Suffolk County-based Motley Crue tribute, Theatre of Pain, is "red hot," indeed. Formed in late 1995 by vocalist George Bergmann and guitarist Rusty Dackow, the band has received tremendous national exposure of late: they were invited to appear on MTV's Rocks Off special with the real Motley Crue, and in February of this year were featured on MTV's Ultimate Cover Band Battle.

It's been a long time coming, though. Before starting Theatre of Pain, Bergmann and Dackow played in an original band called Kickback, who opened for such '80's pin-ups as Warrant and Kix. When Kickback incorporated the Motley Crue classic "Shout at the Devil" into their set, Dackow noticed how much George sounded like Motley Crue vocalist Vince Neil. Bergmann didn't agree: "I just didn't think he was good," Bergmann says of the golden-haired Crue crooner.

But when the comparisons started to pour in from complete strangers, Kickback decided to change their direction, and become Theatre of Pain. Explains Dackow, "We were trying to audition bass players. We would send them tapes of our music, ands they would say, 'You guys are really good, but your singer sounds too much like Vince Neil.' When George first heard it he didn't really think Vince Neil was that good of a singer. But eventually he listened to the music and saw how hard it was to learn. After that we just came to a decision to do something about it."

Theatre of Pain has been through some lineup changes over the years. And while they've had more drummers than Spinal Tap (and, for that matter, Motley Crue), they now have a permanent fixture behind the kit, Bill Shores. "I happened to meet Bill because he's the lead singer of the Guns N' Roses band, 'Appetite For Destruction'," explains Bergmann. "He played [drums] with us, and his look and playing were just like the album, and he looks like Tommy Lee. Rusty said right after the show, 'I want that guy to be the permanent drummer.'"

As evidenced at a recent gig at Brooklyn's L'Amour, the band sounds as good as they look. Opening with "Dr. Feelgood," the title track from Motley's best-selling album, Theatre of Pain blew through an incredibly tight, well-selected set of Crue material. Bergmann was especially electric, bearing a striking resemblance to Neil in stage presence and vocal ability, as well as appearance. Bassist Paul DiTamaso was a Nikki Sixx clone, decked out in full Theatre of Pain regalia, complete with Thunderbird Bass and black nail polish.

Theatre of Pain has now learned over 40 Motley songs, and generally performs a minimum of 16 of them at any given show. And, much like the Crue in their heyday, when audiences come to see them, they leave screaming for more. The band currently plays in New York, New Jersey. Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts, and hopes to add the Carolinas, Florida and Rhode Island in the near future. If only the rest of the planet was so lucky.

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