With the Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe US stadium tour being such a roaring success it was only a matter of time before promoters across the Atlantic booked the same package for the UK. And even with the Glasgow Summer playing true to form and unleashing rain of biblical proportions, spirits from the hardy bunch gathered at Glasgow Green remained high as the UK and European leg of the tour came to a water-logged, but triumphant conclusion.
The job of trying to take punters’ minds off of the rain fell to Mammoth WVH on their third visit to Scotland in eight months. Coming at the end of a busy Summer, Mammoth WVH grow in stature with each outing – you don’t open for Metallica unless you have the chops to do so – and with each prestigious supporting slot, they leave with scores of new converts. Fronted by the infuriatingly talented Wolfgang Van Halen, Mammoth WVH are quickly building up a head of steam toward the early-August release of the sophomore album ‘Mammoth II’, and if new track ‘Take A Bow’ is anything to go by then the album will be a monster. Built around Wolfie’s melodious voice, the song spreads out when played live and features a jaw-dropping guitar solo from the guy with the most famous surname in rock and roll. With some finger tapping runs up the fretboard, Wolfie makes it look natural and effortless as the machine alongside him known as Garrett Whitlock batters the living daylights out of his drumkit. Job done. Just need some headlining dates now.
Is there any real surprise that Def Leppard are still at the top of their game six decades after exploding onto the scene as a bunch of fresh-faced youngsters out of Sheffield? Of course not. Ultra-professional and bringing it night after night, Def Leppard are the band that young musicians starting out on their own adventures should study at every level. 2022’s studio album ‘Diamond Star Halos’ was welcomed with open arms by critics and fans alike, and it’s this album that Leppard turn to to open the show, and ‘Take What You Want’ is a perfect opener. A gradual build-up from the band as Joe Elliott nonchalantly strolls on, points upward to the rain teaming down, and gives it the finger. Perfect.
With the trademark Leppard vocal harmonies on-point from the off (Rick Savage is only equalled by Van Halen’s Micheal Anthony in the vital backing vocals stake) the British veterans set about giving their fans what they want: the chance to forget about the weather. They also look after the handful of photographers tasked with getting those all-important shots in dreadful conditions and help them out by making full use of the ego ramp despite the weather. Three songs and shoot from anywhere in the pit is a blessing for photographers, especially when the stage is a tad on the high side, and sadly the goodwill shown by Leppard was not reciprocated by Crüe who cut it to two songs and shoot directly from a small area in front of a seven-foot tall stage, stray from the said area at your peril.
Ultra-confident in their own abilities – so much so that monsters such as ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ (with Savage joining Elliott on the ego ramp much to the delights of the soaked audience who roared the crucial line of “Let’s get the rock out of here” back at Elliott with mucho gusto), ‘Animal’ (the lyrics “Just like a river runs…like the driving rain…” being rather apt), and ‘Armageddon It’ are dispatched with ease during the opening six numbers – Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell (always a thrill to see Mr. Campbell looking so healthy) make it look easy, especially when Campbell and Collen trade guitar solos. ‘Love Bites’ is the highlight that it always is, and after a mid-set acoustic change of pace with ‘This Guitar’ and ‘Love and Hate Collide’, the band come roaring back with ‘Rocket’ and ‘Bringin’ On the Heartbreak’.
The highlight of the set though is a jaw-dropping version of ‘Hysteria’ which comes complete with images of the history of the band flashing up on the jumbotron behind Rick Allen’s kit and served as a poignant reminder of not only how missed Steve Clark is, but how much of a guitar hero he was with his trademark Gibson slung low. The sight of Campbell and Collen walking the length of the ego ramp to deliver their solos in the rain, while their younger selves are 30ft high on the screen behind them, is an image that will long linger on after the waterproof clothes finally dry out. It would have been the most spine-tingling moment of the night had the weather not already accomplished that task by running down the spine for five hours.
The home straight of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, ‘Rock of Ages’, and set closer ‘Photograph’ (begun beautifully by both lead guitarists in perfect unison on the ego ramp) is enough to make any rock band envious, and with Joe Elliott in fine voice, as he leads the audience in one singalong after another, it really is the perfect way to end what is a masterclass performance.
After a quick production change, and a minimal amount of change in fans on the barrier and front few rows – Crüe to the front and Leppard to the back – the huge screen flickers to life as the Mötley Crüe express train arrives in Glasgow for the first time in twelve years. The one major change in those twelve years is of course the messy fallout from original guitarist Mick Mars leaving the fold. Accusations and counter-accusations make for clickbait headlines, but in all honesty, no one here tonight seems to care. They are here to have a good time with the ultimate LA party band and if the continual downpours can’t put a dampener on their spirits, then Mick Mars not being here certainly won’t. It helps though that Crüe have a guitarist of the stature of John 5 as a replacement.
The vocal limitations of Vince Neil have been well documented (and are more noticeable on the higher moments of tracks such as ‘Shout at the Devil’), and it helps that he has a few female backing vocalists on hand to fill the gaps, but it’s the larger-than-life grandeur of so many Crüe classics that help the most by coaxing some mighty participation out of the crowd. Even though it takes a few numbers before the band makes use of the front stage (actually, as soon as the photographers leave, the band started to move forward) the opening salvo of ‘Wild Side’, ‘Shout at the Devil’ (great use of the screens to get the crowd involved) and ‘Too Fast for Love’ has the Crüe-heads pumping fists in the air and singing along like their life depended on it. ‘Looks That Kill’ sounds massive thanks mainly to John 5’s guitar work and the continuously impressive drum work from Tommy Lee. Often self-portrayed as a cartoon-like character, there is no getting away from the fact that Tommy Lee is still one hell of a drummer, and is still the one that drives the band forward. He is also wearing a kilt and is not afraid of the rain. Before he takes his place at the piano for the intro to ‘Home Sweet Home’ he is stalking the stage, including the ego ramp, looking for beer and looking for flashing females, and when he spots one he declares “It’s o-fucking-fficial, it’s a fucking party”, all against the backdrop of a curtain of rain that has Lee joking “…thank you for taking a shower with us…”.
‘Dr. Feelgood’ has a fedora-wearing John 5 venturing down the ramp to press the flesh, and hot-dawg but this decades-old classic is still a thrill to encounter even today of all days. As is set-closer ‘Kickstart My Heart’ which is perhaps the best song that Nikki Sixx has ever written and is one of the top-five songs written by an American rock band. It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to Mötley Crüe, but music is all about entertainment and taking the audience somewhere different for a brief moment in time, and one look at the happy faces on display throughout Crüe’s set proves that tonight it was mission accomplished.
All live images – Callum Scott Photography