It was as if the birth of Nirvana had never happened. It was as if music never stopped being fun. And catchy. And above all, horny.
That’s the power of Lita Ford, Poison and Def Leppard.
Maybe I had been living in Colorado too long. Maybe I had been too accustomed to concerts featuring Brooklyn-based indie art-rock collectives with more harp solos than guitar. Maybe I had been completely trained to catatonically stand and, with a dead-eyed glare, watch concerts, but not feel them.
That’s what it’s felt like for the past few years, pretty much killing my passion for live music in general. Why would someone want to pay to go to a funeral where ill-informed political dirges are somnambulistically played by a group of dour 20-somethings in tight jeans and waxed moustaches?
I lost who I was. I lost what I liked. I lost what I loved.
As my ample body dripped with sweat under the setting Oklahoma sun, my date and I — $7 domestic beers in hand — made our way to the right side of the venue, the part with the brick wall enclosing the place. Lita Ford strutted on stage and without warning pounded out the power chords to her latest song, “Living Like a Runaway.” Every single pubescent hormonal urge I’ve ever felt shuddered through my body, like an electrical current of pure lust supplied by some sort of testes-descending power station on the outside of town.
Oh, the hours I spent watching her music videos, hoping my parents don’t walk into the room as I lick the screen while she writhes around in fishnets, singing about how she “didn’t get laid” and “got into a fight.” She was my bad-girl object or preteen desire. She was the girl who, if you brought home to Mom, Mom probably would end up laid out on the kitchen floor with a black eye.
Lita’s still got it — her ever-rebellious, hypersexual stage persona repeatedly dropping F-bombs and praising the positive aspects of liquor consumption to the family-heavy crowd.
That’s my girl.
A dose of Poison
Her set, sadly, was short, but ever so sweet. Still, it was the perfect preamble to the good-time party-based anthems of Poison, fronted by Bret Michaels. The women in the audience collectively swooned as the diabetes-sufferer strutted onstage, gyrating and strutting like he owned the damn place. And with the hold he had over the women, he sure did. My date would’ve left with him on the Rock of Love bus if she could have.
As the hair-metal gods plowed through their hits, it was, to use the title of one of their songs in a really embarrassing way, nothin’ but a good time. Michaels made sure to call out Oklahoma City at least five times a song, and while that was a cliché that had previously always irritated me, every time he said it, I cheered, fists pumped and reaching to the heavens with pure Oklahoma pride.
And not only Oklahoman pride, but American pride as well, when he not once, not twice, but three times mentioned his love of our soldiers overseas. The USA was No. 1 once again as he dedicated “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” to the brave men and women fighting for our freedom. He even filmed the audience singing along with him to send to them as a care package. It’s the thought that counts, right?
He also mentioned the importance of getting tested for diabetes, which I appreciated. Seriously: Get that checked. Tell ’em the writer of “Unskinny Bop” sent ya.
As my date and I sang along, proudly and loudly, to every song, the beer completed the job of my one-night teenage regression as we started making out against the wall like I had just borrowed my dad’s Delta ’88, jacked some booze and was eager to get rid of this virginity albatross. (None of which I really did in high school. So I felt like I was owed it. And damned if they didn’t pay in full.)
Def by temptation
Now, Lita Ford would’ve been enough. Lita Ford and Poison would’ve been enough. But to close out the concert with an epic show from my favorite ’80s rockers Def Leppard? Now, that had to truly be a sign of the end times. Surely the Rapture was going to strike at any moment and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would return to reign in peace for 1,000 years at any moment.
Like Lep says, “Armageddon it.”
One of my biggest complaints about too many bands who play live is they fudge around with the songs a bit more than I care for. This is fine if you’re at a Grateful Dead show, but c’mon, man: This is Def Leppard! Play it like you recorded it!
As soon as Rick Allen’s thunderous one-armed drums boomed across the audience, I knew I was going to get what I wanted for once in my life. As the band members rocked through their hits, they did it with such accuracy and purity; I wouldn’t be surprised if Mutt Lange himself wasn’t running the soundboard. Joe Elliott’s voice was just as timeless as I remember, leading me like a Pied Piper of glam, shaking my head and dancing — yes, dancing — as they forcefully pounded their way through “Rocket,” “Animal” and “Photograph.”
But that’s not to say that Def Leppard didn’t show its softer side, either, with an acoustic set that opened with the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” melding seamlessly into “Two Steps Behind.” Simultaneously, everyone with a special lady friend or handsome gentleman caller began making out with such a bacchanalian drive for lust and power that it would have impressed the mighty Caligula himself.
“Pour Some Sugar on Me.” “Hysteria.” “Rock of Ages.” These songs mean something. They are from a time when it was important to be liked. It was important to be rebellious. It was important to be in love. It was important to have fun. It was important to rock.
Irony was stabbed repeatedly and thrown into a shallow grave that night. Pure rock ruled. But maybe that’s the thing I love so much about the Zoo Amphitheatre, and maybe Oklahoma in general. Maybe it still ruled here because it never died here.
And it will never die inside me again. Put on your sleaziest tube top and let’s split a six pack and blast some Ratt until the neighbors call the cops. Let’s keep that night alive forever. —Louis Fowler