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Live Review: Mötley Crüe & Def Leppard Kickstart Australian Tour @ Suncorp Stadium

9 November 2023 | 11:19 am | Liv Dunford

"Let’s dedicate this next song to Glenn Maxwell and the whole Australian cricket team..."

Def Leppard @ Suncorp Stadium

Def Leppard @ Suncorp Stadium (Credit: Ryan Sebastyan)

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On a bleak Wednesday afternoon, the skies quiet and swollen with grey clouds, it’s safe to assume most people would find themselves slouched on the couch, picking at questionable leftovers in front of the 6 o’clock news. But why watch the news when you could be in the news? When two of the biggest rock bands in history decide to co-headline a blockbuster world tour, choosing not to attend a music collaboration for the ages would be like telling a post-punk fan that Joy Division’s music “isn’t all that great.” In other words, it is a colossally stupid decision. 

It was 6 o’clock on the dot, and it was ciao to Channel Nine and salve to Scotty Megrath, our personal on-screen DJ for the next thirty minutes. Yes, you read that right. Dearest Scotty wasn’t actually here in person, but ol’ Billy Bob Jones, fresh from the tavern who traipsed up and down the aisles yelling “Calippo’s rock!” proved to be a more than adequate form of entertainment. If more men frolicked along the stairs with their favourite ice block at a rock concert, I’d wager the world would be an infinitely better place. 

As Mötley Crüe materialised from the shadows, the spikes lining the stage pulsed with a dark and deep red. It created an almost haggard icicle arena inside which stood four legendary gladiators who launched into a punchy rendition of Wild Side – the first track of their 1987 album Girls, Girls, Girls. Donning a black bandana and studded leather jacket, vocalist Vince Neil asked us a simple yet overwhelmingly effective question: “Wanna hear something old…maybe something from the first album?” Calippo Man screamed louder than anyone else – which was no small feat – and with that, guitarist John 5 blitzed the lead riff of Too Fast For Love, going on to end the song with a gritty electric solo. 

As they played the last notes of The Dirt, the title track from their 2019 Netflix rockumentary, the band hurled into a chaotic mashup medley of 70s punk royalty, including the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK and the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop. It was certainly unexpected and certainly one of the highlights of the entire night.  

Afterwards, Neil called up some backup for a bit of classic mid-show antics: “He’s my brother, he’s a badass, he’s my bass player…give it up for Mr Nikki Sixx!” Forget bed, bath, and beyond – brother, badass, and bass player is where it’s at. After snapping a few selfies with the audience, he teased that the band had been “busy in the recording studio making music,” to which drummer Tommy Lee then proceeded to set the scene with Home Sweet Home by asking everyone to “light this place up! With a torch, or a lighter…or a crack pipe. Whatever you’ve got.” 

As Def Leppard took to the stage, frontman Joe Elliott reminisced upon their relationship with their tour partners: “We met those guys for the very first time when we released an album in ‘83 called Pyromania. And we would’ve been here a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the pandemic that kept everyone indoors for so many months that we couldn’t come and say hi, but we’re here now. So, HI.”

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Their 2022 album Diamond Star Halos was the brainchild of Covid isolation, the complete culmination of “sitting at home with nothing to do and finding out we actually did have something to do… so let’s make a new album.” If Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell’s masterclass in guitar solos at the end of each song is any indication, I’d say writing and recording a new album throughout Covid is one of the best things they could’ve possibly done. 

After establishing that bassist Rick Savage has been his certified best friend since ‘77, Elliott gave us some further insight into the life of a touring musician who has spent a lifetime on the move: “We just flew in from Tokyo and have a bit of jet lag…we’ve been up watching the cricket until 3 am. Let’s dedicate this next song to Glenn Maxwell and the whole Australian cricket team – this one is again from Diamond Star Halos, and it’s called This Guitar!” At this stage, they could probably be officially recognised as honorary citizens in this country – if staying up until 3 am to watch any sort of sport isn’t one of the most Australian things you’ve ever heard, then I’d have no idea what is. 

One of the night's most powerful moments would easily have been experiencing the raw grit and power of drummer Rick Allen’s solo in the spotlight. After taking one look at the Thunder God’s unique drum setup that allows him to play with one arm, it’s difficult to watch him perform and not be overcome by the sheer talent and brilliance of his musicianship. Ears covered in bejewelled Union Jack earmuffs, Allen played with a permanent wide smile of sheer serenity fixed onto his face.

You wouldn’t think he’d just had his 60th birthday last week; you’d assume it was tonight. In fact, it was almost as if he was joining the band for the first time again on his 15th birthday in ‘78 and then playing as the opening act for Australia’s own AC/DC at the Hammersmith Odeon on his 16th birthday in ‘79. The man smiles like every single day is his birthday, and that sort of joy is absolutely infectious, even if he is seated on a raised platform at the back of the stage. 

For their dramatic finale, Collen and Campbell strutted down the stage, or rather catwalk, and out into the crowd together as they played the final chords of nostalgic fan-favourites Hysteria and Pour Some Sugar On Me. At some point in the show, Collen had also apparently managed to attach a go-pro to his fretboard, and the close-up angle of the exact chords his fingers were playing instigated a crowd-wide interest in guitar technicalities – for the solid minute the angle was shown, the entire crowd became a sea of cameras as everyone clamoured ironically to ‘capture the moment.’

In perhaps one of the most surprising conclusions to any substantial concert in recent years, whether it be intentional or not, all of the stadium lights came on before the band had even finished their final song. At first, everyone glanced at each other, completely perplexed, but Elliott didn’t stop singing and neither did we. Strangers began to dance together, and the band stayed behind to chat on stage because why not? Who cares? 

Calippo Man stumbled past, muttering something about “the best night ever,” though I’m not overly certain the rest of his night would maintain that trajectory. Perhaps I should’ve called him a doctor; I think he was feeling a little too good.