If ever there was a genre of music that deserved being left in the ashtray of history it is hair metal. The mid-80s phenom of bands that looked like the New York Dolls and sounded like Van Halen with a hangover was naff beyond faith. And now, forty years later, on “The Stadium Tour” you are given a quick reminder that Joan Jett’s (the first act yesterday at Citi Field) any one song is worth the entire catalog of Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard combined.
I skipped out on Def Leppard, Motley Crue were terrible, Poison were great, and Joanie wasn’t entirely right for stadiums: musically she was on the button but as a frontperson she couldn’t quite travel the distance. The problem with hair metal is they mistook hooks for tunes and riffs for licks, even by the stodgy denizens of heavy metal they seldom came up with the goods as they assaulted the USA with a transgender though clearly cis gender valued epiphany of release. To add insult to stupidity, the big ballads were woeful dramaramas. Teens and twenties might have glammed out on the whiskey a-g-go groupies and hard drug egotism rampant but they were not at all cool as they put eyeshadow on the teenage wasteland of the 80s, somewhere Minutemen were in the process of teaching em how it was done. The only band that deserved to be remembered was Guns N Roses, who improve every time you hear Mick Mars play guitar.
Joan Jett doesn’t exactly belong in the line-up, she was never hair metal, she was punky crossover glamrock (the one time I saw The Runaways was at CBGBs back in 1979). But she has the songs, she has the hits, and while we didn’t get the “The French Song” we got just about everything else including “(I’m Gonna) Run Away” much better live than on her current record, “Fake Friends” (introduced by her manager and keyboard player Kenny Laguna telling the same story he told me over forty years ago), and “Bad Reputation” on a sparkling set that only missed Joan shedding some of her persona to bring it harder to the audience (Grade: B).
Look at hair metal this way, you have the godfathers Van Halen, the first tier, Guns N Roses, the second tier Def Leppard and Motley Crue, and the everyone gets a trophy like Cinderella and Poison. But Poison have a secret ingredient and that is lead singer Bret Michaels who is a great centrifugal force in the band: the man is 59 years old and an explosion of high energy bellowing, Bret is sweet and straightforward with his audience, the man was on an absolute rock n roll trip last night and his joy at performance freed everybody. Yes, the songs ain’t much, though the penultimate song of their set “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and the final, the working class stiffs rebel “Nothin’ But A Good Time” were mighty fine (Grade: B+)
Tommy Lee played on a coupla songs then disappeared till towards the end after cracking four ribs a coupla months ago, Nikki Sixx gave a speech, and Vince Neil morphed into another 80s icon, the late Sam Kinison. The show didn’t really gel, Vince can’t bring it, he doesn’t have the energy he once did. The highlights weren’t the hits but the oldies medley (featuring Gary Glitter -who had already been represented by Joanie- the well beyond cancelled convicted child fucker) and their last single “The Dirt (1981)” (with Machine Gun Kelly -who played Tommy Lee in the movie- on video, MGK is at MSG on Tuesday).The truth of the matters is that if nostalgia tours are optical illusions Motley Crue failed to use theirs (Grade: C)
I was happier because I knew I was happy
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid