Sunday, August 19 , 2018, 7:13 pm | Fair 72º


Jeff Moehlis: Reliving the ‘80s with Poison and Def Leppard

Hard-rock bands revisit their hits on the last night of their Rock of Ages tour

It was a bit of a time warp at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday night, with two of the biggest bands from the 1980s — Poison and Def Leppard — rockin’ like it was 1989, not, as it was, the last night of their 2012 Rock of Ages Tour.

Poison kicked off the evening with a high-energy (and loud!) set of their party-themed hard rock, which earned them several years of mass popularity back in the MTV-fueled hair band era. And while their songs aren’t particularly known for their depth, they sure are fun, especially when enhanced by onstage smoke plumes and still-intact rock star swagger.

Some of the highlights were “Unskinny Bop” (with singer/reality TV star Bret Michaels helpfully telling the audience when there were four “bops” in the chorus), “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (the band’s only No. 1 song, which no doubt gave many in the audience flashbacks to their high school dances), “Talk Dirty to Me” (probably my favorite of Poison’s catalog, whose main riff seems to be a rip-off from the Sex Pistols song “Bodies,” but the Pistols probably stole it from the New York Dolls anyway), and “Nothin’ But a Good Time” (how can you resist?).

There was also an extended guitar solo by C.C. DeVille, with lots of ‘80s flourishes such as finger tapping, classical-ish arpeggios, even a brief quote of “Hall of the Mountain King,” and a drum solo by Rikki Rockett in a cover of the Led Zeppelin song “Moby Dick.”

Michaels really played it up to the crowd, yelling out “Santa Barbara, California” multiple times to guaranteed applause. More seriously, he also expressed gratitude for still being at it after his brain hemorrhage a couple of years ago, and for “26 awesome years of doing what we love to do — playing music and partying with our friends.” He stayed and shook hands with excited audience members for a few minutes after Poison’s set ended.

Next up was headliner Def Leppard, with a bit more of a serious vibe as they cranked out songs spanning their long-running and massively popular career. The band consists of singer Joe Elliott still sounding the same after all these years, the shirtless and ripped guitarist Phil Collen, the guitarist “who puts the ‘fast’ in ‘Belfast’” Vivian Campbell, the seemingly plucked from 1987 bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen, who you’ve gotta admire for sticking with it after losing an arm due to a car accident when Def Leppard just started hitting it big.

As more of a fan of their heavier, less-poppy material, it was a real treat for me to hear the band play “Let It Go,” “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” with its classic twin guitar intro, and “Switch 625”
from their hard-rocking 1981 High ‘N’ Dry album.

After that album, the band started (admittedly, masterfully) incorporating pop elements like slick harmonies into their songs, resulting in mega-sales from their 1983 breakthrough album Pyromania (represented in concert in sounds-just-like-the-record form by the MTV smash “Photograph,” plus “Foolin’” and “Rock of Ages”), and the even-bigger 1987 follow-up Hysteria (represented in concert by the likes of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” with cool images provided by the fretboard cam, “Love Bites” and “Rocket”).

An unexpected moment, for me at least, came when Elliott walked out to the extended part of the stage strumming an acoustic guitar, which turned out to be for the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. This medley’d into bits of Def Leppard songs, with Elliott joined by the others on acoustic guitars and Allen playing a maraca.

At one point in the show between songs, Elliott started to mock one of the many audience members who was wearing an ‘80s hair band wig, but this turned out to be all in fun. Sure, we all were there to laugh at the decade, but also celebrate and relive it — because it was the 1980s all over again for one glorious night at the Bowl.

Poison Setlist

Look What the Cat Dragged In
Ride the Wind
Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins & Messina cover) guitar solo
Fallen Angel
Unskinny Bop
Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin cover)
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Talk Dirty to Me
Nothin’ But a Good Time

Def Leppard Setlist

Let It Go
Make Love Like a Man
Love Bites
Let’s Get Rocked
Gods of War


You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones cover)
Where Does Love Go When It Dies
When Love and Hate Collide
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
Two Steps Behind

Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
Switch 625
Armageddon It
Pour Some Sugar on Me


Rock of Ages

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >