Tickets There kept the head down majorly last year, but you didn’t think we’d miss one of the greatest touring line-ups in living history did you? The heroic conquering heroes Def Leppard, the filthiest grime and sleaze you can scrape off the streets of LA (Steel Panther :p) and the tided up and looking great Mötley Crüe all under the same roof! Not something to be missed no matter how far you have to travel.
Anyone that’s ever been to the MEN arena knows two things. First, it’s massive! Entering at the top level and walking down those oh so fun steps in the dark with thousands of people behind you is no fun whatsoever; but if fills you with plenty of adrenaline that can be doused with pints. Second, there’s no smoking….officially. What happens in the toilets, stays in the toilets. Aside from that, it’s easily one of the greatest venues in the U.K. with plenty of bars, merch stands, standing room and incredible sound. Walking in at the obnoxiously early time of 18:30, it’s strange to see the arena so full, but then again Steel Panther are already on stage and nobody wants to miss this.
Opening with ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’ from their new album, Balls Out, Steel Panther are on fire from the word go. While some felt their tongue in cheek take on metal wouldn’t wash with the English crowd (I cannot fathom where that idea came from) it seems Panther know what they’re doing no matter where they play. ‘Tomorrow Night’,’ Asian Hooker’ and ’Just Like Tiger Woods’ gain them a rapturous response from the crowd and an understood, open invite to return to the UK anytime they choose; but the night’s over yet. Their onstage banter, led by guitarist Satchel, and riff heavy tracks are the perfect entertainment to kick off a night of hair metal. The group close with the classic ballad ‘Community Property’, ‘17 Girls In A Row’ and the almighty giant, ‘Death to All but Metal’ and it’s oh so appropriate line, “Where is Def Leppard, Where is Motley Crue?”…well they’re backstage ”fucking groupies” according to singer Michael Starr. With the group earning “literally hundreds of pounds” to play this tour and their promotion over Reckless Love in the spandex genre, no doubt they’ll come back for more in 2012.
With the novelty side of the night over, it’s time for the first of our two headliners to lay the marker, throw the gauntlet and blow our heads off! Mötley Crüe explodes onstage with all the fire, energy and power they’re known for. ‘Wild Side’ (the greatest drinking song in their repertoire), ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ (proof they still know how to write bitchin’ tracks) and ‘Live Wire’ open the show. Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and the great Mick Mars all shine on stage with Vince and Nikki covering every inch of the stage, Mick holding his own with the fans and on guitar; and of course, Tommy the legend overshadowing all of them from behind his kit. How does he do it? Well you gotta be blonde to find that out. In every possible way, everyone in attendance tonight knows they’re witnessing one of the most iconic bands in rock music at their best.
‘Shout At The Devil’ boosts a mass sing along from the crows with arms raised, explosions from the stage and pounding on the bass. ‘S.O.S.’ and the awesome ‘Primal Scream’ keep the adrenaline going before the band convene around a grand piano for a stripped back rendition of ‘Home Sweet Home’ before re-launching the action with ‘Looks That Kill’. Taking a break, the band retires back stage to let Tommy begin his drum solo and did we mention….. his drum was set up on a rollercoaster track? Oh Yeah! Tommy kicks off his solo as standard before the whole kit starts to roll to the left and right of the track before going into full 360° action without a single beat being missed. Slowing down, Tommy asks for volunteers from the audience to come up, eventually catching one bewildered looking lady who gets strapped in and flown off as Tommy drums the beat from the Chilli Pepper’s ‘Love Roller-coaster’. And we thought Steel panther were meant to have the theatrics! With that, the band return for Mick Mars apocalyptic-solo before the bands returns for ‘Dr. Feelgood’.
As Crüe’s set comes to an end (still have another band! TT – you’re writing too much nonsense – Ed), Leppard singer, Joe Elliott, walks on stage to present Nikki with a birthday cake and rouse the crowd to sing to him. The set’s closed with ‘Mutherfucker of the Year’,’ Girls, Girls, Girls’ and ‘Smokin’ In The Boys Room’. With one encore of ‘Kickstart My Heart’, the boys are done and the stage is dismantled. While Vince’s voice has never been known for its dominating power in the arena, the sheer force of the band’s sound and incredible wealth of tunes makes them one of the must see bands on the road today. Anytime ye fancy an auld visit to Ireland lads, Tickets There will be waiting.
Now, time for the true Gods of the live arena. The band that sell sex, love and rockin’ out with every note! The one, the only (we’re fans – get over it); Def Leppard! While Panther have the comedy, Crüe have the edge; Leppard will always be the force that pulls it all together and adds so much more. They overcome every single obstacle in the book of ‘Shit things that happen to bands’ and still come out on top every time. They’ve lost members, limbs, fans, popularity and sales and yet here they are, 30+ years after their inception still headlining arenas around the world and breaking new ground with every step. No matter what you say about Def Leppard, they are a true model of how a band stays together, stays successful and comes out ‘winning’ every time.
Leppard kick of their set on a stage that suddenly looks twice as large with ‘Undefeated’ from their new live album, Mirrorball. The band looks every bit in shape and together as they ever have and they waste no time displaying those traits that help them outshine all others in their class. ‘Rocket’, ‘Action’, ‘Make Love Like A Man’ and ‘When Love and Hate Collide’ all lead the traditional route into the heart of their set with Joe Elliott’s voice literally decimating the sound system with its power. Despite the Crüe fans bickering about the true headliners tonight, no-one in the arena can deny that Elliott is knocking Vince Neil out of the park with every note. And it’s not like the rest of the band are taking a break either. ‘Gods of War’, a rare inclusion, sets the night on fire with its powerful riffs, courtesy of Phil and Viv. It’s pounding, yet starkly placed drums (aka – Mr. Rick ‘Thunder God’ Allen) and its incredible wall of backing vocals and heaving bas lines. Step up Mr. Sav. If this isn’t everything you want from a Leppard concert, I don’t know what is!
‘Two Steps Behind’, ‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’ and the mega ‘Switch 625’ really lay it home how good the band are sounding these days. It’s obvious the lads are delighted to be playing their first proper UK shows in four years (not including their 2009 and 2011 headlining shows at Download – ahem – Ed) and they’re basking in every minute of it. ‘Hysteria’ and ‘Animal’ follow before the pile drive the set home with the classics ‘Armageddon It’, ‘Photograph’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar On me’. The band scarified ‘Rock of Ages’ for Gods of War, but who’s complaining? Leppard return to the stage to round of an incredibly long but mind-blowing night with ‘Love Bites’ and the always classic, ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. Band happy, Lepp fans happy and Mötley Crüe begrudgingly tipping their hats – it’s a wrap. After eight shows in five years, TT doesn’t know when we’ll get to see the mighty Lepp again, but one’s things for sure; there will be a next time. ..