Remember that scene in "The Wrestler" when Marisa Tomei's gold-hearted stripper recalls the good-time glory days of '80s hair metal? " '90s sucked," she and Mickey Rourke concluded.
Well, if there was one show you could expect to find that cinematic Jersey Girl at this summer, it would have been Wednesday night's super-rocking alliance of Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel.
Before the final song of the evening, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott asked the adoring crowd a fairly straightforward question: "Do you want to get rocked?"
Cheap Trick. Then Poison. Then Def Leppard. Friday night's lineup at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center were bands that dominated radio play through much of the '70s and '80s, who could fill SPAC as individual bands back then.
Same bands, same crowd, same songs Friday night, but all were 20-plus years older. This was not about moving their latest music forward, but reveling in the pop-metal that once flourished for a generation of teens.
Cheap Trick opened the night serving 40 minutes of their hits. They crescendoed with "Surrender," Robin Zander's voice sounding like it does on the original track. They built to that point with "I Want You to Want Me," Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," and "The Flame," their power ballad that put the front half of the pavilion on its feet.
You don't need to be bonked in the head by a massive piece of Broadway scenery to figure out that something is going on.
As AC/DC's surprise double-platinum No. 1 "Black Ice" album and the success of the Broadway musical (and future motion picture) " Rock of Ages" would suggest, '80s hard rockers of all sorts are once again at the peak of pop culture.
And Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott says he knows why.
"I think the '90s let everybody down," says Elliott, calling from Philadelphia, where the band's summer tour, which stops at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wednesday, launched. "The '90s generation can look back with complete disdain that the only band that's still around is Pearl Jam.
In December 1977, Def Leppard played its first gig. Six friends gathered to hear covers of David Bowie and Thin Lizzy tunes, as well as the band's first original song, "Misty Dreamer."
Fast forward to June 2009, and Def Leppard is still performing, but now the band plays its own hits in front of thousands of fans at each stop.
Even with the ever-changing music scene, the band's popularity has not waned. And they don't fit the traditional "hair band" mold, having hung on through the '80s and '90s while many of the era disappeared.
The band's songs have spanned the radio dial over the years, prompting millions to sing along to such as hits as "Rock of Ages" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
Rick Allen knows about drumming. Since he was 15, he's been the drummer for the heavy-metal band Def Leppard.
And he knows about crisis. In 1984, when he was 21, he lost his left arm in a car wreck. Two years later, he returned as Def Leppard's drummer, manipulating electronic pedals with his left foot to play what he used to with his left arm. Now 45, he will drum with the band Friday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Offstage, Allen has put the two together — musicianship and hardship — in a nonprofit organization, founded with his wife, Lauren Monroe, that combines drumming with alternative therapies to bring relief to people in crisis.
Started in 2001, their Raven Drum Foundation has evolved into a group that focuses on helping veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have lost limbs in bombings and require years of rehabilitation and a lifetime of adaptation.
At this time last year, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott opined that popmetal band Poison was more interested in its image than its music. Poison's Rikki Rockett fired back, challenging Elliott to a bare-knuckles fight.
How times have changed.
Barely a year later, it seems Def Lep and Poison have kissed and made up – they're now touring together.
Tuesday night at the Comcast Center, a near capacity crowd had nothin' but a good time as the triple bill of hard-rockin' Def Leppard, glamour boys Poison and power-pop oddballs Cheap Trick relived the days when hair was huge and worries were few.
When you're in Def Leppard and you've been playing festival concerts for 30 years, you notice some changes.
"I played the Reading Festival in England with my old band, Girl, in 1980," Def Lep guitarist Phil Collen said by phone during a break from rehearsal in Nashville, Tenn. "Back then, everyone had these Party Seven cans of beer in the crowd, and people would empty them out and fill them with (pee), then throw them at the stage no matter who was up there. It was horrible, really."
Def Leppard can expect a far more courteous welcome Tuesday at the Comcast Center, where the British band performs with current tour mates Poison and Cheap Trick.
In his cheerfully erudite London accent, Collen, 52, noted that life on the road today is not quite so rowdy for those veteran rockers who survived the '80s and '90s.
Earlier this month, Def Leppard found itself in one of the most unlikely settings one could have ever considered for a group that came out of England in the late 1970s with a sound influenced by early '70s glammy rockers like T. Rex, David Essex and Thin Lizzy.
The band was at the CMT Music Awards performing alongside the likes of country stars Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland. The group was there because of its CMT Crossroads special with country sensation Taylor Swift, an event that earned Def Leppard and Swift nominations for two awards. Their performance of the Def Leppard song "Photograph" was nominated for CMT Performance Of The Year and for Wide Open Country Video Of The Year.
To say the least, Def Leppard was caught off guard by its nominations, according to guitarist Phil Collen.
"I think it's outrageous. I actually thought they had made a mistake," he said in interview about a week before the awards. "It's a really lovely, lovely surprise, actually."
The guy in the Cheap Trick T-shirt standing near the box office just prior to the commencement of Friday's Def Leppard show at Darien Lake did not look happy.
Matter of fact, he appeared to be crying. As it turns out, he'd driven from Cleveland to see his favorite band, the one whose name was emblazoned on his shirt. And, upon arrival, he faced the news that that band was not going to be playing.
Cheap Trick, as it turns out, was stuck on a grounded airplane in New York City, violent storms having prohibited takeoff. No refund, partial or otherwise, would be forthcoming.
Three-quarters of a full house turned out to see Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick on Friday. But this was a Def Leppard show in essence, though, and that band delivered the goods.
Def Leppard found itself in one of the most unlikely settings one could have ever considered for a group that came out of England in the late 1970s with a sound influenced by early '70s glammy rockers such as T. Rex, David Essex and Thin Lizzy.
The band was at the CMT Music Awards June 16, beside country stars Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland. The group was there because of "CMT Crossroads," a show from which their performance with country sensation Taylor Swift of the Def Leppard song "Photograph" was nominated for both CMT Performance of the Year and Wide Open Country Video of the Year.
To say the least, Def Leppard was caught off guard by its nominations, said guitarist Phil Collen. Even though the band lost out on the awards, it felt honored to be nominated.
Hamburg isn't exactly known as a heavy metal capital – yet. But after Friday, who knows?
Friday has been proclaimed Def Leppard Day in the Town of Hamburg, by virtue of a unanimous vote Monday by a bemused Town Board.
Two members of the famed band, Phil Collen and Rick Savage, will be on hand to sign autographs for an hour at 1 p.m. at Music Exchange, 4514 Camp Road. The band is scheduled to play at 7 p. m. Friday at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.
"It's a great opportunity to showcase the town," said Supervisor Steven J. Walters, who was 3 years old when the band formed in England in 1977.
At the end of Def Leppard's show Tuesday night, lead singer Joe Elliott offered the audience at the Susquehanna Bank Center a deal: "Don't forget about us, and we won't forget about you."
It was a moment of unusual vulnerability for a band whose most fervent pronouncements generally involve the word rock. But gratitude was the order of the night. Def Leppard, Poison, and Cheap Trick, who kicked off a seven-week tour in Camden, don't have much in common except paunches and power ballads. They were all just happy to be there.
In Def Leppard's case, remembering their fans meant focusing overwhelmingly on old material. "Nine Lives," the Tim McGraw co-penned single from last year's Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, was the only song released after 1993. Based on the polite stares and closed mouths that greeted the newish outlier, the lack of fresh material did not matter much.
It was more than 20 years ago that hair metal taught the kids to tease-and-spray, and since then high-heeled boys and their sticky metallic hooks have become fodder for love-lorn reality shows and slick Broadway musicals. And the answers to some of the pressing questions of our day – Is the Leppard still Def? Is Poison still nothin' but a good time? Is the Trick still Cheap? – will be answered at an amphitheater near you when the 40-date Def Leppard/Poison/Cheap Trick tour, which opened last night at near-sold out Susquehana Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey, rolls into a town near you. The answers are, in order: Yes, yes, and depends if you sit out on the lawn or pony up top-dollar for ringside seating.
First up was Cheap Trick, who have never really left the road since they went live at Budokan, and their bracing blend of Beatlesque hooks and high voltage riffs still rocks righteously. Cheap Trick rocked the early arrivals with a short, sharp set that mixed classics like "I Want You To Want Me" and "Dream Police" with super-fresh new material like "These Days" and "Sick Man Of Europe" from their just-released album, The Latest.
At the height of his group's worldwide fame in 1984, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen had a life-changing experience when he lost an arm in a car accident. Instead of letting that stop him, he found a way to continue his musical career. Seventeen years later, he and his then-soon-to-be wife, Lauren Monroe, founded the Raven Drum Foundation to share his journey and help others discover their own paths to recovery.
"I was kind of the inspiration for the thing, and Lauren had the language for some of the things I went through," he said in a recent phone call from Nashville as his band was gearing up for a summer-long tour with Poison and Cheap Trick that brings them to Moosic on Sunday. "This is our way of helping other people heal."