Nikki Sixx and his bandmates had just dusted off “The Dirt (Est. 1981)” when the Motley Crue bassist took a moment to bask in the glory of the vindication he was feeling, seeing yet another stadium filled to the rafters for the summer’s hottest rock ‘n’ roll tour.
“I can’t believe this (expletive),” he told the crowd at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Thursday, Aug. 25. “Someone said rock is dead? We’ve been selling out stadiums across America.”
It’s a theme Bret Michaels touched on earlier this week when he told the Republic rock fans “never got the Post-it note that said, ‘You’re not supposed to like this,'” by way of explaining why the success of the Stadium Tour was a bit of a foregone conclusion.
A tour that’s $5 million a night proof that rock is alive and well
The tour has been drawing an average of 36,000-some people a night, grossing just under $5 million a show for a bill that’s topped by the Crue and Def Leppard with Poison, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and a young group known as Classless Act.
The last time any of these artists went Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 was in 1994, when “Miss You In a Heartbeat” by Def Leppard peaked at No. 39.
But the audience that fell in love with what these groups were doing in the ’80s has remained intensely loyal.
And coming out of a global pandemic that made it impossible for music fans to gather for much of the past two years, the “Nothin’ But a Good Time” vibe of ’80s metal may have more appeal than ever.
‘When I hit the stage it’s a party’:Bret Michaels checks in from the Stadium Tour
Def Leppard opened with a surprising song choice
Motley Crue and Def Leppard have been taking turns topping the bill. At State Farm Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 25, Def Leppard did the honors, and they did the honors well.
They boldly opened their headlining set — on what by any reasonable metric would be viewed as a nostalgia tour — with the first of three selections from “Diamond Star Halos,” an album they released in May 2022.
They were the only songs in Thursday’s set from records they’ve released this century.
And here’s the thing.
Those songs held their own surrounded by the hits on which their legacy has ultimately come to rest, especially “This Guitar,” which benefited greatly from the unplugged treatment as part of a two-song respite from the rocking with “Two Steps Behind.”
Both songs had a bit of an Everly Brothers vibe, which was both really nice and unexpected.
Highlights from the classics ranged from a suitably brooding performance of “Foolin'” to the even more dramatic “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and their single greatest contribution to art of power balladry, “Love Bites.”
Joe Elliott is 63. He looked and sounded so much younger than he is. But there were obviously moments — on “Love Bites,” in particular — where the high notes were heavily processed and tucked in the mix at a level where it wouldn’t be abrasive if it was a little off.
It was a brilliantly constructed set that peppered in a handful of their greatest hits while holding back enough to close with an amazing four-song power block of “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
It felt especially tight coming out of the chaos and cacophony of Motley Crue, whose set was messy, but not without its charms.
Concert of a lifetime? How two of Arizona’s biggest bands joined forces for one night
Motley Crue was edgy and noisy and reckless, if a bit off
Vince Neil has clearly reached the stage where he cannot be counted on to rise to the occasion.
His vocal performance was almost at its best when just the notes were wrong. There were so many times when his phrasing was wildly out of sync with the rest of the band.
And to be clear, you wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to sing to … that.
At times, it felt like everyone was playing without benefit of knowing what the others considered one in a standard 4/4 beat. And yet, it somehow often sounded … great? As in edgy and noisy and reckless and one could say a little punk rock.
It wasn’t good. At all. But it was often great.
They brought more theatrics than any other artist to distract from everything that wasn’t very good. They had three women called the Nasty Habits, who were part exotic dancers, part endearing backup singers. And they were really good at both those things. And when they did those things in New York Dolls and Sex Pistols T-shirts? I would sign them if I had a label.
Toward the end of Motley Crue’s performance, the Nasty Habits shared the stage with not just Motley Crue but gigantic inflatable futuristic robot vixens of the sort that one associates with Motley Crue.
It was spectacular at being what it was.
Tommy Lee went ‘full Tommy Lee’
At one point, Tommy Lee went what’s known in the business as “full Tommy Lee,” encouraging half a dozen women to show their breasts (although he did not call them that) while calling attention to the photographs he shared on social media of certain things we tend to talk about when conversation turns to Tommy Lee.
He was not shy about referring to such matters.
It was all absurdly juvenile, but not in such a way that it distracted from the essence of a Motley Crue performance.
“Home Sweet Home” was especially poignant. But it always is.
The medley of songs they have been known to cover was a total mess, obscuring everything they ever brought to any of those covers, which at times transcended the original recordings.
“Smokin’ in the Boys Room” was a train wreck — not the “I can’t look away” variety, the “Damn, the train wrecked. Now, my night is ruined ’cause I have no way of getting home and there’s a very special dinner catching fire in my oven as I type this” type of train wreck.
Toward the end of their performance, Vince Neil wore a Cardinals jersey. If the Cardinals said, “I wish you hadn’t done that,” I could see where that would ruin their relationship with Motley Crue, but I’m not sure where that was headed in the first place.
I have seen them do much better shows.
Bret Michaels is a force of nature
As for Poison?
Well, Bret Michaels is a force of nature, as he proved from the second he stormed on stage to join his bandmates on “Look What the Cat Dragged In” and through such obvious highlights as the glam-rocking splendor of their breakthrough single, “Talk Dirty to Me” and the country-rocking power ballad they took to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
They squeezed a lot of hits into their time on stage, from their revival of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” which featured some excellent blues harp from Michaels, to “Fallen Angel” and the set-closing swagger of “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”
Michaels told The Arizona Republic, “When I hit the stage, it’s a party.” That’s exactly how their set went down.
Michaels is, in many ways, the perfect charismatic front man for this sort of concert, and because he’s had a home in Scottsdale for more than a decade, he was able to address the crowd as not just fans but neighbors.
His banter was peppered with enthusiastic variations on “It’s good to be home” and he frequently thanked the audience for making this one of the best nights of his life in a way that felt genuine.
And Michaels’ bandmates more than rose to the occasion.
Watching Rikki Rockett drum is one of life’s great joys.
Not only has he mastered the glam-rocking swagger that defines what future generations will be taught to recognize as not only the heart but the soul of the “Talk Dirty to Me” era, but his stick-twirling parlor tricks are beyond reproach.
C.C. Deville showed us why he’s the guy you want in the band
Meanwhile, C.C. DeVille, the lead guitarist Michaels infamously belted at the VMAs, continued to deliver, now rocking an equally charismatic look to what he had to offer in the ’80s, in his T. Rex-worthy hats and shades.
If you are in a band and did not wish that he was in your band, I now completely understand why I don’t care about your band.
You know who gets it? Michaels. And he punched the guy.
After “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” he led the crowd in a chant of “C.C.” before leaving the stage to DeVille, who tore it up in style on an extended solo.
The man can shred. And slipping in a bit of the theme to “The Munsters” between all those dazzling displays of fleet-fingered prowess was a nice touch.
Joan Jett isn’t metal, but she brought her signature proto-punk intensity
When the Stadium Tour was first announced in late 2019, there were those among us who read the announcement and immediately cast the great Joan Jett as the odd woman out.
And for obvious reasons.
Anyone who ever thought of what she does as metal is an idiot, at best.
But sometimes things that seem to make no sense on paper make you reevaluate what paper even means in practice.
Every artist that followed Joan Jett & the Blackhearts drew on elements that made her an iconic artist, from the Runaways to “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.”
That glam-rock swagger, that proto-punk intensity, that “I love rock ‘n roll to an extent that you may think you kinda care about this music we call rock ‘n’ roll but you have no idea” vibe? That’s something really special.
She was made to take the stage at 4:30 p.m.
On a school day.
As someone whose goals in life included seeing Joan Jett on the Stadium Tour, I missed the first three songs because of traffic and will call and the fact that we all inevitably disappoint ourselves.
I missed “Cherry Bomb.” She played that second.
That’s the danger of caring about the early acts on a stadium bill without planning accordingly.
The thing about Jett is she can play the Warped Tour and speak to the Hot-Topic-by-way-of-the-gutter demographic, but she also makes sense on the Stadium Tour as the only artist no one ever thought of as remotely metal.
It helps that she has hits as timeless as the ones she played, from “Do You Wanna Touch Me” to “Crimson & Clover” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You.”
She strapped on an acoustic for a reinvented version of “(I’m Gonna) Run Away” from 1981’s “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” album.
And then she ended the set on a high note with “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” a song it could be argued is impossible to follow until she ended her set with the punkish abandon of “Bad Reputation.”
By that point, she’d done everything that could be done to make you wonder why she isn’t headlining stadium tours.
Coming soon: Everything you need to know about the new Zona Music Festival
Def Leppard Stadium Tour 2022 setlist
Take What You Want
Let It Go
This Guitar (acoustic)
Two Steps Behind (acoustic)
Bringin’ On the Heartbreak
Switch 625 (with Rick Allen drum solo)
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Rock of Ages
Motley Crue Stadium Tour 2022 setlist
Shout at the Devil
Too Fast for Love
Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Saints of Los Angeles
Looks That Kill
The Dirt (Est. 1981)
Rock and Roll, Part 2 / Smokin’ in the Boys Room / White Punks on Dope / Helter Skelter / Anarchy in the U.K.
Home Sweet Home
Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
Girls, Girls, Girls
Kickstart My Heart
Poison Stadium Tour 2022 setlist
Look What the Cat Dragged In
Ride the Wind
Talk Dirty to Me
Your Mama Don’t Dance
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Nothin’ but a Good Time
Joan Jett Stadium Tour 2022 setlist
Victim of Circumstance
Oh Woe Is Me
Do You Wanna Touch Me
You Drive Me Wild
Crimson & Clover
I Hate Myself for Loving You
(I’m Gonna) Run Away
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
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