Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard kill first 2023 co-headlining gig

Intimate shows are precursor to worldwide double-header tour

Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe played their first joint gig of 2023 inside the 7,000-seat Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena on Friday (Feb 11th) in Atlantic City, NJ. This gig, along with one more tomorrow (Sat, Feb 12th) in AC and one exactly four weeks later at Hard Rock in Florida, are ostensibly rehearsal shows before the double-headers head out on an international trek called The World Tour. But it was clear that the these legends need no warming up.

Leppard went first, with a revamped setlist from last year’s Stadium Tour that featured the two iconic 80s groups with Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. A notable addition was fan favorite “Let’s Get Rocked,” which the band scantly played last summer. “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Photograph” were the 1-2-3-4 punch that reliably ended Leppard set. This time, without the added fun of a lightning storm curtailing the music.

Joe Elliott’s voice betrays his silver hair. The rare frontman who has chosen to age gracefully, his voice is stuck in the 80’s somewhere between Pyromania and Hysteria. Perhaps that’s why “Take What You Want,” — off Leppard’s latest Diamond Star Halos — feels at home in the setlist.

Phil Collen is as ripped as ever, the only thing more shredded than his abs is his guitar playing. Viv Campbell and Phil switched off showing their guitar dexterity. Bassist Rick Savage, meanwhile, kept steady time as Joe twirled his scarf-adorned mic stand and stopped bandmates often to let the crowd take over.

If Def Leppard is the steak cooked such that you experience all of its complex flavors, Mötley Crüe is the big bottle of wine paired with it. That is to say, it may taste a little funky, but you’ll have a damn good time drinking it.

Indeed, Mötley gave up trying to sound record-correct years ago. Not that the fans care. And the “Mötley isn’t like it was” criticism can kind of take on a life of its own. Let’s dispel some myths

On this night, Vince Neil’s voice worked well in his favor. He had great control. He knew when to push the falsetto and when to pull back. If you’re a Mötley fan, you’re happy with this performance.

Throughout the Stadium Tour, the complaint was that the mix was too bass heavy, drowning out Neil. However, at Hard Rock, the mix was perfect. This was on early display with “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).” The crowd was able to get in the groove and sing along.

Mötley Crüe has brought on frequent collaborator John 5 as a permanent replacement to Mick Mars, who retired from the road due to his decades-long battle with a rare spine disease. His welcome gift is a golden circle-5 logo adorning his hanging mic stand.

It’s interesting watching the debut performance of a new member of a legendary band. John 5’s playing never wavered, though one must wonder what a strange feeling it has to be filling in such legendary shoes as Mick Mars. But John 5 is an insane guitar mechanist with skill worthy of this position.

The die-hard Crüe fans also accepted John 5 with open arms, cheering him on during a brain-exploding solo. I’m willing to bet that by the end of the year, he’ll only have grown more comfortable as a member among Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, and drummer Tommy Lee.

Lee drummed the full set, something he was unable to do early on in 2022, due to broken ribs. Now full healed, he attacks his kit like playing whack-a-mole. Of course, Lee used his bad boy charm when addressing the crowd before a rousing “Home Sweet Home.”

The foursome and their backup beauties had the crowd in the palm of their hand. They shouted at — and over — Neil, and banged their head to Sixx’s bass and thrashed to Lee’s drumming.

This pairing of Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe as co-headliners has allowed both bands to tour at the biggest level of their respective careers. Should this upcoming international trek go as swimmingly as last summer’s North American tour, I suspect we’ll see this bill bringing heavy doses of hard rock nostalgia to fans for a long thing to come. Because, as Joe Elliott lunes to say after every show, “There will be a next time.”

You can still get tickets to the remaining Hard Rock Live shows in New Jersey and Florida.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.

Email: matt@themusicuniverse.com