It was announced in 2019, and delayed for a full year — twice — due to the pandemic. Then, the headlining band’s drummer broke his ribs two weeks before showtime.
And the setbacks kept coming as “The Stadium Tour” — a massive trek featuring ‘80s rock giants Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett — arrived at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium Thursday.
After a thunderstorm pushed start time back an hour, members of Poison took the stage to announce they wouldn’t be performing, as frontman Bret Michaels had just been taken to the hospital.
Michaels posted on Instagram overnight with an apology and said an “unforeseen medical complication” led to his hospitalization. He did not elaborate on what happened but thanked everyone for their well wishes.
“I was truly fired up to get on stage in the Music City and perform,” part of the post said. “I’m working on being back 100% very soon.”
Concern for Michaels aside, the spirit was hardly dampened in Music City, thanks to a crowd that was all-in on this epic evening.
By the time Joan Jett and the Blackhearts kicked things off just after 6 p.m., nearly all of the close-to-capacity audience had found their seats. It’s a fair estimate that about half of them were wearing T-shirts of the bands they were there to see — some decades old, others just purchased at the merch booth.
Jett — cutting the same cool and fearless figure nearly 50 years into her career — hit all the high points of her catalog, including “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “Cherry Bomb” and the timeless rebel anthem “Bad Reputation.”
“At last, we’re here!” Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott proclaimed, pointing emphatically at the ground under his feet.
Related:Poison’s Bret Michaels hospitalized, band cancels Nashville performance
The British “glam-metal” greats’ 90-minute set dwelled a bit on the lockdown days, as it was when they remotely made a new album. They played a couple cuts from it, including the acoustic-driven “This Guitar” which features guest vocals from Alison Krauss.
The bluegrass great couldn’t join the band on stage in Nashville, Elliott explained, as “she’s in Scandinavia with Robert Plant.” Solid excuse, we’d say.
Leppard’s show really came alive at sundown, as the band’s blinding laser lights underscored hits from “Hysteria,” their best-selling album: “Rocket,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and the title track.
Throw in a pummeling solo by drummer Rick “The Thunder God” Allen — who infamously lost one of his arms after a car accident in 1984 — and the band had whipped this stadium into a nostalgic frenzy by the time they closed with 1983’s “Photograph.”
“We’ll see you next time,” Elliott told them. “And there will be a next time!”
On this tour, Def Leppard and Motley Crue have been swapping who gets to play last each night. But it’s hard to imagine this show not culminating with the Crue’s over-the-top, obscene and absurd production.
Even as its members enter their 60s (and 70s), they’re leaning as far as they can into the hedonism of their glory days on the Sunset Strip. That’s largely what kept their legend growing in the 21st century, after all, thanks to the smash tell-all “The Dirt,” which was turned into a film watched by millions on Netflix.
But above all else—the plumes of stage fog; the backup dancers/vocalists (dubbed “The Nasty Habits,” a longtime Crue fixture) and three-story-high mannequins – the Crue was loud Thursday night.
So loud, in fact, it could be hard to hear frontman Vince Neil over the raucous riffs of “Wild Side” and “Shout At The Devil,” but perhaps that’s by design. At any rate, his affection for the Nashville area –which he now calls home – was clear as a bell.
“Now, I gotta say, I live in Franklin, Tennessee, out by Leipers Fork,” he said, after greeting the crowd with language we can’t creatively write around. “So all my friends and family are here tonight.”
Bassist Nikki Sixx later revealed the band had spent five weeks in town rehearsing for the tour. (“Girls don’t like to wear clothes here,” he surmised.)
Nashville was also the site of drummer Tommy Lee’s aforementioned rib injury, after taking a tumble down the stairs in his rented house. He started the tour only playing a couple of songs behind the kit, but has returned to playing drums from start to finish this week.
Phone flashlights greeted the opening piano chords (played by Lee) of the band’s signature ballad “Home Sweet Home.” That boosted morale after an indulgent medley of hits by the band’s early influences, including The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In the U.K.” and The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”
The final stretch was relentless in the best way, armed with “Dr. Feelgood,” “Same Ol’ Situation” and “Girls Girls Girls.” Neil reemerged in a Titans jersey – with Derrick Henry’s No. 22 – to sing “Kickstart My Heart,” wrapping up a five-plus-hour rock marathon.
This tour, however, is just getting warmed up. The 36-date trek continues Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., and won’t conclude until September.