Artist: Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe
Venue: Bramell Lane, Sheffield
Date: 22 May 2023
‘Rock Of Ages’…you bet!
Due to the large queues entering Bramall Lane, I missed opening act VIVAS featuring Rick Savage’s son Tyler. Fortunately, the rain kept away and there was no blinding sun from my vantage point near the back of the Tony Currie stand, for those familiar with the home ground of Sheffield United.
I’ve been a fan of Mötley Crüe from the early days, and first saw them opening, the now legendary line-up of Monsters of Rock, at Castle Donington, back in 1984. Since that time, I’ve seen them on numerous occasions where they have been very hit and miss; so, this evening’s performance very much mirrored their whole career.
Five minutes before their entrance the volume suddenly increased with Mozart’s ‘Requiem in D minor, K.626’. It was loud but not very clear, and unfortunately that’s basically how it remained throughout Mötley’s ninety-minute set. Following a “Breaking News” broadcast on the large video screens either side of the large stage, the band entered with ‘Wildside’. The bass and drums were thunderous, but just too loud and drowned out a lot of the guitars and vocals; not sure if the latter might have been intentional. Vince Neil never has been a great singer; however, at least this evening he didn’t appear to be gasping for breath or forgetting words to the songs as he did on the Farewell Tour in 2015. He was ably supported by two scantily clad backing singers. I turned to my stepdaughter during the set to tell her that she’d found the bridesmaid’s outfits for her forthcoming wedding… The constant flickering of the video screens was rather off-putting; again, I’m not sure if this was premeditated, as it made it almost impossible to see if the band were lip-syncing or playing live.
Although it was clear that most people had come to watch Sheffield’s favourite sons, there was still a good few Crüe fans in the audience as highlighted by the fist-pumping and singing along to ‘Shout At The Devil’. The setlist was great, if not predictable. That said, there cannot be too many who would want the Crüe to play deep cuts. The rawness of ‘Too Fast For Love’ and ‘Live Wire’ from the 1981 debut album were largely unaffected by the poor audio, as too the medley of Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock And Roll – Part 2’, Brownsville Station’s ‘Smokin’ In The Boys Room’, The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’, The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’, and the Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. Sadly, the same could not be said for some of my personal favourites: ‘Looks That Kill’, ‘Dr. Feelgood’ and ‘Kickstart My Heart’, which are ideal stadium rockers, but alas got lost in the mix this evening.
Sadly, due to the worsening of his health condition (ankylosing spondylitis) Mick Mars can no longer tour; however, the band have recruited well with ex-Rob Zombie guitarist, John 5, who has slotted in seamlessly, albeit the obvious musically talented of the band members. I waited in trepidation when Nikki Sixx approached the front of the stage to address the audience, as his monologue in Manchester eight years ago was embarrassing to say the least; however, this evening he thanked the crowd and made the day of one young fan when he invited them up on stage, which was a class act. Not so, Tommy Lee, asking, “Where’s the titties?” Unashamedly, two or three “ladies” obliged. Fortunately, he did refrain from getting his knob out, which he’d threatened to do… Thankfully, he did not!
Mötley Crüe are definitely a throwback to the hedonistic eighties, a glorious decade music wise, although tonight they also showed why sometimes the past should remain in the past; however, with a better sound, they could have gone at least some way to rekindle those past glories.
Setlist: Wild Side / Shout at the Devil / Too Fast for Love / Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) / Saints of Los Angeles / Live Wire / Looks That Kill / The Dirt / Medley (Rock and Roll, Part 2 / Smokin' in the Boys Room / Helter Skelter / Anarchy in the U.K. / Blitzkrieg Bop) / Home Sweet Home / T.N.T. (Terror 'n Tinseltown) / Dr. Feelgood / Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) / Girls, Girls, Girls / Primal Scream / Kickstart My Heart
My big fear was that Def Leppard were going to suffer the same sound issues as Mötley Crüe. Fortunately, within seconds of opening number ‘Take What You Want’ (from last year’s ‘Diamond Star Halos’ album) my concerns were alleviated. It was still loud, but with an infinitely superior mix. The large video screens were used to great effect (no juddering) throughout the whole hour-and-a half set, including close ups of the quintet. All five were dressed to impress, Joe Elliot the most striking in his Union Jack blazer; however, the award to best dressed must go to guitarist Vivian Campbell with his splendid floral silk jacket. Amazingly, guitarist Phil Collen kept his jacket on throughout the whole show!
Following the opening song, Elliot asked, “Do you wanna get rocked?” The atmosphere and noise levels immediately ramped up. The momentum was maintained with a stonkin’ rendition of ‘Animal’ from the multi-platinum ‘Hysteria’ opus. ‘Foolin’’ was spine-chillingly awesome and ‘Armageddon It’ had the South Yorkshire crowd in full voice. ‘Kick’ from last year’s release was arguably the low point of the set, although still delivered with the utmost professionalism. ‘Love Bites’ was played as the darkness of the night sky began to make the light show even more impressive, whilst ‘Promises’, arguably the best post ‘Hysteria’ song, showed the band were on firing on all cylinders.
All five members then came to the front of the extended part of the stage, where they were individually introduced by Elliot to rapturous applause from the partisan crowd. The semi-acoustic version of ‘This Guitar’ was superb with the Eagles-like harmony vocals; and they remained at the front of the stage for fan-favourite ballad ‘When Love And Hate Collide’. The rendition of ‘Rocket’ was not extended as in past shows, as were most of the songs, which I personally liked. ‘Bringing On The Heartache’ was executed to perfection as the darkness continued to descend and segued perfectly into the hard rockin’ instrumental ‘Switch 625’, and a short drum solo from the Thunder God himself, Mr. Rick Allen, which drew the largest cheers of the night.
Despite being what seemed like a mile away from the stage, the large screens did mean I could see the band, who were obviously relishing playing their hometown. For Joe Elliott, a lifelong Sheffield United fan, it must have been a surreal experience playing at Bramall Lane in front of thirty-thousand-plus screaming fans.
One of my all-time favourite Leppard tracks, ‘Hysteria’ was performed to near perfection and preceded housewives’ and strippers’ favourite ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. That just left a closing salvo ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’, the latter featuring a montage of snapshots on the video screens from across the band’s whole career, which underlined what an important part of my life they have been to me. It was also great to see Steve Clark frequently popping up on the screen; gone, but never forgotten.
The band took the deserved euphoric applause from the fans, and despite the hefty ticket prices, I don’t think anyone went home feeling short-changed. I consider Leppard are being very gracious co-headlining; Mötley Crüe are desperately trying to rekindle past glories, whilst the band from the Steel City are still very much on top of their game, and very much in a league of their own.
I first saw Def Leppard in 1983 at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, when at the time they were touring to support their ground-breaking ‘Pyromania’ opus, released earlier in the year. They blew me away that night and did the same again forty years later. ‘Rock Of Ages’…you bet!
Setlist: Take What You Want / Let's Get Rocked / Animal / Foolin' / Armageddon It / Kick / Love Bites / Promises / This Guitar / When Love And Hate Collide / Rocket / Bringin' On the Heartbreak / Switch 625 / Hysteria / Pour Some Sugar On Me / Rock Of Ages / Photograph
Review: Mark Donnelly