Header image (one) credit: Andrew Daly/VWMusic/Header image (two) courtesy of Live Nation
By Andrew Daly
Summer 2022’s hottest tour has been two years in the making, with rock concert-goers, and general lovers of a good time waiting with bated breath amongst cancelations, reshuffled lineups, and postponements in the wake of COVID-19.
Finally, on a hot summer day in NYC, the two-years-in-the-making concert event of the year careened into Queens’s Citi Field, with the promise of a full days-worth of hard rock nostalgia bred through music, beer, and comradery. Those unfamiliar, or those out of the proverbial loop, might be wondering aloud, “Which artists pepper this reportedly star-studded roster?” Well, if you’re on the edge of your seat, I’ll leave to wonder no longer, as I spent the day at Citi Field, taking in all the glory, splendor, and bombast that The Stadium Tour had to offer.
The day’s musical journey kicked off with Classless Act, who initially were not scheduled to be a part of The Stadium Tour when it was first announced during those ever-distant pre-COVID days. In the tour’s first incarnation, Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts were originally slated as openers, but amidst the postponements, Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee took a liking to the band, and eventually, Classless Act was tabbed as the opener. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Classless Act, as the band’s debut record, Welcome to the Show, was released the same day (June 24th) as the performance at Citi Field.
While The Stadium Tour is proving to be Classless Act’s first foray into the stadium world and will serve as their first major, national exposure, in performance, the band’s supposed “inexperience” is not remotely apparent. The band’s frontman, Derek Day, is a burgeoning star, with a commanding stage presence, and his bandmate’s musicianship and showmanship are stout.
Classless Act’s five-song setlist was torrid and proves why the band is one of the genre’s most up-and-coming groups. For those in attendance – remember this moment – as it will serve as a harbinger of greatness to come and just might be akin to seeing Mötley Crüe at The Troubadour in the early 80s. Yes, Classless Act is that good, and that torrential. The only issue was crowd size. Sadly, for Classless Act, the Citi Field performance took place on a busy Friday afternoon in NYC, with far too many would-be concertgoers still at work, as such, the crowd was only a few thousand strong, at most. Still, for those that were there, this will be a moment to remember, and their namesake track, “Classless Act,” gave an intimate snapshot of a band on the fast track to megastardom.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Next up, was rock ‘n’ roll queen, and trendsetting veteran, Joan Jett, who was flanked by her band, The Blackhearts. Jett kicked off around 430pm, with the torrid “Victim of Circumstance,” which seemed all too appropriate given the times we live in. From there, Jett ran through a set of twelve classics, which included The Runaway’s “Cherry Bomb,” a cover of Tommy James & The Shondell’s “Crimson & Clover,” and of course, Jett staples “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” and “Bad Reputation.”
I’ve seen Jett twice before, once in 2012, and once in 2015, so it had been seven long years since I’d seen the leather-clad rock queen strut her stuff, and I have to say, she hasn’t lost a step. Yes, for those wondering, Jett’s voice and always solid guitar work were in vintage form. If you’ve seen Joan Jett, then you know what you’re going to get – a gutsy, edgy, near-primal performance. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Still, Jett’s timeless vibe, anthemic choruses, and influential aesthetic are always a sight to see. If you’ve not seen Jett perform before, she’s a regular on the circuit year in and year out, as such, I recommend you scoop up tickets when she comes to town. Sadly, once again, crowd size was an issue. I suspect that during Jett’s set, many fans were either driving home or on their way to the stadium for the remaining three acts which were to follow.
Bringing up the rear behind Joan Jett was glam rock warriors, Poison. Going in, I had heard mixed reviews regarding Poison, and so I had high hopes, but not overly high expectations. More so, in recent weeks I had seen reports from Poison’s drummer, Rikki Rockett where he mentioned that Poison was not a band that used any backing tracks, and was, “All live, all the time, with no help,” which I found commendable. The commitment to presenting an authentic live product is in keeping with the spirit of raw, and dirty rock ‘n’ roll, and if nothing else, that’s what Poison is, by definition at least, right?
Bret and the boys kicked off their set with “Look What The Cat Dragged In,” which was an effective way to open the show to be sure. Immediately, their stage presence was palatable, especially when it comes to frontman Bret Michaels, and guitarist C.C. DeVille. Also immediately apparent was that Michaels was, unfortunately, having a touch of vocal issues on this particular evening. It’s worth noting that NYC has been under a serious air quality alert for days, making breathing, and perhaps vocalizing difficult, so Michaels gets a pass here. For the most part, Michaels held his own during the verses, but during the chorus sections of some of the songs, he seems to be a tad bit restrained, if not restricted.
To the rest of the band’s credit, they were sensational. C.C. DeVille starred on classic tracks such as “Talk Dirty to Me,” “I Want Action,” “Unskinny Bop,” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time.” Also, I must say that “Fallen Angel” was a welcomed addition to the setlist, and it went down a treat, with C.C.’s unmistakable tone prevalent throughout. As far as Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett go, when it comes to 80s rock rhythm sections, they are as solid as it comes, and their showmanship never ceases to amaze me. Toward the end of the show, Poison launched into “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which surprising even to me, proved to be the setlist highlight, after “Fallen Angel,” of course.
Overall, Poison put on a wonderful show. My only complaint is that in a too-short, eleven-song setlist, they added in both a guitar solo and drum solo. In my opinion, I would have rather heard two more tracks – perhaps deep cuts – rather than the solos. In a long-form concert setting, I am all for drum and guitar virtuosity, but in this type of setting, nine songs simply aren’t enough to satiate my appetite for Poison’s patented brand of 80s rock goodness.
As dusk began to fall, The Stadium Tour’s penultimate act and co-headliner Mötley Crüe took the stage, and did so in literal explosive fashion with “Wild Side,” and what a way to open it was. By this point, Citi Field was around three-quarters of the way (or more) full, and from where I was positioned on the floor, just a few rows from the stage, things were getting rowdy, and Mötley Crüe’s particular brand of sleaze-ridden metal did nothing to calm the masses.
From there, Neil and company ripped into searing renditions of “Shout At The Devil,” “Too Fast For Love,” and for me at least, a happy inclusion of “Saints of Los Angeles,” one of my favorite Mötley Crüe tracks. By the time “Live Wire” kicked off, a sufficiently sweat-soaked, and alcohol-imbibed crowd was moshing at near-panic levels, and it was at this point that broken-rib-bearing drummer, Tommy Lee, strutted to the stage’s edge, and took things down a notch. “Man, we are so fuckin’ happy to be here. Fuckin’ look at you, New York, you’re fuckin’ beautiful. Hey, I’m sorry I can’t be up here with these guys all night, I cracked some fuckin’ ribs. But I’m here now. All I can say is we fuckin’ missed you – I fuckin’ missed you,” said Motley’s tattoo-covered, legendary bringer of thunder.
With the crowd in the palm of its hand, Mötley Crüe launched into a turnback-the-clock rendition of “Home Sweet Home,” which would have you swearing it was 1989 all over again. Now, you might be wondering, “What about Vince Neil’s vocals?” To that, all I can say is the reports are overexaggerated, and Neil was in fine form all night. The proof was in the pudding, as a track like “Home Sweet Home” would have easily exposed any singer’s weaknesses, but Neil drove it home with the vigor of a stage-bred pro. The Crüe closed out the fifteen-song set with a powerful run of tracks that include “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Same Ol’ Situation (SOS),” and a show-stopping rendition of “Kickstart My Heart,” which was so vicious that it threatened to topple Citi Field, crumbling its walls, and exposing the mangled steel framework beneath.
Citi Field didn’t topple though, but many fans certainly did. To Mötley’s credit, they were in fantastic form, and at sets end, I was certain that they had stolen the entire show. Vince Neil’s voice was steady, if not agile, and exactly what you’d expect from an aging rocker, who has lived the long and varied life that Neil has. Nikki Sixx remains the consummate performer. His iconic posturing, thunderous basslines, and authoritative stage presence haven’t diminished with time whatsoever. Mick Mars, though he doesn’t move much due to physical maladies, is still an unmitigated wizard on the guitar. Mars’ stylings are a sight to behold, and given his physical condition, he certainly falls under the “see him now, before you never have the chance to again” category.
The elephant in the room is Tommy Lee. Once again, he performed a few tracks, took a break, and then came back for “Home Sweet Home.” For me, Tommy Lee takes Mötley Crüe to another level, as his ability behind the drums is unparalleled, and his showmanship is unquestioned. While fill-in drummer Tommy Clufetos fancies himself a dead-ringer and honestly is a capable replacement, there is a touch of fairy dust missing when Lee isn’t behind the kit, and that became very apparent when Lee wasn’t on stage. When Lee was present, you could hear the nuanced musicality elevate on the whole, and feel his bandmates’ energy rise with it.
So, remember when I mentioned that to this point I felt Mötley Crüe had all but stolen the show? Well, I felt that way until around 930pm, when in front of a packed house, Def Leppard triumphantly took the stage. Now, to this point, I had been thoroughly impressed with all four of the day’s acts, as such, my expectations for the tour’s final headliner were high. This said, going in, I had heard rumblings that the mighty Lep was experiencing all sorts of sound and performance issues on stage, so I made an effort to temper those same expectations.
To say those reports were incorrect, overexaggerated, and generally false would be a massive understatement. From the literal opening chords of new track “Take What You Want,” it was readily apparent that in Def Leppard, we were dealing with an entirely different animal than we had seen all day. From the jump, Leppard’s sound and mix were spot on, with Vivan Campbell and Phil Collen’s dueling leadwork in perfect synchronicity. Rick Savage and Rick Allen continue to be consummate professionals, whose towering rhythms echoed through the halls and channels of Citi Field. But the most stunning part of Def Leppard’s set was the band’s frontman, Joe Elliot, who strutted across the stage, commanding the crowd, beckoning them to cater to his every whim.
Eliott and company moved through a near-perfect set, which included “Fire It Up,” “Animal,” “Foolin’,” “Love Bites,” and “Armageddon It,” before Elliot wistfully strode to the stages edge, spread his arms, and took it all in. “Excuse me, I just want to take a moment, and breathe this all in. It’s been a long fucking long time since we’ve seen this, and I’ve missed it. The last two years have been a bit shit, haven’t they? It’s good to be back. It’s good to see you all. Thanks for having us,” said Leppard’s amiable frontman.
During the performance, I heard a lot of fans around me complaining due to Leppard’s inclusion of several new tracks into its eighteen-song setlist, but honestly, the new music is wonderful and ingratiates itself alongside the classics seamlessly. More so, the Sheffield veterans played just about every classic track any cursory fan could want. So, with that, what more could you want? Leppard is a band that is still creative, vibrant and performing with vital urgency. Their musicianship, songsmith, and ageless-wonder-sound should be cherished, not wasted. If Def Leppard wants to feed us new music, then we should be prepared to eat as if we’ve been starved of rock music for years. To that end, we have been, haven’t we?
Another complaint fans seemed to be fostering was the inclusion of acoustic tracks into the middle portion of the performance. Once again, I have no issue. I felt it added tremendous depth to the performance, and allowed fans to see another side of the band. Once more, given that this was a greatest-hits-peppered, eighteen-song set, there was more than enough room for the band to stretch out, if you will.
At the conclusion of that acoustic portion, Leppard launched into “Rocket,” “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” ‘Rock of Ages,” and “Photograph,” before bidding the crowd adieu. At the show’s end, clad in red velvet, and a bowler hat, Elliot addressed the crowd once more, “Thank you, New York. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been too long since we’ve been here. We’ll see you next time, and I promise you – there will be a next time. Please don’t forget us, because we will never forget you.”
Two years in the making, hoping, and wishing, The Stadium Tour is upon us, that is to say – it’s in motion – and this train won’t stop until the tour’s September 2022 conclusion. But, as we all know, hype is a funny thing, and sometimes it leads to unrealistic expectations. So, as a concert goer, you might be plaintively asking yourself, “Is the price of admission worth it?” Well, I can certainly say that in this instance, the short answer is, “Yes. The juice is worth the squeeze.”
Look, the band’s on the bill were chosen for a reason. In the case of Classless Act, the elder statesmen on the tour love them, more so, they respect them. Classless Act harkens back to a bygone era, which happens to be the same era that The Stadium Tour is not-so-gently reminding us of. As for Joan Jett, she’s a warrior. She’s solid. You know what you’re going to get, and she always delivers it in spades. She’s a rocker through and through. Her raw passion and unbridled energy provide the essential bedrock for what’s to come.
Or course, we have Poison. These guys keep the wheels of this “thing” turning. Their showmanship, unapologetic repping of the era, and reverence for their history are ever apparent, and always welcome. If you’re looking for a good show, smattered with greatest hits, and an old-school vibe, Poison is your draw. They are fun and worth the price of admission each and every time. In no uncertain terms, you won’t ever be sorry you went to a Poison show. Not ever.
As for Mötley Crüe, I didn’t know what to expect given the reports over Neils’ voice, and Tommy Lee having to sit a large portion of the set out. But you know what? They brought it – big time. The sleaze was apparent, with tattoos, droves of scantily clad women, and a general vibe of 1980s Sunset Strip debauchery – which they made famous – permeating through the tracks, performances, and members. Leather-bound fist in the air, and with a Thunderbird bass slung over his ink-clad shoulder, Nikki Sixx said it best, “We’ve been a band for forty-one years. They tried to kill us. We almost died, but they didn’t fuckin’ bury us. That’s what we’ve learned – you can’t kill us. You can hate us, but you can’t fuckin’ ignore us. You can’t kill Mötley fuckin’ Crüe. Mötley Crüe will never die.”
That leaves us with Def Leppard – who quite honestly – are worth the price of admission all by themselves. Without exaggeration, if you purchased a front-row ticket to The Stadium Tour, and you only showed up for Def Leppard’s set, you would not be disappointed. I don’t care how much it cost – Def Leppard was that stunning. Simply put, there are very few chances in life to see a world-dominating, historically meaningful hard rock band on stage, let alone in an open-air stadium, up close and personal. If you have the chance – take it – less you will regret it for the rest of your life. Hearing Eliott and company perform those legendary tracks in that type of setting will forever alter your perception of the band, and perhaps rock music, in general, for the rest of your life.
In short, The Stadium Tour isn’t about money, merch, or pomp and circumstance. No, it’s about the continued legacy of rock music. It’s about bridging the gap between new and old, between men and women, and between American and British bands. It’s about all of that and more. You know, there’s something of a false statement out there, or maybe, it’s a growing, if not lingering sentiment, and it goes something like this: “There’s no reason to make albums anymore, rock is dead.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that The Stadium Tour is living, breathing, in-your-face proof that rock ain’t dead. Not even close. Classless Act is a brand new band, with a new record out (Welcome To The Show), which is poised to crush the charts. Def Leppard is an over forty-years-strong band, with a new record out (Diamond Star Halos), which is currently invading the hearts and minds of both fans new and old alike. Does that sound like “rock is dead” to you? Because it sure doesn’t sound like it to me.
If you’ve got the chance, go see The Stadium Tour. In life, we have very few chances to see the greatest acts do what they do best on the grandest stages. For several years, The Stadium Tour seemed improbable, but on June 24th, 2022, at Citi Field in Queens, NY, an up-and-coming act, a fearless rock warrior, and three of rock music history’s most pioneering bands, accomplished the improbable, and then some.
Get ready for the Summer of 2022’s hottest draw with The Stadium Tour’s official playlist below: