‘Like pirates at a yacht party’: Motley Crue and Def Leppard bring the ’80s to Melbourne

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Def Leppard and Motley Crue: The World Tour ★★★
Marvel Stadium, November 14

“Who likes to listen to the old shit?” asks Vince Neil of Motley Crue. The answer is everyone.

Vince Neil performs with Motley Crue at Marvel Stadium, November 14, 2023.Credit: Richard Clifford

As Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot sings in Rock of Ages, “It’s better to burn out than fade away”. Tonight’s ’80s heavy metal icons have done neither. They’ve kept on. Motley Crue and Def Leppard are mostly in their sixties. Both have stuck to power chords and big hair, and both still dress like pirates off to a yacht party.

Motley Crue have always been 20 per cent music and 80 per cent controversy, as seen in hagiographic Netflix biopic The Dirt. But the music has its charms—it’s excessive, dumb, and loud. It belongs here, in a stadium, where the guitars can reverberate and the sheer brainless glam of it all has room to breathe.

Drummer Tommy Lee and bassist Nikki Six still thrive on youthful cockiness. But founding guitarist Mick Mars has retired for health reasons, replaced with former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5, who carries an eerie calm on stage. Lead singer Vince Neil’s voice is thin, and he looks, as my friend put it, “like he’s on about 10 per cent battery”.

Early tracks Shout at the Devil and Live Wire are highlights, sounding a lot more muscular than ’80s recording techniques ever allowed. But a long medley of classic rock covers drags, and the title track from The Dirt limps into a chorus I’m sure is mostly a backing track, along with a little video verse from Machine Gun Kelly, doing a nu-metal rap encapsulating what the Crue stands for as he sees it: tats, torn jeans, cocaine, and “nice big tits”.

Drummer Tommy Lee still thrives on youthful cockiness.Credit: Richard Clifford

Crue end on a high with their indisputably best track, Kickstart My Heart (opening line: “When I get high I get high on speed”). The take-home is that dudes rock. Women are also present; in the form of stripper-inspired backing dancers the Nasty Habits and when Tommy Lee steps out from behind the drum kit to ask to see audience members’ breasts.

If the Crue have spent their decades living it up, Def Leppard have spent that time practicing. They are a dramatically better band on a technical level. Singer Joe Elliot’s voice remains strong, guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell still wail, and drummer Rick Allen has never slowed down—even when he lost an arm in 1984.

But as they progress through a set of heavy metal balladry and tight harmonies, their musicality and sheer competence lose their sheen. There’s less edge, less danger. Is it possible I miss the cocky excesses of the Crue? Not exactly miss. Appreciate.

If Motley Crue have spent their decades living it up, Def Leppard have spent that time practicing.Credit: Richard Clifford

Leppard close the night with a trio of their biggest hits, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock of Ages, and Photograph, with a video of polaroids of the band down the decades. Their youth is long behind them, and each band is dealing with that in their own way. We all need to find ways to keep the rage, the idiocy and the joy alive.
Reviewed by Will Cox

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