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.

Dorothy brings the wild West to Columbus

As a huge fan of bands like KISS, I’m no stranger to huge concerts that require a massive production to pull off. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing to experience rock & roll, rhythm & blues in its rawest form in a sweaty concert hall where the onstage talent is truly working (and truly sweating!) to gain their still growing fanbase.

I’ve been on the Dorothy hype train since I first saw her music video for “After Midnight” (that’s still my favorite song of hers) several years ago and watching their performance on the tiny Jagermeister stage at Rock on The Range back in 2015. I have a mad respect for true, old school rock bands that grind to earn their way to the top. I saw that from this band the first time I saw them. I saw them a second time at the same festival on a bigger stage in 2017. There ascension had kind of been slow to that point, and they had every excuse to phone it in for that gig. They played early, on a chilly and rainy day; hardly ideal conditions to be excited to play to a hungover festival crowd. They absolutely brought it though and won me over again with a haunting rendition of “I Put A Spell On You” that was one of the highlights of the festival. I’m absolutely convinced that if/when that event returns to Columbus post-COVID, that this band will be gracing the main stage whenever they make their third appearance. So, that’s the backstory for my fandom with this band.

The LA based group returned to Columbus last night with a pair of hard rocking up and coming bands to a venue that I had not previously been to. The Bluestone turned out to be a perfect setting for the rock revival that took place last night. The concert hall is actually in an old cathedral and provided both amazing acoustics and an atmosphere that was just right for the evenings event. Afterall, Dorothy’s new record is inspired by a revival of their own sorts; both literally and spiritually.

All three bands were on fire. Outstanding musicianship was on full display and all three bands feature they type of virtuoso front man/woman that gives me hope for the future of the genre. These vocalists have the type of stage presence that demands the crowd’s attention. Both opening acts’ lead vocalists feature fellas with soaring vocals reminiscent of the heavyweights of the 70’s and 80’s; and Ms. Dorothy Martin’s vocal talent is as good as any live performer I’ve ever seen. It’s cliche these days to claim that “Rock is dead.” I would counter that with real rock & roll is alive and well if you know where to look.

The evening started with a quintet from California (minus one from Texas) called Classless Act. I wasn’t familiar with them before last night but they absolutely will not be a “warm up” band for long. They give me so much hope for what can be with hard rock. With a sound and performance that reminded me of what I imagine it must have been like to see bands like Guns N’ Roses before they became a radio band, they quickly won over the crowd during their abbreviated set. They even played a blistering cover of GNR’s “Civil War” that really brought the crowd to a frenzy. My fourteen year old daughter and I were towards the back of the concert hall, near the merch booth, and it was cool to see these guys mingle and sign autographs and take pictures with fans for the rest of the evening; when they weren’t going out into the pit and enjoying the other two bands that is. I’ll definitely be pulling for these guys moving forward and their debut album will be coming out on June 24th. If you weren’t able to catch them this time around, they’ll be back in Ohio for two stops as opening support for Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts on their summer Stadium Tour.

The next act is one that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Orange County, California’s Joyous Wolf have long eluded me. I had arrangements to see them and review them at Rock on the Range one year and for reasons that I don’t remember, I missed their set. In all honesty, my group was probably having breakfast beers in the parking lot, and I may have forgot. My bad. Subsequently on their visits to Columbus I haven’t been able to get there. This quartet took the energy up even another level, led by the stage command of lead vocalist Nick Reese. My introduction to this group was when I was reading up on the bands that I wasn’t familiar with coming to that festival and I was immediately drawn to their bluesy rock sound and the antics of Reese. They lived up to the hype last night with a wall of sound and their front man doing flips on stage, diving into the crowd, and even doing the splits. Compared to their early live videos of six or seven years ago, we’re witnessing a band that is now really coming into their own as seasoned vets in the world of rock & roll with multiple records under their belts. Highlights from the set were “Fearless” and a mandatory crowd participatory version of “Mother Rebel“. They also could be graciously seen for autographs and photo ops at the merch booth after their set and well after the evening’s event concluded.

After a short while, the evening’s headlining act took the stage. I’ve long considered the Dorothy band to be the best kept secret in modern rock music as they’ve stayed largely underground to the “mainstream” rock & roll powers that be. Whatever that means and for whatever that’s worth. That best kept secret, however, is making its way out as the band continues to put out high quality jams and at this point are refusing to be ignored. Their current album, just released last week (I picked up my vinyl copy at the show last night), has them on the verge of exploding. Titled “Gifts From the Holy Ghost“, the record had been gaining steam before it’s release with the lead single “Rest In Peace“. The album, the group’s third, was featured less than I imagined it would be in the setlist from the night, but the songs that were played were very well received.

The motivations for this album have been well documented, and the songs have shown a maturity that only life experiences can create. She and her band are in a different place than they were on past records lyrically but continue to excel at their craft musically as a raw, bluesy hard rock band. While her stage presence and vocal talent demand the most attention; Martin also shows off the talented musicians in the group with numerous extended jams and a terrific drum solo towards the end of the set. I’ve long thought that they should be the next big thing, and now I believe that time has arrived. While her debut album may have been titled “RockIsDead” they’re certainly too good and at the forefront of a modern rock revival for that to be true.