When it comes to summing up a big, fun, sometimes dumb rock concert like Sunday's seven-hour hair-band extravaganza at U.S. Bank Stadium, who better than Bret Michaels?
"An unbelievable, drunken karaoke party" is how the Poison singer put it midway through the Minneapolis stop of the five-band Stadium Tour, headlined by '80s hitmakers Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe. Or something resembling Mötley Crüe showed up, anyway.
"Unbelievable" was an apt word. Many of the nearly 50,000 attendees — who came from across the Upper Midwest and indeed heavily imbibed along the way — had started to doubt the concert was ever going to happen.
The second-eldest and yet most ageless of the tour's singers at 63, Joan Jett expressed the relief shared by all the vocalists to finally be on the tour, which was first announced in 2019 but twice delayed by COVID.
"It's good just to be out!" she yelled in her unmistakable, guttural New York voice. "It took three years just to make this happen."
Following opening band Classless Act, Jett and her Blackhearts delivered a snappy, sometimes snarling overview of her 46-year career, including two songs by her first group the Runaways ("Cherry Bomb," "You Drive Me Wild") and audience-accompanied singalongs of her 1980s hits ("I Love Rock 'n' Roll," "Bad Reputation"). She also reworked "I'm Gonna Run Away" from a new, pandemic-spawned acoustic album that made for a refreshing musical change-up.
"Gotta get away from the same old, same old," proved to be an ironic lyric during Poison's set. With carefully tinted hair all that's left of their old glam look, the Pennsylvania rockers not only stuck strictly to their old hits but also to their sidelined brand of "Nothin' But a Good Time" '80s joviality, per the title of their final song.
Michaels proudly boasted of avoiding political commentary before saluting U.S. troops with "Fallen Angel." Their set's only bit of drama came before "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," when he praised drummer Rikki Rockett for beating cancer in the mid-2010s. The singer himself proved resilient, too, with the strongest voice of the night's three veteran frontmen.
Now a talking point as well-documented as drummer Tommy Lee's exploits with ex-wife Pamela Anderson, Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil just does not have a passable singing voice anymore. His performance Sunday was downright painful. As grating as hearing him squawk out the words, the 61-year-old survivor also sometimes resorted to voicing vague syllables instead of actual words. The chorus to the band's second song "Shout at the Devil," for example, sounded something more like, "Shez bed a doobie."
Not helping matters — or, who knows, maybe it actually helped? — the Crüe suffered the worst from U.S. Bank Stadium's notoriously echoey and muddy acoustics.
Mick Mars' distinctively devilish guitar work was largely lost to Lee's heavy drumming in old shredders like "Live Wire" and "Looks That Kill." Backup singers who stupidly doubled as pole-dancers — even the most libidinous men in the audience would've preferred the women stick to covering for Neil on vocals — were barely audible when sorely needed in "Same Old Situation" and "Kickstart My Heart."
The Crüe did have an impressive, hi-fi stage production with a fun use of lasers, pyro and old video, though. There: something nice.
With a still recognizable if more rugged voice behind the mic and a better-sounding if still bouncy audio mix, Def Leppard fulfilled Michaels' comment about the concert turning into a karaoke party.
The British vets opened with a new song, "Take What You Want," but soon enough the crowd was singing along loudly to the old hits, starting with "Animal" and "Foolin'." Anybody who still knows how to operate an FM radio could have sung through three-fourths of the band's 90-minute set, especially the finale trifecta of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph."
"The world has been through some [expletive] times, but it's 2022 ... and here we are," singer Joe Elliott said in a serious moment, eschewing Michaels' call for nothing but a good time.
Good enough, though.