10 highs and lows from Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard at Comerica Park
A reunited Mötley Crüe closed out a mini-marathon of rock and roll at Comerica Park on Sunday, finishing off seven hours of fist-pumping stadium anthems before a crowd of some 37,000 fans on a stage that earlier in the day hosted fellow hard rockers Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
Here are some of the highs and lows from Sunday’s show.
High: Bang for the audience’s buck
The Stadium Tour, as it is uncreatively titled, packs quite a wallop, with four high-powered ’80s rock outfits driving the nostalgic, devil horns-worthy extravaganza. Sunday’s show was headlined by the Crüe, back from the dead after signing a document that supposedly barred them from ever touring again after 2015 (ha!), but the tour is flip-flopping between Def Leppard and the Crüe as closers. (Def Leppard is the one you want headlining your show, more on that soon.) The tour was announced back in 2019 and was due to hit Comerica Park in August 2020, and arrived Sunday after a pair of COVID delays.
Low: The Crüe
The extra time to get back into touring shape didn’t benefit lead singer Vince Neil, who screeched over his band’s oppressively loud and garbled sound mix for the entirety of its agonizing 83-minute set. Pity Neil: the 61-year-old was barely engaged, could hardly work up a trot where he once would dash across the stage, and kind of sounded out the vowels in his lyrics but you’d need subtitles to figure out what words he was actually singing (“Shout at the Devil” became something like “shou-adda-deva“). Ignore Neil’s vocals and his dead-on-arrival stage banter (“it’s been a long time, you’re back and we’re back. Yeah!”) and the show was a fairly typical modern Crüe show, with much of the emphasis on the stage’s huge video screens paid to the group’s three gyrating backing dancers. The group’s 15-song set focused on its ’80s hits, from “Live Wire” to “Home Sweet Home” to set closer “Kickstart My Heart,” and drummer Tommy Lee made a short speech to the crowd that was made up of mostly profanities. They came back for this? It’s never good when a reunion tour makes you long for the good ol’ days when a band was retired from the road.
High: Def Leppard
On the flip side to Mötley Crüe was Def Leppard, who was just as loud as the Crüe but played with purpose and intent. Their sound was robust, as if producer Mutt Lange was mixing them live from the soundboard, with drummer Rick Allen’s bass drum rattling the seats from centerfield all the way to the upper deck. Front man Joe Elliott, who joined Billy Joel on stage at Comerica Park the night prior, returned with a rendition of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” that was about 250% more adrenalized than the previous evening, as the band performed a tight 90-minute set full of woah-oh-oh and yeah-ah-ah singalong moments. That it came while the sun was still blazing was the only detractor — “it’s not often we can do a gig and get a tan at the same time,” Elliott joked from the stage — but Def Leppard, who last played Comerica Park in 2018 alongside Journey, played like it was out to prove they were the evening’s true headliner. Mission accomplished. “Until next time,” Elliott told the crowd at the close of the set, “and there will be a next time!” It was an enticing promise to return, where since its retirement, the inevitable return of the Crüe has always felt more like a pending threat.
High: Bret Michaels
At 59, the Poison lead singer has still got it. And “it” is charisma, a joy for performing and a beaming stage presence, as well as the ability to rock a Poison shirt better than anyone else in the stadium who was also wearing a Poison shirt. Michaels hit the stage for the group’s 6 p.m. set like he was shot out of a cannon, pointing to individual crowd members, tapping his heart, and making connections with the fans. It was old-school rock and roll showmanship at its best, and he put Detroit over time and again, thanking the Detroit crowd for “breaking” songs it perhaps didn’t break (was Detroit radio responsible for the success of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn?” Probably not, but Michaels sure was convincing when he said it was) and saying there was nowhere he’d rather be than on that stage, in front of that crowd, on that very day. Which a lot of people say and few can sell, but Michaels sold every word, every point to the crowd and every clutch of his heart. Poison’s set was just eight songs but hit on all the band’s high points, and the band left the early crowd smiling and feeling satisfied. That’s an all-around win.
Low: Those who didn’t wear sunscreen
It was hot out there in the sunshine, with temperatures in the high 80s for a good portion of the afternoon. Fans seemed to take it in stride, double fisting drinks with beer in one hand and water in the other, a welcome show of responsibility in the face of all that rock and roll attitude in the air. Hopefully fans sunscreened it up as well, or a lot of them will be waking up Monday morning with sunburns and a bad case of racoon eyes from their sunglasses.
High: Joan Jett
Fans were still filing into the stadium as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts dropped a “Cherry Bomb” on its afternoon set, kicking off at just after 4:30 p.m. (L.A. rockers Classless Act kicked things off even earlier, taking the stage just before 4.) Jett’s 45-minute set ripped through “Crimson and Clover,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Light of Day” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” all played with a still-sneering punk rock spirit. “Bad Reputation” was her closer, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer added noting but positivity to the day’s bill.
High: Mötley Crüe merchandising
Judging by attendees’ T-shirts, Sunday’s crowd was heavily a Crüe crowd, with Crüe shirts seemingly, unscientifically outnumbering other acts 2:1. All eras of the Crüe were represented: early tour shirts, reprints of early tour shirts, and even shirts from the band’s supposed farewell tour back in 2015. Poison shirts and Def Leppard shirts were the next most popular, along with tour shirts from the current outing (again, “The Stadium Tour?” Really?), and from there it was a random assemblage of black T-shirt shirts for metal acts such as Metallica, Rob Zombie and others. And in any concert crowd there’s always going to be a few Wu-Tang shirts, so shout out to everyone who was flying the W.
Low: Anyone who came hoping for political speechifying
The Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade wasn’t mentioned once from the stage, nor was there any political moments either one way or the other. It was as if the performers all took an oath to keep politics out of everything and just let the music do the talking, if only for the summer. Poison’s Bret Michaels did give a shout to America’s servicemen and women, and made sure to do so with “zero politics.” The Crüe’s Nikki Sixx briefly made a reference to cancel culture, if you can call that politics, when he gave an item to someone in the front row and said he also gave something to that person’s mother back in 1987. “You can’t cancel Mötley Crüe,” he chuckled after, “so f— everybody.”
High: Pine Knob memories
Sunday’s concert was in downtown Detroit, but the amphitheater 40 miles north, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary season, got some love from the stage as well. Joan Jett mentioned playing Pine Knob as a “scared s—less 17-year-old,” worried “because Pine Knob was famous,” and Bret Michaels also mentioned Poison’s shows at Pine Knob, after noting early Detroit concerts at Blondie’s and Harpo’s.
High: Comerica Park
Sunday was the ballpark’s third concert in three nights, as around 100,000 people attended the weekend’s three shows from Chris Stapleton, Billy Joel and the Crüe and Def Leppard. Elton John will roll through next, on July 18, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with the Strokes, will visit next month, making for a very busy concert calendar for the baseball stadium. It’s been a rough year for the Tigers so far, so at least concerts are bringing some joy back to the old ballpark.