I can probably sum up this DVD by the fact that in one scene, Tommy Lee takes his "Tommy Cam" around the arena, basically goading girls into flashing their breasts for the big screen, and then asks for a moment of silence, gets down on his knees, hands folded, and says, "Lord, God, Jesus Christ, bless all the titties of America."
That's the beauty of the Crue in a nutshell. Unlike many of the peers from the decade of decadence, the Crue have carried on (albeit conspicuously in between failing solo projects) without making any pretenses about having matured or changed their focus: that being sex and rock 'n' roll (though only the occasional booze now). Combine that with the fact that their songs still hold up, and it's no surprise they can sell out arenas in '05, without being part of some pathetic package nostalgia tour.
Filmed earlier this year in Grand Rapids, Mich., "Carnival of Sins" captures their over-the-top, twisted three-ring circus of the same name, the centerpiece of their Red, White and Crue tour. And perhaps there is no higher compliment I can pay this package than saying I wished I had been there myself.
After a strange, claymation short film having to do with a meteor coming to Earth and the Crue playing an end-of-the-world gig, the show begins with a menacing, oversized clown stomping onto the stage to introduce the band, but not before opening a treasure-chest-sized box, out from which comes exotic dancers in dustbowl-era burlesque outfits, caressing and kissing each other. Then out comes the Crue, guitars blazing, for a chills-worthy rendition on "Shout at the Devil," as thousands of erected index fingers and pinkies bang in the air, cameras capture women young and old exposing themselves and doing the standard groupie dance, and sparks and flames shoot up from the circus-tent-inspired stage.
From there, things never really lose momentum over their two hours, with the possible exception of a back-loaded barrage of power ballads. ("Don't Go Away Mad," "Glitter," "Without You" and "Home Sweet Home" come virtually in succession in the second hour. Even then however, "Carnival" remains a hypnotic heavy metal experience, thanks to slo-mo cutaways to the slew of exotic dancers on the stage, who are hanging upside down, crawling along the floor and doing anything else naughty you can imagine, and constant cuts to the audience, whether it's middle-aged women grinding sensually or teenage boys banging their heads.
But the first hour is non-stop hits, be it "Too Fast for Love," "Looks That Kill" and a straight-up awesome version of "On With the Show" that nearly, in fact, steals the show itself early on.
Of course, you get the fair share of unintentionally comedic moments, like Vince Neil upholding the metal frontman tradition of cursing profusely in between songs to the crowd to reinforce his level of cool; Nikki Six giving the crowd a "test" to see if they're "old school," by shouting out, say, "Looks thatů" and seeing if the crowd has the IQ to infer what the missing word might be. And speaking of metal tradition, God bless titties, yes, but God bless the solo as well, as both Nikki and Tommy take their turns in the spotlight (though Nikki's is some absurd pseudo-Trent Reznor goth-keyboard segment, punctuated by one of the dancers shooting sparks out her privates).
And then there's the mere physical presence of Mick Mars, who, at the risk of sound crass (I know, I know, the guy's got a rare spinal disease), has all the grace on stage of Manute Bol, and is in jarring juxtaposition to all the young flesh being paraded throughout the arena.
However, like the rest of the band, Mars can flat out play, and you don't need solos to prove that. Just check your pulse by the time they're done closing out the set with the wham-bam trio of "Kickstart My Heart," "Helter Skelter" and "Anarchy in the UK" (Forgot they covered that one, didn't ya?)
Video: Filmed in high-definition by 20 cameras that hovered around, above and all over the arena, this is an impeccable-looking release,with the colorful, yet slightly menacing, vibe of the Carnival of Sins theme more than represented visually. The fact that Hamish Hamilton, whose helmed concert videos by U2 and Madonna, among others, was the director for "Carnival," doesn't hurt. The occasional slo-mo shots of stage (and audience) dancers provide a theatrical, dramatic feel that even borders on giving the concert an artistic edge, making it more than just a concert but an actual film. To add to the atmosphere, the aesthetic is occasionally altered in between songs to that of grainy, old-sideshow stock footage, never letting you forget the theme of the show, and again, keeping things big and theatrical. And yes, it is in widescreen.
Sound: Production values are on thing the Crue's never messed around with ("Dr. Feelgood" is arguably one of the best sounding metal albums of the last two decades), and they tapped Bob Rock to help make sure this mix, presented in stellar-sounding 5.1 Surround Sound, came out just right.
Extras: Not as great as they seem on the surface. The "Inside the Big Top: A Motley Documentary" is a detailed and entertaining look at how the whole tour came together (is it lame that former Janet Jackson choreographer Tina Landon directed the concert itself? I can't decide), and I suppose the diehard Crue fan will enjoy a few of their new music videos. But "Motley Crue's Greatest Tits," is just an edited out rehash from the Disc 1 feature, and remaining items are totally superflous, blink-and-you'll-miss them tack-ons that hardly warrant wasting space getting into detail about.
Perils of age, illness and antiquated metal chicanery aside, Carnival is easily one of the finest-looking, sounding and packaged concert-film DVDs you're going to find, and even without all the eye candy, the songs are still potent enough where you might actually want to run out and purchase the soundtrack on CD. And by releasing it, the Crue have cemented their legacy as more than just some glammed-out, forgotten relic from a musical era generally worth little more than mockery.