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Mötley Crüe 

Wednesday, Aug. 23; Riverport

Mötley Crüe is the epitome of rock & roll excess. Their career has been a tabloid treasure trove of audience riots, drug addictions, car crashes, arrests, manslaughter charges, prison terms, rehab stints (both successful and unsuccessful), Playmate wives, homemade porno and about a million other things that prove they are the polar opposite of Pearl Jam. They are publicity whores of the highest degree, a triumph of spectacle over substance. Mötley Crüe embrace and flaunt their rock & roll lifestyle with the bravado of, well, Mötley Crüe; no other band has tried to live as cartoonishly large for so long and with so much success.

But in all the flash and sizzle of the Mötley Crüe extravaganza, one man's contribution has been lost. Guitarist Mick Mars is the black sheep in a band of prima donnas. Vince Neil has the surfer-boy looks and the personal tragedy. Nikki Sixx writes the songs and forms official Crüe policies. We all know what Tommy Lee had, and his replacement, Randy Castillo, has the chops, if not the enormous drumstick, to replace him. Mick has been in the band since the beginning, and one question remains: "Why?" Mick doesn't have the dexterous brilliance of Steve Vai; he doesn't possess the innovative genius of Eddie Van Halen; nor does he have the crushing downstroke of Tony Iommi. His personality is such that he had the least screentime in the Crüe's episode of VH1's Behind the Music. If it's not skill and it's not charisma, what keeps him in his high-profile slot?

Mick is the equivalent of hockey's "grinder:" He does the best he can with what skills he has and leaves the goal scoring to the superstars. Need someone to anchor the song with a repetitive riff while the other three prance and preen? Mick's your man. Need a bar of two-note solo to get from pre-chorus to chorus? Mick will do that for you. His lack of ego and his willingness to do the heavy lifting have made him one of the great rock & roll guitarists. He keeps it simple. Mick keeps the volume high and the effects to a minimum, and he isn't afraid to go into the corners and get a little dirty. "Loud, rude and aggressive" were the terms he used to describe himself when he applied for the job almost two decades ago. Mötley Crüe has been built around his hard-nosed work ethic; New Tattoo is a showcase for Mick Mars and his minimalist approach to the guitar, and it's no small coincidence that it's the Crüe's best album since Shout at the Devil.

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