WASHINGTON – Shortly after finishing a rambunctious set of party-vibe rock anthems, Poison frontman Bret Michaels chuckled as he expressed his feelings about The Stadium Tour’s first few dates.
“The fans are having a blast and we’re having a blast,” he said backstage in his small quick change tent, his red bandana soaked with sweat and his spirits still high from bouncing around the Nationals Park stage . “I let everything hang out.”
He paused and laughed: “Wait, check that. I give 1000%. It’s fun to survive and thrive. Expectations (for this tour) were high and it exceeded my expectations.”
Three years of planning and two years of delay due to COVID-19, The Stadium Tour showcases the titans of 80s hard rock. Poison is the sandwich act of this massive rock circus that erupted in Atlanta last week, crossing the country until it hits Las Vegas in September. Vegas is packed. The Los Angeles-bred Classless Act kicks off the six-hour music, followed by the timeless Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Poison and headliners Motley Crue and Def Leppard, closing each show.
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Wednesday’s DC production to about 40,000 fans also marked the second of the first four dates disrupted by rain and lightning.
At the end of their stomp-along smash “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott told the audience that the approaching bad weather was putting a hasty end to their visually dazzling performance (“Pyromania” stingers “Rock of Ages” and “photo” remained).
With Motley Crue on deck to close out the evening, the majority of the audience endured the 90-minute wait until the lightning – but not the rain – stopped and Motley stormed the stage with “Wild Side”. After all, fans hadn’t seen the band perform since 2015, when the quartet announced its clearly non-binding “termination of touring deal”.
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Here’s how the show unfolded.
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
The unchanging Jett – still dressed in a black shag and ebony garb – cut through sing-alongs, including “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” “Bad Reputation,” and her harmonious rendition of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover.” Backed by the potent Blackhearts and by the staunch manager/producer Kenny Laguna in his usual abode behind the keyboards, Jett balanced her songs with ferocity with coolness, a smile mixed with a grin. The only woman on the tour (aside from the dancing girls/backup singers who accompanied Motley Crue), Jett ruled her stage with stealth ferocity.
Is there a more real frontman in rock than Michaels? Michaels stormed onto the catwalk, jutting out from the stage for the opening blockbuster “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” Michaels used his lateral move, slapped guitarist CC DeVille’s shoulders — hair draped over his back — and engaged the crowd with his aerobics. efficacy. An expert leader, Michaels had fans clapping over their heads during “Ride the Wind” and often fell to his knees on the wet slope to shake hands with the faithful pressed to the stage.
DeVille picked up his Flying V guitar for “Talk Dirty to Me”, the buzzing riff that is emblematic of Poison’s music – uncomplicated and fun.
While Michaels and DeVille enjoyed themselves at the front of the stage, Rikki Rockett spun his drum sticks through fan favorite “Fallen Angel,” while bassist Bobby Dall showed off his anchor role on the bottom-heavy “Unskinny Bop.”
Michaels yelled out the military veterans in the crowd for the band’s signature ballad, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” — the audience sang along heartily — before closing the musical feast with “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” a rational closing. for this rock ‘n’ roll revelry.
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Beneath their visual array of lasers and super-sized video screens, Def Leppard unveiled a setlist that tapped deep into their 40-year catalog.
Singer Joe Elliott, a silver fox in his neat jackets, led the quintet through “Animal” and “Foolin'” before jumping into the most ravishing track on the band’s new “Diamond Star Halos” album, the ultra-infectious “Kick”.
Bassist Rick Savage and guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen — whose admirable torso still gets its own spotlight — provided the honeyed harmonies to the band’s layered offerings, and drummer Rick Allen, who wore his signature Union Jack headphones, powered with unwavering enthusiasm.
Elliott sounded particularly strong on “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” a song that still swoons and floats, and the sliding shuffle that is “Rocket.”
However, it may be time to stop with “Have You Ever Needed Nobody So Bad,” a wonderful pain of a ballad that sounded out of tune for years when performed live.
Thankfully, Def Leppard squeezed in their epic “Hysteria,” which was accompanied by a video scrapbook of the band’s legacy, including their 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and mega headlines underscoring their stamina. Elliott looked very “A Clockwork Orange” in his black bowler hat and red and black striped jacket, still effortlessly cool when he commanded the podium.
The bent-steel staging was set up long before the band could take the stage, leaving fans hoping through the rain that Motley Crue would indeed make an appearance.
A fake news bulletin intro seeped into the opening slam, “Wild Side,” the stage turned red as vocalist Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee and guitarist Mick Mars thundered through the impending hit.
The band – mainly the bass and drums – often overpowered Neil’s vocals, especially on the booming ‘Shout at the Devil’.
Lee ditched his kit with his usual wild man, so it was no surprise when he reminded fans after three songs of his four broken ribs that kept him from playing for most of the set. Tommy Clufetos, a veteran of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, jumped in and started off with the sweeter sounds of “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).” He’s a great sticksman, but Lee’s personality was missed (as his departure gesture, he threw spare ribs to the front rows while sharing expletives how much his injury hurt him).
Neil’s voice fluctuated between barely audible (“Too Fast For Love”) and surprisingly smooth (“Live Wire”); frenetic strobes, screeching red and white lights, and sheer adrenaline covered many of his vocal shortcomings.
Was it a perfect Crue? No. But there’s a lot of “Dr. Feelgood” when the band is let loose live.