Due to the ridiculously early start to the show, 6.30, I miss the majority of Steel Panther’s set; but then again I have been subjected to their spoof hair metal act on more than one occasion and do tend to get bored after a couple of songs.
Considering the time, there a large number of people here thoroughly enjoying the joke and relishing the choreographed posing, dancing and guitar playing. Prior to their final song, Death to All but Metal, Michael Starr asks how many people would kill a baby seal for their love of heavy metal, which draws a mild smirk out of the most miserable members of the audience. There is no question about Steel Panther’s musicianship which was honed and refined whilst playing sets at various venues on the Sunset Strip and had they not been savvy and embraced the realm of the parody, one would have to question whether they would have ever left LA, let alone be playing arenas here in the UK.
One of the biggest rock bands of the 80’s, Motley Crue burst onto the stage before the house lights have even dimmed, with the explosive Wild Side. Immediately, you can tell no expense has been spared on this stage show with pyrotechnics galore, Sixx’s hanging key microphone stand, Lee’s extravagant rollercoaster drum circuit and the word Sin lit up in huge letters. There is no doubt that Motley Crue understand the nature of the word sin more than most other bands on the planet, and if you disagree, may I point you in the direction of their autobiography The Dirt, which illustrates graphically the depravity and indulgence that was the everyday lives of these four men.
The set continues with the likes of Live Wire, Shout At The Devil and Same Ol’ Situation; all of which show stadium cock rock at its finest with the crowd lapping it up. The compulsory and frustratingly catchy power ballad, Home Sweet Home, begins with Lee taking to a mirrored piano as mobile phones light up the arena, and the band unite around the instrument like a dysfunctional family at Christmas. After this brief dip in pace, The Crue kick back into clichÃ©d rocktastic form with Looks That Kill and Mutherfucker of the Year, leading into one of the highlights of any Motley Crue show; Tommy Lee’s drum solo. You still have to be impressed by a man that can play the drums, without dropping a beat, whilst being moved side to side and, to the audience’s utter delight, finally turned upside down.
The rock anthems of Dr Feelgood and Girls, Girls, Girls are truly awesome and this when you hear the colossal weight of Sixx’s bass and talent of Mars’s guitar playing. The set ends with Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room and Kickstart My Heart, which sees the band don overalls and launch fake blood over the crowd in true rock’n’roll style. There is an argument that says a band that needs surplus gimmicks of a fancy lighting rig, backdrop, pyrotechnics and upside down drum riser, is to compensate for the quality of the music. However, in the case of Motley Crue, their music has a clear message of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll and that is what they are here to peddle; excess, excess, excess! It’s like Las Vegas, embrace it for what it is and you will have a mighty fine time.
As Def Leppard take to the stage, there is a distinct shift in the crowd which sees a more sedate audience taking their place near the front. The elaborate backdrop and stage set of the previous band has been cleared away, leaving behind an understated selection of screens whilst Joe Elliott spritely skips down the runway launching into Undefeated. Def Leppard are, undisputedly, a well-rehearsed professional band which is clear from the stadium hit Rocket, seeing vocal harmonies hit with ease, and this level of musicianship doesn’t waiver throughout their set. The audience clearly love the set so far and this appreciation continues with tracks such as Make Love Like A Man and Let It Go. At this point, my mind starts to wander as I start to find some of the tracks blur into one, I struggle with the similar sounding rhythm guitar riffs, which, I know, is why so many people love Def Leppard. Luckily, the tempo changes and the band bring out acoustic guitars and remind us how long they have been together, before proceeding with the ballad Two Steps Behind.
The acoustic interlude continues with Bringin’ On The Heartache that sees a large proportion of the audience singing along, prior to the pace returning with Switch 625 and Hysteria. There is no doubt that Def Leppard are the masters of safe arena rock and their strength are the anthems such as Animal; a track that sees the LG erupt. However, as they play Pour Some Sugar On Me I am feeling a sense of relief that the show is drawing to a close as I am starting to struggle with major based songs about love and I am missing some filth and edginess. The encore consists of Let’s Get Rocked and the rarely played Wasted, both of which are crowd pleasers and sees the band show their appreciation towards the fans also. Def Leppard are the kings of Dad rock and if that floats your musical boat then I can guarantee you will not see a finer set of musicians. However, when in an arena watching two of the 80’s biggest rock bands, me and my vacuous, shallow nature want songs about fucking, boozing and drugs sung by dirty sleazy men, which is why, for me, Motley Crue kicked Def Leppard’s arse.
Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Steve Gerrard