Review: Did Def Leppard-Motley Crue-Poison-Joan Jett concert (finally) go as planned?

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Finally, on its seventh try, “The Stadium Tour” — featuring glam-metal legends Joan Jett, Poison, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard — seemed to be going exactly as its creators had originally planned.

Finally, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Tuesday night, each of the bands was playing with its core regular members at full strength, following a run of six shows where Crüe drummer Tommy Lee could only serve in a limited capacity due to his recovery from four broken ribs.

And while at Show #1 in Atlanta and at Show #4 in D.C. Def Leppard was battered by rain and/or severe storms, here, finally, the weather seemed not just serviceable for an outdoor concert but perfect: 79 degrees and overcast at the scheduled start time of 4 p.m., whereas on a typical late-June afternoon in Charlotte it’s 90 and face-meltingly sunny.

Apparently, though, “The Stadium Tour” isn’t “The Stadium Tour” unless things are at least a little bit up in the air.

So when rain suddenly started to fall as Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott made his way through the first verse of “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” with barely 15 minutes left before the show’s end, anyone who knows how this tour’s gone so far surely figured everyone was going to go home drenched. Or, in the worst-case scenario, they’d go without seeing Joe & Co. perform “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph,” as happened in Washington a week ago because of lightning.

Yet neither of those outcomes would have negated the nostalgic thrill of the previous six hours and 45 minutes, which brought together four of the ’80s most iconic rock acts and a motley crew of fans for a show that — as we were reminded of, repeatedly — endured multiple postponements due to COVID.

“This has been two years in the making to get here,” Poison lead singer Bret Michaels said after ripping through a rollicking rendition of the band’s 1990 hit “Ride the Wind.” “I don’t care what happened tonight. I don’t care if it snowed. We were coming out here to throw a party.”

Later, after Def Leppard cranked out a muscular version of 1987’s “Armageddon It,” Elliott nodded at the delay, too: “It really is good to be here. It really is. It’s been a hell of a wait. We wanna thank you for waitin’ for us. ... As you all know, we were supposed to do this tour in 2020, and then we were gonna do it in 2021, and that didn’t f------ happen either. But here we are.”

Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott performs with the band during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.
Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott performs with the band during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.

Of course, for the Crüe, it was more than just the two-year delay due to COVID; Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee haven’t been out on the road together since 2015’s “Final Tour” ... which was final only until the band got a pop-cultural boost in 2019 from Netflix’s “The Dirt,” a movie based on its rise to fame.

“We’re back!” Neil shouted, having just shouted his way through seminal 1983 anthem “Shout at the Devil.” “You thought we were gone, now we’re f------ back!”

The mega-concert was the perfect excuse for fans to finally break out the fishnet, or the vintage concert tank top, or whatever article of clothing did the best job of showing off its wearer’s tattoo collection. It also, apparently, was the perfect excuse for fans to spend several hours drinking light beer and hard seltzer out of 25-ounce cans (because 24 ounces just isn’t quite enough).

As such, obnoxiously long restroom lines were a common sight Tuesday night, as were people who struggled to keep all their saliva in their mouths while singing along to, say, Poison’s “Nothing But a Good Time” or Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.”

But there were far more interesting things about this afternoon/evening of rock and roll revelry to fixate on than that.

RELATED: What other concerts are coming to Charlotte? Check out our 2022 guide

Here are five of them:

1. Whose voice is holding up the best?

Tour opener Joan Jett, at 63, still has that gritty, gravelly, smoky voice, and on songs like “Crimson and Clover” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” she sounded just as cool as she did when they were hits 40 years ago. On the latter, when she put her high-pitched growl on the “Ow!” coming out of the chorus, it was just like she did it on the original record. And she chewed gum through her whole set....

Joan Jett smiles at the audience as she and The Blackhearts perform during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard.
Joan Jett smiles at the audience as she and The Blackhearts perform during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard.

Vince Neil, who is 61, came off — almost improbably — better than he did when he was here in 2015, vocally. It’s rare for a rocker’s voice to take the kind of dive his did in the late 2000s and early 2010s only to then rebound, like his apparently has. The bass-heavy sound mix often went too far in drowning him out, but when you could hear it, his tonality was rich and his pitch was controlled.

Def Leppard’s mix was cleaner and clearer, and you could hear all the detail in the 62-year-old Elliott’s voice. It’s in very fine shape. He’s also got the benefit of a good crew of harmonizers in bandmates Rick Savage, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell.

Meanwhile, Poison’s Michaels, who at 59 is the youngest of the lead singers, just wasn’t projecting well. It felt like he was either saving his voice for something, or out of breath. He actually sounded better on the group’s sole ballad, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”; but the rock-ier the song, the rockier his vocals were. If there’s an upside, Michaels made up for it with sheer energy and enthusiasm; he plainly was having a blast.

Poison lead singer Bret Michaels reaches out to shake hands with a fan during the band’s performance at The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Motley Crue and Def Leppard.
Poison lead singer Bret Michaels reaches out to shake hands with a fan during the band’s performance at The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Motley Crue and Def Leppard.

2. Three cheers for the three drummers

Def Leppard’s Rick Allen is always going to be an inspiration. He just is. I mean, you can’t not be moved by a guy who continues to make playing the drums at an elite level with one arm look easy. You could even argue that his drum solo at the tail end of “Switch 625” — which saw him furiously hammering away at his kit with bare feet, pausing to flash a huge smile before finishing with a rapid-fire flourish — was one of the most electrifying moments of the UK band’s set.

But Michaels reminded us earlier in the evening that his drummer is pretty inspirational, too.

“How ’bout a huge, huge round of applause to Mr. Rikki Rockett fighting back from life-threatening cancer,” the Poison frontman said, and the video feed cut to the man who was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2015 and who’s been free of the disease since 2016. I’ve rarely seen smiles that looked as genuine as the one that blossomed on his face when the crowd roared its support.

And then there’s Lee.

In early June, the Crüe’s drummer broke his ribs when he fell down some stairs at a rental house in Nashville while carrying luggage for him and his wife. Since the start of the tour two weeks ago, he hadn’t played a full set. (A session drummer, Tommy Clufetos, was filling in for more than half the songs to spell Lee, who reportedly has been in pretty terrible pain while playing but didn’t want to totally deprive fans.)

In Charlotte, finally, he made it through the whole show himself. There was no mention of the injury. Because that’s how a real rock star rolls.

3. Mötley Crüe and its ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’

Some things have changed since the ’80s. Most notably, the bands have gotten a whole lot older.

But some things haven’t. Most notably, Mötley Crüe still enjoys putting scantily clad, gyrating women on display, for better or worse.

If you were there, you couldn’t have missed them: Laura D’Anzieri, Bailey Swift and Hannah Sutton, aka “The Nasty Habits.” They’re ostensibly backup dancers, although periodically — like during “Wild Side,” “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart” — they held microphones and appeared to serve as backup singers, too.

For the most part, however, they’re just supposed to be eye candy. They writhed around in lingerie tops and short shorts, and in leather bras and panties, and in skin-tight full-bodysuits that looked painted on. They pole-danced, they did splits while holding a handstand, and at least once, two of the girls bumped and grinded against each other.

When they were on stage, which was about half the time, the camera operators focused as much attention on them as they did on the band, to the point it almost felt like leering; the result was three- or four-story-high video footage of the women doing their thing.

Is putting scantily clad, gyrating women a cheeky throwback, something that fits with the Crüe’s image and adds to the ’80s vibe of the proceedings? Or is it a little bit weird, because these women are young enough to be their daughters (and in 71-year-old Mick Mars’ case, perhaps young enough to be his granddaughter)? Is it low-key empowering? Or is it downright demeaning?

You decide.

4. In with the old, out with the new?

One more thing for you to decide: How do you feel about old bands like these playing new stuff?

Joan Jett, Poison and Mötley Crüe don’t really have new stuff, so they didn’t play new stuff. Def Leppard, on the other hand...

“2020 was a s--- year for the entire world,” Elliott said to the crowd half an hour into the band’s 90-minute set. “A lot of people went through a lot of crap, and we were isolated from each other. ... We couldn’t see each other. But we made a decision on the phone to make a new album. We didn’t wanna see the year go to waste, so we saw that glass half-empty as glass half-full, you know what I mean? So we did. We recorded 15 new songs. The album is called ‘Diamond Star Halo.’”

In total, they played four songs from that album: “Take What You Want,” “Fire It Up,” “Kick” and “This Guitar.”

Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott performs with the band during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.
Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott performs with the band during The Stadium Tour 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, June 28, 202. The concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.

I hadn’t heard any of them before. But they sounded good. They sounded like Def Leppard songs. “Fire It Up,” in particular, sounded like it could have come from one of their ’80s albums.

I also respect that they tried to be productive during the pandemic, that they tried to be creative. What I saw around me on Tuesday night, though, as they played the new songs, was fans looking at their phones, taking selfies, or talking to friends, or heading off to get another drink or go to the bathroom.

Meanwhile, there are multiple songs on both “Hysteria” and “Pyromania” that I didn’t hear — and wished I had.

5. Here comes the rain ... and there it goes

You could see the rain before you could feel it.

There was something about the way the lights, the lasers, the smoke and the shadows illuminated the inside of Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday night that made it look like the first drops falling through the night air above the field were the size of golf balls. But it was an illusion; it was barely sprinkling. I wasn’t getting wet.

There was a feeling, though, that this could be a turning point. That we could get really, really soaked, really, really fast. On the one hand, it could be a good war story, Elliott and his band finishing in a downpour, us returning to our cars looking like wet dogs. On the other, what if it turned into a storm storm? If there’s thunder, will we hear it over the music? If a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky overheard, is that an instant cancellation?

Not long after Rick Allen uttered the words “Gunter gleiben glauchen globen” to launch “Rock of Ages,” the rain started to pick up a little. Fans started to trickle toward the exits.

But then Def Leppard segued into its final song, “Photograph,” as fans threw up the sign of the horns; as couples danced in the aisles; as a woman swung her bra like a helicopter; as Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen wailed away on their guitars to create the opening riff; and just like that, the rain stopped, completely.

A few minutes later, the seven-hour rock feast finally over, everyone basically still dry, Elliott bellowed, “What a night!”

Then he repeated those words once more, with feeling, as the band was showered with thunderous applause and cheers. “The Stadium Tour” having — finally — gone pretty much exactly as originally planned.

Fans cover the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC waiting for Def Leppard to begin their performance during The Stadium Tour 2022 on Tuesday, June 28, 202. Along with Def Leppard, the concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.
Fans cover the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC waiting for Def Leppard to begin their performance during The Stadium Tour 2022 on Tuesday, June 28, 202. Along with Def Leppard, the concert featured Classless Act, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and Motley Crue.

Motley Crue’s setlist

1. “Wild Side”

2. “Shout at the Devil”

3. “Too Fast for Love”

4. “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)“

5. “Saints of Los Angeles”

6. “Live Wire”

7. “Looks That Kill”

8. “The Dirt (Est. 1981)“

9. “Rock and Roll, Part 2” / “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” / “White Punks on Dope” / “Helter Skelter” / “Anarchy in the U.K.”

10. “Home Sweet Home”

11. “Dr. Feelgood”

12. “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)“

13. “Girls, Girls, Girls”

14. “Primal Scream”

15. “Kickstart My Heart”

Def Leppard’s setlist

1. “Take What You Want”

2. “Fire It Up”

3. “Animal”

4. “Foolin’”

5. “Armageddon It”

6. “Kick”

7. “Love Bites”

8. “Excitable”

9. “This Guitar”

10. “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”

11. “Two Steps Behind”

12. “Rocket”

13. “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”

14. “Switch 625”

15. “Hysteria”

16. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

17. “Rock of Ages”

18. “Photograph”