NEW BUFFALO, Mich. — It's been three weeks since Mötley Crüe officially ended its 34-year run with a New Year's Eve concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and frontman Vince Neil is caught between reflecting back and moving forward.
"I was emotional," Neil says by phone from his home in Las Vegas. "I actually broke down at one point. I know there's videos out there. I was emotional because it was surreal that this was actually it. I've done it all my life. It's still emotional. I'm proud of Mötley. It was a great band that had a lot of great years. But it was time to do what a lot of people don't do and just end on a high note and go out big."
The seminal rock band formed in 1981 by bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Mick Mars and vocalist Neil sold more than 80 million records in its three-decade career. With the exception of a five-year stint in which John Corabi fronted the band, its Neil's voice that leads some of the most popular rock songs of his generation, including "Shout At The Devil," "Home Sweet Home," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart," "Same Ol Situation" and the more recent "Saints of Los Angeles," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance 2009.
While legendary rock 'n' roll debauchery had the band seemingly always teetering on the brink, the foursome had stuck it out through death and adversity, not only outlasting most other acts from the era but surviving every musical trend from grunge to hip-hop to go out on its own terms.
For Neil, that now means continuing on with his solo band, which consists of Slaughter members Jeff Blando and Dana Strum, as well as drummer Zoltan Chaney, for a tour that makes a stop Friday at Four Winds Casino Resort's Silver Creek Event Center.
"It's really energetic," Neil says. "My band is the guys from Slaughter and we've done this together for almost nine years. I'm playing some of my own stuff, all the Mötley hits and some great surprises. It's like a no-holds-barred fun show."
Following his first exit with Mötley Crüe in 1992, Neil began his solo career releasing "Exposed" in 1993, which reached No. 13 on the US Billboard 200 chart anchored by the songs "You're Invited (But Your Friend Can't Come)" and "Sister Of Pain." His second solo album, "Carved in Stone," followed two years later, and Neil rejoined Mötley Crüe in 1996. Neal's third and latest solo album, "Tattoos & Tequila," released in 2010 includes two originals – the title track and "Another Bad Day" – along with covers such as Aerosmith's "Nobody's Fault," Sex Pistols' "No Feelings" and Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas."
"Look, I'm going to always be the guy who was in Mötley Crüe, but my first solo record with 'You're Invited (But Your Friend Can't Come)' was over a million seller, so a lot of people enjoyed it and 'Sister Of Pain' and many of those songs," Neil says. "I'm looking forward to recording more stuff, but I'm really a road singer. I love giving cool, fun performances with a big look."
Born in Hollywood, California, Neil was raised in the tough Southern California neighborhoods of Inglewood, Compton and Watts, before his family finally settled in Glendora, where he attended Sunflower Intermediate School and later Royal Oak High School. As a teenager, Neil began performing with local bands and soon discovered both a passion for the stage and a natural talent as a singer and performer.
"In junior high and high school, friends who were in bands would come up to me and ask 'Hey, you've got long hair, can you sing?'" Neil says. "And I'd say, 'Sure!' That's how it started. "
He was fronting the popular band Rock Candy when high school buddy Tommy Lee approached him about the formation of Mötley Crüe. When the band got its start on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Neil and company never had any inclination of the success that was to come.
"A number of songs I did in early cover bands ended up being Mötley tunes," Neil says. "'Smokin' in the Boys Room' was one of them. The Sex Pistols tune ('Anarchy in the U.K.') was one of them that I was doing in my band Rock Candy. ... With Mötley, we just wanted to be the biggest band in Hollywood. We wanted to play the Whisky a Go Go; you made it if you did a weekend at the Whiskey. And then it was just kind of step by step."
Following the debut studio album "Too Fast For Love," it was the 1983 sophomore effort "Shout at the Devil" that became the band's breakthrough album, establishing Mötley Crüe as one of the top-selling heavy metal acts of the 1980s with singles "Looks That Kill" and "Too Young to Fall in Love." "Theatre of Pain," featuring hits "Smokin' in the Boys Room" and the power ballad "Home Sweet Home," followed in 1995 reaching No. 6 on U.S. charts.
"Girls, Girls, Girls" was released in 1987, and "Dr. Feelgood," which topped the Billboard 200 chart, followed in 1989. Mötley Crüe released a self-titled album minus Neil in 1994, while the original lineup reunited for three more studio records – "Generation Swine" (1997), "New Tattoo" (2000) and "Saints of Los Angeles" (2008) – before calling it a career.
A full-length concert film, however, which features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the last week of the band’s five-continent tour will be released later this year.
"It was energetic. It was different. It was raw," Neil says about the music. "We were Mötley Crüe and there was nothing like it. Every guy had to be that guy. Mötley Crüe was a motley crew. It had to happen with only those people, and I'm proud I was one of them. I'm just thankful that people have embraced the music so long, and I'm thankful for the people who have been so loyal to the music."
When asked about his next act, Neil hints at some new material, and the possibility of road testing some of those songs on his current tour, although he stopped short of saying that.
"I'll say that we're recording some stuff for a new record this year," Neil says. "You often hear some surprises at our shows. I don't want to give away some of those surprises, but let's just say you might have struck a nerve that could ring true. ... I think there's always room for this type of music. Some of the things we are working on will be in that same vain. The music is exciting. It's good, fun, nasty, raw energy and good songs. That's what is so important – good, fun songs. I mean, who wouldn't want to go out and not have a good time? Not me. So I'm thankful to be playing everywhere I am."
If you go
Who: Vince Neil
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Four Winds Casino Resort's Silver Creek Event Center, 11111 Wilson Road, New Buffalo
How much: $50-$80
Contact: 866-494-6371 or www.fourwindscasino.com