Two years in the making; Stadium Tour hits Cleveland

The Stadium Tour, having been scrapped each of the past two years due to COVID concerns, finally made its way to Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday. The concert was hosted by First Energy Stadium, which is home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and welcomed what seemed to be at least 50,000 headbangers for the long-anticipated event.

I was unsure if I was going to make the trek to Cleveland for the show, however, the night before my 15-year-old daughter asked me if I’d take her. As I grow more nostalgic as I age, her asking me that reminded me of the teenage version of myself asking my Dad to take me to see KISS and Aerosmith nearly twenty years ago. He obliged me that evening and I felt compelled to take her and enjoy some time with her, while also being treated to a killer soundtrack throughout the night.

Unfortunately, due to downtown Cleveland’s awful infrastructure for traffic during large events as is, combined with the Tribe having a home game on the same evening; we missed both Classless Act and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts even though we had made it to The 216 in plenty of time. Thankfully, her and I had just recently seen Classless Act during their spring tour supporting Dorothy. My eldest niece and I had seen Joan Jett at the Sonic Temple Music Festival a few years ago with the Foo Fighters. She had put on a great show that night, so it was somewhat disappointing to miss their performance in Cleveland due to gridlock traffic.

Poison came on shortly after we reached our seats. Somehow, some way, we were able to score great 12th row stadium seats on the left side of the stage and had a great view for the entirety of the event. It was cool seeing my kid so awestruck at the size and energy of the crowd. She couldn’t believe how many people were there and seeing a smile on her face throughout the event made it all worth it. A lot of times, Poison gets shit on by the macho guys in the metal and hard rock community. I say, no more! First and foremost, the backing band is solid. C.C. Deville is a criminally underrated guitar player. Say what you want about Bret Michaels and his quest for companionship through reality television, but the dude is a great entertainer and at every live show he convinces you that you’re old buddies. I’ve seen this band probably a half dozen times or so and they’ve never disappointed. They are by far the most down to earth and relatable band for the common man on this tour.

I think they get most of the ridicule due to the absolutely awful look they went with for the “Look What The Cat Dragged In” album cover. In 1986. The year of my birth. But you know what? Concerts are supposed to be fun, first and foremost; and there has never been a time that I left a Poison concert in anything less than a stellar mood. Unfortunately, with such a loaded lineup, the band only had about a 55 minute set. They got to as many of their party anthems as possible and were as good as I’ve ever seen them. There are few bands that I root harder for to be successful than this one.

Poison Set List Cleveland

  1. Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986)
  2. Ride The Wind (1990)
  3. Talk Dirty To Me (1987)
  4. Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins & Messina cover) (1988)
  5. C.C. Deville guitar solo (including Eruption by Van Halen)
  6. Fallen Angel (1988)
  7. Rikki Rockett drum solo
  8. Every Rose Has Its Thorn (1988)
  9. Nothin’ But a Good Time (1988)

A half hour after Poison left the stage, the rock brigade Def Leppard stormed out and were the highlight of the night. I maintain that they should be the every night headliner on this tour, but they are alternating nights with Motley Crue and the Cleveland stop was a Motley headline night. While I felt Def Lep should be the headliner, I was admittedly apprehensive about how their performance would be. I’d seen them a few times before and each time left thinking that their opener (Journey, Poison) was the better performer on those evenings. Particularly on the Journey tour, I thought they blew Def Leppard off the stage that night. Lep was playing a bunch of covers on that tour and vocalist Joe Elliott was seeming to struggle with his range, but that was probably at least 15 years ago.

I’m glad to admit that my apprehension was undeserved. This was far and away the best that I’ve heard Def Leppard sound. Even with a new record out, which usually means beer/restroom break for their aging fans, the new songs sounded like classic Def Leppard and were spaced appropriately throughout the set. They came out and plowed through a 17-song performance that highlighted their 40+ year careers to this point. While they didn’t play my two favorites of theirs, “Women” or “Too Late For Love“, they did include their iconic jam “Switch 625” as an extension of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak“; which was the crown jewel of their performance.

Elliott and the boys came out and performed like headliners. They were professionals up on that stage and the gig felt as if they were a band that belonged in a stadium setting as they churned through 80’s anthem after anthem. Leppard came around in England at a time when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was emerging as well. While they were heavier early in their careers, they simply went a more straight ahead hard rock route while the Iron Maiden’s and Saxon’s of the scene went the metal route. The musicianship of Rick Allen (drums), Rick Savage (bass, and underrated backing vocals), as well as the guitar duo of well-known players Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen shouldn’t be forgotten. Just because there are other bands that should also be in there, this band certainly earned their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which coincidentally sits in the shadows of the stadium that this concert was performed in.

Def Leppard Set List Cleveland

  1. Take What You Want (2022)
  2. Let It Go (1981)
  3. Animal (1987)
  4. Foolin’ (1983)
  5. Armageddon It (1987)
  6. Kick (2022)
  7. Love Bites (1988)
  8. Promises (1999)
  9. This Guitar (2022)
  10. Two Steps Behind (1993)
  11. Rocket (1987)
  12. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (1981)
  13. Switch 625 (1981)
  14. Hysteria (1987)
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me (1987)
  16. Rock Of Ages (1983)
  17. Photograph (1983)

Let me preface my review of Motley Crue by stressing that they are fine. I enjoy their music. My issues with them mainly stem from Nikki Sixx taking his band much more seriously than they should be. His past comments, putting Crue on some different level than the other hair bands (namely Poison) that they take on tour each cycle have always rubbed me the wrong way. The people that listen to Motley Crue, also listen to Poison. And Dokken. And RATT. Each of those bands from the same scene as you. Like Def Leppard, Motley Crue was certainly heavier and faster in the early eighties. They don’t play many of those songs live anymore, though, and their big hits are all in that same realm with the bands that he likes to dis. That is all. Motley Crue makes music for strippers. That’s ok. Embrace it. I’d rather the ladies dance to “Looks That Kill” than modern dance music! Just embrace who you are and don’t try to pretend like you are on some elite level of heavy metal. You are who you are. There are fewer bands that I root against, than Motley Crue, because they are who they are.

Now, that that is out of the way. Motley was great Thursday night. Vince Neil’s vocal struggles in recent years is not news, but I thought that after the opening track, his singing got better as the night went on. They played a set that included most of their hits and their latest release that coincided with their recent Netflix biopic. Mick Mars, as a quiet guy, kind of gets lost in the larger-than-life personalities that make up the rest of the band. His guitar work is underrated, and I think it’s fair to say that it gets underappreciated, simply due to the nature of Motley Crue. Sixx had his share of interactions with the crowd and held down the bottom end on his bass. Ignoring Tommy Lee’s personality for just a moment, his drumming has been and really continues to be the driving force of their live performances. Now, non-musically speaking, he also was able to coax women in the crowd to flash the band which is his typical schtick. Neil’s vocal struggles aside, those become less important when you can point the mic to the crowd and 50,000 metal heads are screaming back every lyric at you. For as much negative press as his performances have gotten lately, I felt he exceeded my expectations and was on par with both of the previous times I had seen Motley Crue. Like the two bands that played prior, they were fun. Concerts are supposed to be fun. I had fun. My kid had fun. With the lost years of 2020 and 2021 hopefully behind us forever, I hope that this tour rejuvenates each of these bands and gives them a new lease on their rock & roll lives and carries them through yet another decade of nothin’ but a good time.

Motley Crue Set List Cleveland

  1. Wild Side (1987)
  2. Shout at the Devil (1983)
  3. Too Fast For Love (1981)
  4. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) (1990)
  5. Saints of Los Angeles (2008)
  6. Live Wire (1982)
  7. Looks That Kill (1984)
  8. The Dirt (2019)
  9. Medley of Rock and Roll Part 2 (Gary Glitter)/Smokin’ in the Boys Room (Brownsville Station)/White Punks on Dope (The Tubes)/Helter Skelter (The Beatles)/Anarchy in the UK (Sex Pistols)
  10. Home Sweet Home (1985)
  11. Dr. Feelgood (1989)
  12. Same Ol’ Situation (1990)
  13. Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
  14. Primal Scream (1991)
  15. Kickstart My Heart (1989)

All in all it was a great show with some of the most iconic bands that came about during the eighties pop-metal era. Getting to spend that time with my kid, at a time in her life where your offspring typically want nothing to do with you; made it that much better.

The 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees

After a 2020 that was devastating to music lovers around the world, perhaps it’s time to look forward a little bit. 2020 saw live music come to a screeching halt. We lost rock legends like Neil Peart and Eddie Van Halen. I don’t think anybody knows with any certainty what will happen when it comes to live music; but some gigs are being scheduled and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has released it’s annual list of nominees. These will ultimately be cut down to a group of five or so for induction.

If diversity is what you’re looking for, we’ve got quite the list of nominees to choose from this year. My lack of faith in the powers that be at the R&RHOF is no secret. For crying out loud, Ted Nugent is not in there. Styx is not in there. And I could go on and on. For the sake, however, of this list; let’s assume that “rock & roll” does in fact encompass all genres of popular music and that all genres matter. Who should make the cut? Who should not? Outside of my favorite band, Iron Maiden, finally getting a nomination; this list is not real awe inspiring. It’s also not really a list that is friendly to what can traditionally be defined as rock music for an institution that is supposed to cater to rock music. After having a few weeks to ponder on the nominees; these are my thoughts.

Iron Maiden performing Aces High in Japan

The no-brainer is the aforementioned Iron Maiden. The metal legends have been eligible since 2004 and are just now being nominated for the first time. Getting Metallica and Black Sabbath in as the only metal bands inducted thus far has to help. However, the recent failure of the deserving Judas Priest twice in the past five years also gives reason to not trust the Hall to do the right thing. Iron Maiden is one of the pioneering bands of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” from the early 80’s that helped pave the way for bands like Saxon and were a direct influence on classic metal bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iced Earth as well as more modern ones like Sabaton and Amon Amarth. Outside of KISS, there is probably no other band that is as marketable as Iron Maiden. Their live shows are a spectacle to behold and the 85 million albums they’ve sold with little to no radio or TV support make them the grassroots heavy metal champions of all time. This band is bigger now than they were in their 80’s heyday. Do the right thing R&RHOF. I know you haven’t been historically kind to including metal bands but this one should not even be up for debate. Although, with their denial of Judas Priest recently, I won’t hold my breath.

Iron Maiden performing Phantom of the Opera in England

Tina Turner comes in next. She’s already in the Hall of Fame for earlier work, while this nomination focuses on her as a solo artist. She has had a hit song in seven different decades. Few artists, past or present, have the stage presence that she does as a performer as well. Her solo music is kind of all over the place, but her roots are in rock & roll, rhythm & blues and at the end of the day she has sold over 100 million records. She once held a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist at over 180,000 fans. She should join Stevie Nicks as the next woman to be inducted a second time.

Tina Turner covering The Who

The Foo Fighters are an intriguing candidate for induction. Front man Dave Grohl is like the biggest rock nerd in rock history, even bigger than myself. Even with his outspoken politics aside he seems like one of the most down to earth guys as well. A common man’s rock star perhaps. Is his band groundbreaking? Probably not. Can you definitively say they have changed rock music? No, not really. However, over the scope of their careers, they have maintained their status as one of the biggest rock bands in the world. There hasn’t really been a dip in their popularity. They still fill stadiums to this day. Their live performances are phenomenal. The ability to replicate what you are selling live should matter and they absolutely are a better live band than they are a radio band. The album sales are there. The live show is there. The staying power is there. I would include Foo Fighters and Dave gets in for the second time after previously being inducted with Nirvana.

Up next is Fela Kuti. While his music is not rock & roll, per se, he was a pioneer of the Afrobeats genre; blending jazz, funk, psychedelic and traditional Nigerian music to create his sound. His legacy to this music is second to none on this list of nominees. For that alone, he should be on the shortlist to be inducted.

Carole King has written 118 songs that have made the Billboard Charts. But, she is already in the Hall of Fame as a songwriter. Should she get in, this time, as a performer? That’s where the debate comes in. She is considered a soft rock artist and she’s got the career to back it up. It may not be my cup of tea, but you’ll get no argument here if she is inducted.

Dionne Warwick isn’t really a rock singer either, but the woman has charted 56 Hot 100 pop singles on the Billboard Charts.But her very early music contains a lot of the same elements that became rock music later on. She meets that credential as well as her staying power. If being exclusive to rock is not a prerequisite for inclusion, it’d be hard to argue against her.

Rage Against the Machine are another tricky candidate. They are relatively newer for induction. Their blending of metal and elements of rap and hip hop would pave the way for the future genre that became nu-metal and featured bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn. This is the third time they’ve been nominated, but their outspoken politics that carry weight in the music community could finally carry them over the threshold this year. I’m not convinced that the music does that for them. While they made some impact, they were a band for a relatively short period of time and their album sales aren’t overly impressive. I’d be fine with them getting in and completely indifferent if they don’t. Artists like Ted Nugent and even Kid Rock have been much more impactful for a longer stretch of time and won’t be nominated, simply because they have the wrong politics. Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were bigger than Rage but will likely not ever be nominated either. My beef isn’t really with RATM, it’s with the fact that they are largely only being force fed as a nominee due to their “message”.

Since the precedent has been set with rap artists being inducted into the Hall of Fame with the two kings of rap 2-Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. both recently being inducted, I’m inclined to hear arguments for Jay-Z. While, nowadays, he’s more well known for riding the coattails of his wife and kissing Barack Obama’s butt, Jay-Z was one of the next wave of rappers that ushered in the post-Biggie and Pac era of rap. His album The Life and Times of Shawn Carter: Volume 2 was a huge success and spawned several hit tracks. He has sold nearly 40 million records, which puts him higher than most of the people on this list. I’m a staunch anti-rap in the R&RHOF guy, but since we’re already doing it, this is one that makes sense.

The Go-Go’s were a new wave rock band formed in the late 1970’s. They were the first all-female band to top the Billboard charts. Rare and groundbreaking, check. Outside of a few years of popularity, though, they miss the mark as far as staying power and their album sales aren’t huge. I won’t protest their induction, unless it comes at the expense of Iron Maiden, but they would be a borderline inductee for me.

Todd Rundgren has also been nominated twice before. His biggest influence has been as a music producer. His solo career has been very long and experimental, but not necessarily groundbreaking. Thankfully, he’s not bothered by the Hall of Fame, because I’m not sure that the third time for induction is a charm for him either.

The New York Dolls were an early underground band that were heavily influential on early glam bands like Twisted Sister. One of the first punk bands on the scene, their time was fairly short lived and really achieved no success commercially. Their biggest impact is more likely to have come from the bands that they influenced. I won’t complain if they get in, but also won’t cry if they don’t.

Rapper LL Cool J gets nominated, seemingly, every year. Every year he doesn’t get in. While he was cool when I was a kid, and I actually prefer him as an actor, I don’t think he makes it. I’m still not convinced that rap should be included in this Hall of Fame and if it does he doesn’t quite make my very short list of those who should.

R&B artist Mary J. Blige has been nominated as well. Dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul with her ability to blend rap and R&B, you’d be hard pressed to find another female artist that has been as instrumental to modern day rap music than Blige. Ultimately, I don’t believe she should be inducted into the rock hall of fame, but an R&B one without hesitation.

Akron, Ohio’s Devo were another new wave type rock band that had some radio success but are a fringe candidate for induction. They’ve been around since 1973 but are largely known for one song. I do not anticipate them making the cut.

Oh, Chaka Khan. I feel like she’s been nominated like eight times and never gotten in. While she may be the Queen of Funk, and funk is much more related to rock than some of the other stuff in the Hall of Fame, there aren’t many artists that I could be more indifferent to. She doesn’t move the meter for me. Maybe she’ll get a lifetime achievement award or something.

Pop star Kate Bush rounds out the group of this year’s nominees. She’s a pretty big deal on the other side of the pond in England, her home country, with many charting songs but isn’t necessarily a household name here. That doesn’t disqualify her, necessarily, as it isn’t the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With that said, however, I do not anticipate her being inducted. To each their own, but, no.

Sound off in the comments! Let me know what you do or don’t agree with. Who’s too high? Who’s too low?

Iron Maiden performing in Cincinnati, 2019. Photo by Chad J. Hobbs