Motley Crue rock London's tiny Underworld club (and no, there wasn't any miming)

Motley Crue roll back the years with a sweaty and full-throttle show in the most intimate of settings

Motley Crue play the Underworld
(Image: © Facebook)

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Hating on Mötley Crüe is a hobby as old as, well, Mötley Crüe. Although their spandex-loving pop-metal stylings quickly dominated the Sunset Strip, savaging that sound and look was an early motivator for the likes of Metallica and Megadeth. Then, the band’s mainstream ascent was followed by stories of indecency, recklessness and endless feuds. Even in 2023, as the Crüe co-headline stadiums with Def Leppard eight years after “retiring”, they’ve been spatting with the recently ousted Mick Mars and found themselves on the receiving end of many a vitriolic live review.

However, even the stiffest hater of these Hollywood hedonists would still have to admit…they’ve written a litany of top-shelf songs. Such anthems as Dr Feelgood and stripclub mainstay Girls, Girls, Girls haven’t been on rock radio rotation this long by being shit, and hearing any of these classics blare at a club night will sweeten up any sourpuss in sight.

The passion that still follows those megahits is particularly palpable tonight. The evening before playing the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium, Mötley Crüe are performing to just 500 loyalists in a warm-up at London’s tiny Underworld. It’s a long-standing tradition for the band, who – as Nikki Sixx points out on-stage – headlined this city’s 700-person Marquee club at the apex of their relevance. And, as Wild Side bounces off the walls of this intimate club to just a handful of passionate punters, you quickly feel thrust back into that glam metal heyday.

It was in venues this big that the Crüe began their climb to the mainstream, and it’s still where they sound best. Early-career cuts Live Wire and Too Fast For Love pack a speed metal verve that gets swallowed up in stadiums – but here they hit as hard as a platform boot to the head. There’s even a show of typical hair metal libido, as the band are frequently flanked by two scantily clad backup singers pulling out their most seductive dance moves.

Meanwhile, Vince Neil, often accused of letting his voice weaken since the Crüe’s commercial peak, has his job done for him by a room full of diehards screaming along to every word he sings. The frontman’s recently faced allegations of miming along to a backing tape live – however, in a space so small that everyone can see the whites of his eyes, he’s clearly the real deal this evening.

It’s Sixx, new guitarist John 5 and an all-smiles Tommy Lee who come closest to matching their audience’s excitement, though. The bassist gives an impassioned cry about the intimacy of the evening, screaming that, while there may be naysayers and plenty of industry excess around the band, all that matters is the kind of purehearted fans that swarmed to the Underworld tonight. It’s a manifesto of unity that feels echoed by a hefty-sounding (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).

When Mötley Crüe march into Wembley, they’ll likely inspire more reviews mentioning lacklustre singing and their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it retirement. In Camden, though, intimate confines and a rabid crowd are amplifying the band’s sonic oomph while compensating for their weaknesses. They may be stadium superstars now, but the Crüe will always be best in the kind of grubby clubs that gave them their start.

Mötley Crüe: The Underworld, London setlist 

Wild Side
Shout At The Devil
Too Fast for Love
Live Wire
Looks That Kill
Medley: Rock and Roll, Part 2 / Smokin' in the Boys Room / Helter Skelter / Anarchy in the U.K. / Blitzkrieg Bop
(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)
Dr. Feelgood
Girls, Girls, Girls
Primal Scream
Kickstart My Heart

Mötley Crüe/Def Leppard Stadium Tour 2023

Jul 01: London Wembley Stadium, UK
Jul 02: Lytham Festival, UK
Jul 04: Dublin Marlay Park, Ireland
Jul 06: Glasgow Hampden Park, UK

Aug 05: Syracuse JMA Wireless Dome, NY
Aug 08: Columbus Ohio Stadium, OH
Aug 11: Fargo Fargodome, ND
Aug 13: Omaha Charles Schwab Field Omaha, NE
Aug 16: Tulsa H.A. Chapman Stadium, OK
Aug 18: El Paso Sun Bowl Stadium, TX

Nov 03: Yokohama Kanagawa, Japan
Nov 04: Yokohama Kanagawa, Japan

Nov 08: Brisbane Suncorp Stadium, Australia
Nov 11: Sydney Giants Stadium , Australia
Nov 14: Melbourne Marvel Stadium, Australia

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.