Saturday, August 01, 2009

Middle-Aged Metal Mayhem

A week late, but what they hey--who's countin', right? Anyway…as promised, a review of my lovely night spent with Mr. Joel and three bands I love.

First up: the seats. Ever since I saw Kiss from the 2nd row, I've really felt unable to go back to the nosebleed seats. And, at Pine Knob, that means NO LAWN! The lawn is fine for good-timey music with a big crowd - think Ringo Starr, or Huey Lewis - but for anything I actually care about, I need to be up close. So, when tix went on sale back in May, I grudgingly ponied up the dough to join the Def Leppard fan club, just to get access to the pre-sale. If you haven't bought concert tix in awhile, that's basically how it works. If you wait until the "general public" onsale date, you're screwed. (In this case, "general public" meaning either "those who don't care where they sit," or "ignorant sheep.") I ended up with 12th-row tix, which is a LOT closer than I imagined it might be. Probably about 30 feet from the stage, on the right-hand side. Close enough to know that I could make eye contact with important band members, and know that I personally was being seen. Which, if you're a fanboy, is really what it's all about. Remind me to tell you sometime about Gene Simmons laughing at me. Good fanboy moment, that.

Anywho. Three bands, all of whom I love dearly: Cheap Trick, Poison, and Def Leppard. That was the performance order, with CT getting about 35 minutes of stage time, Poison about and hour, and Def Lep about an hour & a half. But, for the review, I'll go in reverse order of preference.

Bobby Dall, Brett Michaels, C.C. DeVille, Rikki Rockett

I love Poison. I really do. Unapologetically, unguiltily, and without remorse. I first discovered Poison in the heyday of hair metal, opening up for Ratt. That's right. The Ratt-Poison tour. (*groan*) They are they ultimate expression of style over substance, a feel-good cacaphony of two-fingered power chords and hooky choruses. I've seen them live 4 times: in 1987 as Ratt's opener, in 1988 as the headliner, in 2006 as the headliner, and last Friday. And…I basically never need to see them again. They just felt…well, Joel described it best. When they were done and had left the stage, Joel turned to me and said "That was really cheesy." And you know what? He was totally right. The songs are still the songs I love: Look What the Cat Dragged In, Talk Dirty to Me, Nothin' but a Good Time…but sandwiched between the classy Cheap Trick and the awesomely rock-&-roll Def Leppard, they were just…cheesy. With an extra helping of cheese. And cheese for dessert. Maybe it's that unwatchably shitty series that lead singer Brett Michaels "stars" in, or maybe it's just that classy and awesome trump cheesy every time. Whatever the case, I now know I don't need to get excited when I hear that Poison's coming around.
Rick Nielson, Tom Petersson, Bun E. Carlos, Robin Zander

Cheap Trick is, ostensibly, my second-favorite band in the world. And that's really not a disservice to them…it only really speaks to the all-consuming power of my obsession with Kiss. But I love Trick. Seriously: if you're not listening to Cheap Trick, and you have ANY kind of rock-&-roll in ya at all, you're missing out. I consistently tell my classes that Cheap Trick is the greatest band in the world that they're not listening to, and I mean it. And far from being a has-been "legacy" band that tours on the strength of their heyday hits (Hello? Poison? Phone call for ya!), Trick has been pretty consistent about putting out new releases every few years. To wit: Trick was the ONLY band Friday night touring on the strength of a new album, The Latest, which literally came out three weeks ago. So, having only seen CT once before, I was kinda there to see them most of all. And they SO did not disappoint! They looked great, they sounded great, and they proved that glistening power-pop and quirky lyrics really DO have a place in the universe. I'll stop slobbering all over them now, but maybe my next post will be a "must-have" list of Trick songs to hear, for the uninitiated.
Phil Collen, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Vivian Campbell, Rick Savage

I'd never seen Def Leppard before, without quite knowing why. Lep has loomed large on my listening radar ever since Pyromania came out in 1983. Def Lep really led the pack of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the '80s, and I've been a pretty faithful follower…just, never seen 'em live before. The best thing I can say is this: from the moment they hit the stage, they proved why they were the headliners that night. Before the show I was regretting that Cheap Trick wasn't going to do a 2-hour set, but Lep immediately showed me that I didn't need to be sorry. The only complaint I had about their show was that bassist Rick Savage's sound was too heavy in the mix…otherwise, they were a sheer pleasure to behold. Joe Elliott was in fine voice, and the dual-guitar assault of Viv Campbell and Phil Collen was a sonic masterpiece. I was especially interested to see what one-armed drummer Rick Allen looked like live, and he didn't disappoint. After losing his left arm in a car accident way back in the mid-'80s, he's used a melange of live drums and triggered pads, using his right foot for the bass drum, his left foot for the snare, and his right arm for most of the stuff in between. My friend Eric once commented snarkily that Allen lost his arm, but you'd never know it from the way he drums. He meant it to be an insult, but I thought Allen was a monster behind his set. If you've loved Leppard from the start, but have never seen them live, please: treat yourself. They WON'T disappoint!

The audience was, naturally, a weird mixture of middle-aged people of varying weights and stages of hair-loss, their kids, and slutty late-teen/early-20-something girls. And in spite of that odd makeup, we all had a grand time. So go. Relive the music of your youth. And be sure to make a two-fingered devil-horn salute while you crank it up to 11.


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