Stadium Tour featuring Motley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara
September 7, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Along with absolutely scorching temperatures, early September 2022 also brought the Bay Area a blistering rock show in the form of The Stadium Tour, featuring a bill of Def Leppard, Motley Crüe, Poison, Joan Jett, and Classless Act.
Now what do these bands have in common aside from the fact that all are 80s era heavyweight headliners (newbies Classless Act aside)? Well one answer may be that all have a roster of hits that have defined the origins of hard rock, but another is that the reach of these hits has extended to strip clubs worldwide, mainstreaming another element of social debauchery that has become synonymous with rock ‘n roll rebellion.
While the fantastic bill of hard charging rock made the former claim obvious, the addition of hot, hot late summer California temperatures put the latter statement on display to varying degrees at Oracle Park.
Being that Def Leppard is the only band on the bill of would-be headliners with a recent release of new material, they assumed the headlining slot of the bill. Interestingly, the lead up to the start of their set was an incessant commercial via the gigantic video screens…pimping everything from their new album, Def Leppard beer, their fan club, and even the download of the Def Leppard game.
Emerging onstage to a countdown clock, they opened to the roar of the crowd with ‘Take What You Want,’ the lead single from the new album Diamond Star Halos. From that point Joe Elliott and the boys darted through their expansive catalog, reaching back for the crowd favorite ‘Let It Go’ (High ‘n Dry – 1981), and delivering a good dose from the mid- 80s through 90s with plenty from the multi-platinum recordings that transformed them from being part of NWOBM (new wave of British heavy metal) to pop-metal darlings.
That metamorphosis (which started with 1983’s Pyromania) has always been a sore point for longtime Def Lep fans. It was here that the signature sugary harmonies were injected into what was once a clean machine of testosterone rock. But it was also at that point where their career took off by introducing their new sound to a fan base that now was heavily represented by females.
It was when Def Leppard played these songs that the crowd sparked, in particularly the trio of songs that closed the night. As soon as the opening guitar chords of ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ hit the air the place exploded. Possibly the most popular strip club song of all time, it was as if the whole place turned into a “strippercise” class.
Gyrating hips, hair flips, and deep knee dips could be seen all around, continuing to the end of the show as guitarists Phil Collins and Vivian Campbell ground out the guitar riffs of Pyromania hits ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ over the heavy percussion of bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen.
Now it wasn’t like the ‘strip club’ switch was flipped by Def Leppard, that vibe was in effect for the entire show (even when the bright sun was still high in the sky). But never was it more evident than when Hollywood strip bad boys Motley Crüe hit the stage. With their original lineup (Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, and Tommy Lee) still intact, the Crüe dominated from the first notes of ‘Wild Side’ (Girls, Girls, Girls – 1987).
To fire up the testosterone in the crowd they went way back for two classic album title songs ‘Shout at the Devil’ (1983) and the grind/punk/shock rock classic ‘Too Fast For Love’ (1981). Save for another title song ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ (2008), they pretty much stayed in that ‘old school’ lane…all gas and no brakes through the twists and turns of ‘Live Wire’ and ‘Looks That Kill’.
Taking a breath to acknowledge ‘The Dirt,’ the 2019 rock/mock-umentary based on Motley Crüe, they then rolled out a rocking medley that included ‘White Punks on Dope’ (The Tubes), ‘Helter Skelter’ (Beatles), and ‘Anarchy in the UK’ (Sex Pistols).
From there let the freak flags fly high. Prompted by a story from world class deviant drummer Tommy Lee about recent dick pic posts he had made, the place turned into an amateur strippers paradise. Intermittently wishing a 10-year-old happy birthday, and coaxing both men and women in the crowd to strut their stuff (“Come on girls I have been in SF for more than a day and I haven’t seen any tits”), it was only a matter of minutes before flashes of tits and yes dicks were being projected on the jumbotron as Lee yelled “Dudes…your shit will look 60 feet long on these huge screens!!”
OK, back to the music. Motley Crüe was on point the whole set, sounding fresh and energetic from Neil’s wailing vocals to Mick Mars (looking spry at age 71!) to the locked in Sixx and Lee holding it all down. While their crowd has always been there, they really haven’t sounded this good in a long time, and they along with their fans were having tons of rollicking fun.
Where Motley Crüe has always walked the darker, gutter-rock side of the street, Hollywood strip cousins Poison rocked the bright neon, never-ending party side of the LA scene. Playing in the SF summer twilight, Brett Michaels and company were brought onstage by culinary expert/ hype man Guy Fieri.
Playing a solid 10-song set, Michaels, guitarist CC Deville (who still absolutely shreds BTW), bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rocket, hit all the high points for their fans, blasting out the glittery party rock that made them MTV staples in the 80s.
Leaning heavily on material from Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986) and Open Up and Say Ahh (1988) Poison rocked the house getting the crowd bumping and grinding to the head knocker ‘Talk Dirty to Me’, and singing along the ultra-hit ballad ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.’
But it was the anthemic culmination of the set, ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time,’ that brought the most energy from the band and the crowd as Deville, Michaels, and Dall ran from one side of the stage to the other, prompting fans to jump and shout, and sending Poison off to a raucous ovation.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts followed a strong set by new LA band Classless Act and absolutely tore it up in the sweltering heat of the day. Adding a firm female touch to the festivities, Jett and her stellar band quickly kicked the door wide open on this unparalleled day of hard rocking bands.
Showing that songs that stir the rock and roll libido are not gender specific, Jett flexed her girl power rock muscles and had guys and girls shaking, moving, and teasing from the get-go by cranking it up for hits ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘You Drive Me Wild’ from her Lolita-esque 70s all-girl band the Runaways, with the provocative ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me’ (Gary Glitter) sandwiched in between.
Sounding great on both guitar and on the mic with her unmistakable gruff and scratchy voice, the peak of the set for Jett and her Blackhearts were the set ending combo of her #1 hit from 1982, ‘I Love Rock & Roll,’ and her middle-finger punk rock anthem ‘Bad Reputation.’