I can’t decide whether Wembley feels half full or half empty today. All I know is I’m lucky enough to be enjoying prime seats. Perks of the job, I guess. But about that: laid-out in front of me, in the usual standing area, are seats. Isn’t this a rock gig? I’m confused.

I mention this as, prior to Mötley Crüe kicking things off, the atmosphere feels a little like being in one of those massive sports halls they have in American schools. A bit soulless. This feeling is perhaps exacerbated by the fact I know the Crüe played an up-close show to a 450-capacity crowd in my local boozer last night (Underworld, Camden). And I missed it.

As soon as the first riff of ‘Wildside’ blistered its way through the cavernous space of Wembley Stadium, I forgot all about the seats in front of me and about last night’s show. The same energy that swept-me-up last time I saw the band, 18 years ago, took over: visceral, brash and on a knife-edge. Punk.

And that’s the key difference between the show’s two acts: the Crüe are blood, sweat, grit and gristle, while Def Leppard are polished, produced, pristine and anthemic. Oddly, together, they work. One compliments and carries on from the other.

From the powerhouse of ‘Wildside’, Mötley Crüe went right back to the early days, punching their way through ‘Shout at the Devil’, from the band’s eponymously named second album, and a high-energy version of ‘Too Fast for Love’, which was a welcome visit to material from their debut record.

‘Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)’, ‘Live Wire’ and ‘Looks that Kill’ followed, and the same viscerality permeated throughout. There wasn’t a chance to sit down. And nobody was. Those damn seats were pointless. It’s. A. Rock. Gig.

After a few dud moments, and a non-descript medley, the band arrived at ‘Home Sweet Home’, with Tommy Lee and the boys moving out to the edge of the crowd to do a version that started low key. Perhaps it was the echo-chamber that is Wembley that impacted it, but once it kicked in, something wasn’t quite on point.

Nevertheless, with ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Same Ol’ Situation’ up next, the party was back in full force. Those tracks, followed by ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ were a reminder that, while the Crüe are imperfect – a fact they and their fans embrace – they’ve got quite the back catalogue. Let’s face it, their Dr Feelgood album sold 6m copies and hit number one on the Billboard 200. No small feat.

The band wound things up with ‘Primal Scream’ and, of course, the rip-roaring ‘Kickstart my Heart’. At that point, try and find someone who wasn’t up for a night on the Sunset Strip and a gullet full of Jack Daniels. Well, me actually. But still, you get the point.

With the raucous lot done, it was the turn of Sheffield boys Def Leppard. They’re no stranger to stadiums. In fact, their brand of rock is built upon it. It’s purpose-made for these spaces. Listen to it on vinyl and you’re transported to Madison Square Garden or Bramall Lane. Take your pick. But this is what they do.

The problem for some is that this makes them sound overtly grandiose and pompous and, along with their incredibly polished music, a little stylised. The latter, maybe a little true. But, like the Crüe, their songs shout above the noise of all such naysaying.

Besides, who cares. They don’t need to appeal to everyone. The people at Wembley really, really loved them. Immediately, ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ had everyone on their feet, pumping fists in the air, and having-it stadium rock style. The sound was huge and the place felt jam-packed because of it.

I have to say, hearing them live, in person, for the first time was quite special. The combination of the rich tones of the guitars and the four-part vocals is something truly impressive. It means the songs are hooks-a-plenty. At its core, it’s rock music StockAitkenWaterman would have been proud of.

Now, I appreciate that remark probably offends some Leppard fans. Get over it. These guys manage to make rock songs that, not only pack a punch, but come with melodies and lines that rival the most memorable of pop music.

‘Animal’, ‘Armageddon It’, ‘Love Bites’, ‘Rocket’ and ‘Hysteria’ all followed. And that was all before the stadium erupted for ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’, which is probably the band’s most universally recognisable song. At the end of the day, their set was packed from top-to-bottom with bangers. And they’re moreish bangers, too.

Perhaps the best bit was that the age range was far more diverse than I expected. And yet, hearing those songs, and watching both bands have it like it was 1985, it wasn’t surprising. Yes, of course the crowd was generally made-up of folk north of 45, but not entirely. And that doesn’t matter.

By the time the Leppard were done with ‘Photograph’, I couldn’t have given a monkeys about whether the stadium was half full or half empty. Instead, I was left wondering how many bands around right now would be able to do what they just did – I. E play a full-on rock set, for nearly two hours, in stadiums 40 years on.

I’ll answer the above: not many. This was a proper show and we need more of those right now. Feel good, uplifting, tongue-in-cheek, playful, energetic and fun. Oh, and seats not required.

Source: www.music-news.com

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