Mötley Crüe's Backing Tracks Turn Their Live Show to 'Theatre of Pain'

Vocalist Vince Neil is the latest to seemingly get a pre-recorded assist

Photo: Brad Peterson (Neil)

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jun 22, 2023

Amongst all the legal mud Dirt-slinging between Mötley Crüe and retired guitarist Mick Mars is the allegation from the co-founding axeman that his former bandmates have been using backing tracks during live performances. While the claims have been denied by the band and their crew — if not made out to be Mars' fault — footage from a recent concert has once again stirred debate.

Clips shared online of the Crüe's headlining June 16 performance at Hellfest in France appear to catch vocalist Vince Neil getting a pre-recorded assist in belting out "The Dirt (Est. 1981)," their team-up with Machine Gun Kelly that led off the soundtrack for Jeff Tremaine's 2019 film of the same name.

Shortly after the 35-second mark in the clip below, Neil clearly peels the mic away from his mouth a little earlier than the line "They never found a way to break us down" requires. It's a similar situation in the song's chorus, where the vocalist doesn't keep the mic elevated to sing the held note to close the lyric, "Let's take it to the top and watch it burn."

Contrasted with performances of hits like "Shout at the Devil" and "Girls, Girls, Girls" from the evening (also below), Neil sounds pitch-perfect.

It isn't the first time Mötley Crüe's stage show has faced this kind of scrutiny. Last July, drummer Tommy Lee failed to meet a count-in during a performance in Kansas City, as cymbal hits were heard before the drummer had even taken a seat at his kit.

In his lawsuit against the band, Mars also claimed that "100%" of Nikki Sixx's bass parts were pre-recorded. Sixx — who in the past has defended the band's use of pre-recorded backing vocals, or string parts to "fill out the sound" in a live setting — had his own playing called in question earlier this year upon video surfacing of him taking both hands off his instrument during a show in Mexico, with the low end remaining uninterrupted. 

Mötley Crüe are not the first band to use backing tracks for a leg up on the live stage, and they assuredly won't be the last. Neil is also not the first singer to grapple with a changing voice in his later years of life. But if pre-recorded music is being relied upon to this degree, perhaps the hair metal heroes should have stayed buried in the dirt following their 2015 farewell tour.

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