Tommy Lee has been spending at least part of his nights this summer upside down.
The Mötley Crüe drummer, known for his over-the-top music and over-the-top lifestyle, designed his 360 Drum Roller Coaster for the band’s current tour with Poison and New York Dolls, which heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center Saturday night. With it, Lee may have found a way to top all his other antics over the years.
The coaster features Lee’s drum kit mounted to a large loop-shaped roller coaster track. During his mid-set drum solo, the coaster takes the kit through multiple loops, all while he continues to play. He even has an extra seat mounted to the kit, for one lucky fan to take a ride each night of the tour.
Trying to focus
“It’s pretty insane,” he said recently from a stop in Boston. “I try to just focus — I look out straight — whether I’m straight or upside down, sideways, whatever, I’m always looking straight out. If you don’t, you’ll get dizzy. It’s like a dancer has a certain spot he focuses on. . . . It helps with the, sort of keeping your place and realizing where you’re at, because sometimes when I’m playing upside down and I’m looking at the drums I’m hitting, or looking somewhere else, I’ll lose where I’m at and it’s like, woo-hoo, where am I?”
with Poison, New York Dolls
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $95, $69.50, $49.50, $26 (lawn)
More Info: 587-3330, www.spac.org
“If I could explain it to you in one word,” he continued, “it’s wrong. It’s just not right.”
Mötley Crüe’s current tour, which began in early June and stretches through August at arenas throughout the U.S., is already gaining a reputation as one of the band’s biggest, and not just for its rotating drum theatrics. The band’s fans have been instrumental in planning the tour — Poison and New York Dolls were selected as openers due to fan input, and the set list was voted on at the band’s website.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first time that Mötley Crüe — also featuring vocalist Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars — has toured with either band. The band was particularly excited to tour with the Dolls, a big influence on the band’s combination of hard rock and glam that came to be known as hair metal.
“We grew up on them,” Lee said. “The New York Dolls actually were the only band that we grew up with that we haven’t played with, if you can imagine that. All the bands that we loved and grew up on — AC/DC, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Ozzy [Osbourne] — we played with all of them.”
Fans vote on songs
The set list chosen by fans has been less surprising, according to Lee. All the hits, from “Shout at the Devil” to “Dr. Feelgood” and even “Saints of Los Angeles” from the 2008 comeback album of the same name, are included. But there have been a few curveballs, even where the hits are concerned.
“ ‘Too Young to Fall in Love,’ I don’t think we’ve ever really played that live — well, maybe once or twice a long time ago,” Lee said. “That still doesn’t really surprise me — it was a single, we made a video. But what surprises me is the fans tend to pick, yes, the hits, but they find some deep cuts that are pretty rare, the songs that bands never play.”
Since the original four members of the band reunited in 2005, Mötley Crüe has been riding a wave of success, with its current tour, two CrüeFest package tours (both of which came to SPAC in 2008 and 2009) and “Saints of Los Angeles” all helping to re-establish the group in the mainstream.
The journey to this point has been a rough one, with drug abuse nearly derailing the band during its 1980s heyday, culminating in Sixx’s near-fatal heroin overdose in 1987. Though the band cleaned up and went on to release its most successful album, “Dr. Feelgood” in 1989, the rise of grunge and alternative rock took its toll on the hair metal scene’s popularity, and the band’s 1990s releases fared less well on the charts.
Neil was the first member to leave, in 1992, although he reunited with the band for 1997’s “Generation Swine.” Lee left the group in 1999 after a stint in jail, going on to release an album with rap-metal group Methods of Mayhem and two solo albums.
The band’s ups and downs were chronicled in the 2001 book “The Dirt.” Work is under way to turn the autobiography, with contributions from all four band members, into a movie, though Lee said that more info on the project’s current state of development is not available.
Surprised to be here
“I think the one thing that trips me out is the fact that we’re still here doing it,” he said. “When we first started, I couldn’t have sat here and told you then that we’d still be — that you and I would be talking right now about this. We were lucky we made it from week to week.
“Now we look out in the audience, and — the night before last night there was a 5-year-old in the . . . audience,” he continued. “Vince goes up to him, asks him, how old are you? And he says, 5. Dude, this is . . . nuts. It tells me that, A, we’ve been around a lot longer than we thought we would be, and B, man, this is like a whole new generation of people coming to see us. Our old fans grew up and are bringing their kids to see us. Those two things are probably the most shocking.”