BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
(This post was originally filed at 1:09 a.m. on May 4, 2017)
Sometimes it’s as simple as Twisted Sister said in 1984: I wanna rock.
That sentiment held true for the nearly sold-out crowd that braved migraine-inducing traffic Wednesday to visit Lakewood Amphitheatre for the first concert of the season – a triple bill of ’80s hair band awesomeness in the forms of Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla.
Headliners Def Leppard hits sheds around the country nearly every summer – and why not? They’re one rock’s most reliable road shows and consistently bring fans a parade of beer-hoisting anthems.
This year’s stage show, tweaked slightly from last year’s wall of TV screens, nonetheless impressed with its ginormous video screen stretching the length of the stage and a light show worthy of KISS.
Frontman Joe Elliott reminded the crowd about halfway through the band’s 100-minute set that Def Leppard is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Oof. Let that sink in for a moment.
Included in that statistic was a charming story about meeting bassist Rick Savage as a teen and saying, “What do you think about putting a band together and seeing what happens?”
“What happened’ was largely on display Wednesday night with melodic run-throughs of “Animal,” “Armageddon It” and “Love Bites,” all featuring Def Leppard’s signature sweet harmonies.
Drummer Rick Allen, snug behind his specialty drum kit in an outfit that meshed the American and British flags, pumped a steady beat on “Rocket” and helped lead the crowd through the expected roar-a-thon known as “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Meanwhile, guitarist Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell laid their twin axe attack on “Let it Go” and “Foolin’,” which Elliott introduced by referencing 1983’s breakthrough “Pyromania” album – the mere mention of the classic disc was enough to rouse the crowd.
Elliott’s voice contains a bit more grit, but his swag is what matters, and anyone who has rolled down the windows to sing along with “Let’s Get Rocked” knows that it’s all in the attitude.
Professional party band Poison owned the second slot on the bill and quickly reiterated their position as one of the most fun bands to experience live.
The original foursome of singer Bret Michaels, drummer Rikki Rockett, guitarist C.C. DeVille and bassist Bobby Dall, whipped through greatest hits including mighty power ballad “Every Rose Has its Thorn” and the lightly lascivious “Unskinny Bop.” What they do isn’t exactly high art, nor is it musically complex. But who didn’t want to play air guitar along with DeVille on “Talk Dirty to Me” or “Nothin’ But a Good Time”?
Michaels is the perennial bar buddy, a gregarious guy who loves to slap hands with fans while stutter-stepping down a small catwalk. He’s also an earnest guy, and rare is the show that he doesn’t bestow kudos on military veterans and active service personnel as the lead-in to the ballad, “Something to Believe In” (“ALL politics aside,” he said from the stage, “this is what it’s about for me.”).
Poison’s hour-long set, which featured plenty of lighting and instruments glowing that special shade of green, also included good old-fashioned solos from each of the musicians (DeVille has become a notably better guitar player than he was in the blackout ’80s). Michaels’ voice seemed in the wrong key during “Fallen Angel,” but he otherwise sounded reasonably strong, especially on the ballads.
Not that this crowd cared one way or the other – they just wanted to raise their fists and dance.
California rockers Tesla opened the night of music, which spanned nearly four hours, and ran through their handful of hits, including “That’s The Way It Is” and their most familiar tune, a remake of Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs.”
Singer Jeff Keith has maintained the gravelly edge to his voice, and guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude added plenty of rock flair to the songs.
The band is reportedly working on a new album to be produced by Def Leppard’s Collen, a guaranteed solid move.
I’m on with my rock ‘n’ roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 4:50 p.m. to talk about the latest music news – make sure to tune in!
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