ish) and says -- with a straight face -- that his crowd is still "80 percent girls" (while girls won't admit it, they've just gotta love men with more makeup and longer/taller hair than they).
Speaking about his tour, Neil seems almost humble. It's insanity to say so, but it's almost as if he loves playing music as much as he loves the sex and drugs.
"When I'm home, I miss it," he said. "I'm just lucky that I'm in the position where I can go and find a tour every year and play rock 'n' roll."
Humility turns into something else when he's asked the compulsory "What kind of music do you listen to now?"
"It just depends on what kind of mood I'm in," he said "I listen to everything from the Sex Pistols to Frank Sinatra, from AC/DC to Mozart."
Then he pulls out the save.
"Mainly, the bands I listen to are the bands I grew up with, like AC/DC, Bad Company, Deep Purple and old Van Halen."
With the words "old Van Halen," the air of legitimacy returns. If he had said "Van Halen," implicitly including the Hagar years, we could have had trouble. But pointing out that it's old Halen (read: Diamond Dave) re-establishes that his rock-star priorities are in order.
Even while humbly talking about whom he grew up worshiping, Neil knows he's cool. He knows he's a rock god. While Denver urbanite elitists may not agree with him, plenty of Coloradans will.
"This will be even better than it was before," he said of the show. Then with real confidence: "These fans are hungry for this."
-- Jed Gottlieb
Vince Neil and Seven Mary Three
Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.
Thursday, Sept. 23
Tickets: $20, available through TicketsWest, 866/464-2626 or www.ticketswest.com