by Dave Noble, Elmhurst Funion Music Critic
ELMHURST – A crowd of more than 1,200 people at Elmhurst City Centre’s 3rd Annual “Rock the Block Party” Friday night were treated to an unscheduled and raucous 75-minute heavy metal set from Mötley Crüe cover band Theatre of Pain, led by Elmhurst mayor Steve Morley on lead vocals and backed by city manager Jim Grabowski (lead guitar), and aldermen Mark Sabatino (bass) and Bob Dunn (percussion).
Dressed head-to-toe in black and donning blonde hair extensions that gave him an appearance somewhat resembling Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil, Morley and his bandmates (also clothed to resemble the real band) opened with “Shout at the Devil” and ripped through 13 more Mötley Crüe songs, delighting the crowd with power metal hooks, scream-along choruses and multiple choreographed pyrotechnic explosions.
Relying on the classic hits rather than deeper cuts, the band’s intoxicating combination of serrated guitars and polished drumming focused on the musicianship but was complimented by a spectacle of fog bombs, sparkle showers and Roman candles launched from the stage, located at the corner of Schiller and York Streets. While some numbers like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood” were hindered by overpowering vocals from Morley, the band’s thick, nasal distortion highlighted by Grabowski’s intricate and expressive guitar solos and licks created a sound that blended well with the rest of the band’s instrumentation. Dunn’s powerful and technical style of rhythmic drumming was outdone only by his cowbell solo on “Live Wire”, while Sabatino’s bass playing never reached any level of prominence during the show.
In addition to screaming “Hello Elmhurst!” into the microphone at an ear-piercing level between every song, Morley also took time during the performance to explain the difference between “customer-only” and “free shopper” parking in the downtown area before the band launched into “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” and later dedicated “Helter Skelter” to everyone who works at City Hall.
The band closed out the first set with “Home Sweet Home” as hundreds of people waved their cell phones back and forth throughout the ballad. After performing “Wild Side” for the first encore and looking on with delight as a mosh pit formed near the City Centre fountain, the band returned to the stage for a second time and jammed “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”. The song was halted prematurely, however, after Morley dove into the crowd during the second chorus and body-surfed out of sight from the stage, never to return. The start of headlining act Lucky Boys Confusion was delayed by approximately 25 minutes while security detail located Morley and maintenance crews removed explosives debris from the stage.
The Rock the Block Party continues Saturday with School of Rock at 11 a.m., followed by American English at 2 p.m., Run Forrest Run at 4:45 p.m., ARRA at 6:30 p.m., and Sixteen Candles at 8:45 p.m.