Glam rock, hair bands, pop metal, whatever you want to call it — the riff-heavy, girl-crazy, super-catchy music that filled arenas and sheds during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s has a legacy that extends into the emo wave of the ‘00s, the arena-sized country of the last 15 or so years, and even the recent wave of insouciant pop-punk. While it was often maligned by some during its imperial era for different (and not always completely fair) reasons, its roots in glam, punk, heavier metal, and old-time rock, which fed its bands’ potent songcraft, instrumental pyrotechnics, and raised-middle-finger energy, resulted in quite a few cuts that still feel fresh today.
A good chunk of those songs are at the center of The Stadium Tour, a five-band bill touring North America after two years of pandemic-related postponements. It’s topped by three of 1980s hard rock’s biggest acts: the Pennsylvania strivers Poison, who specialized in a hyperactive fusion of twitchy glam, good-time country-rock, and crowd-pleasing arena rock; the Sheffield band Def Leppard, who established themselves as a colossus on meticulously put-together records that smashed together power pop and British heavy metal, then solidified that rep with fiery live performances; and the Los Angeles bad boys Mötley Crüe, who still delight in upsetting authority and whose mythos has been bolstered in recent years by a wild biopic (Netflix’s 2019 flick “The Dirt”) and an even more outrageous TV series (Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy,” which focuses on the furor spawned by a stolen sex tape featuring Crüe drummer Tommy Lee).
Friday night’s stop on The Stadium Tour, one of two shows at Fenway Park, was slightly abridged because of the thunderstorms that quenched Boston in the early evening; both punk pioneer Joan Jett and Poison were forced to ditch a couple of songs from their normal setlists, although thankfully Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille’s solo, which included a spot-on homage to Eddie Van Halen’s virtuosic “Eruption,” was still on the docket.
Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard have been the tour’s headliners, with the former taking the night-ending slot and the latter playing as the sun retreated on Friday. (On Saturday, the order was to be flipped.) Def Leppard’s 17-song set showed how the band, whose lineup has been stable since guitarist Vivian Campbell joined in 1992, is at its best when combining impressively layered vocal harmonies with gloom-tinged yet fleet riffing, as on the cavernous “Animal” and the sparkling set closer “Photograph.” They even took a chance by scattering a few songs from their most recent album “Diamond Star Halos,” which came out in May, into the proceedings, showing that their prowess hadn’t dimmed with age.
Mötley Crüe’s set began in a tumult of smoke and doomsaying that led into “Wild Side,” which borrows from Catholic imagery and late-’80s headlines to depict Los Angeles as hell on earth. From there, the foursome muscled through most of its catalog’s highlights, including the massive title track from its monster 1989 album “Dr. Feelgood” and the 1991 response to alt-rock’s rise “Primal Scream.” Those songs sounded as bludgeoning as they did three-plus decades ago, although even the band’s spikier early cuts were given a pounding-drum and rattling-bass treatment that blew them up to stadium size. Lead vocalist Vince Neil’s vocal prowess was never a focal part of the Crüe’s appeal, with the band’s best songs — the strummy kiss-off “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” the pugilistic title of the band’s punky 1981 debut “Too Fast For Love” — working with his yelp to their advantage. On Friday Neil strained to hit some of the higher notes, but the crowd was more than happy to help him out, having committed the bands’ lyrics to memory decades ago.
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.üü
THE STADIUM TOUR
Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Classless Act
At Fenway Park, Friday; repeats Saturday