The Eighties-themed musical Rock of Ages had its star-studded premiere in Hollywood last night, bringing out cast members like Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russell Brand as well as a wide array of Eighties rockers, from REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin to Lita Ford.
Those veterans of the Sunset Strip music scene were right at home. “It’s not 2012 tonight,” MC Riki Rachtman told the star-studded crowd, taking everyone back to the days of big hair and big hooks. And for one night it was 1987 again as the makeshift “Bourbon Club,” the fictional venue that serves as the center of the movie, delivered pyrotechnic-laden sets from a “fired-up” Bret Michaels with Poison and Def Leppard.
“To be here with Catherine, Tom and everyone and having a party, that’s an awesome day,” Bret Michaels told Rolling Stone. “And the fact that it’s with Def Leppard, my friends, I’m in my natural environment.”
Def Leppard also felt comfortable, though guitarist Phil Collen noted that some musicians get nervous at this kind of high-profile gig. “They go, ‘Oh my god, look who’s over there,'” he said. As for Collen, he loves being the center of attention. “I’m really cool with it. In fact when we’ve had like Jimmy Page on the side of the stage, we’ve had everybody come down, I kind of ham it up and actually it works in my favor,” he said. “[And] tonight, because we met Tom and he’s so super cool, I think it’s gonna be a blast.”
“We were there when Tom sung his bits for ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me,'” Joe Elliott added. “It was in Fort Lauderdale about a year ago. We just played West Palm Beach and they invited us to come and see him shoot it, that was very cool.” Count Elliott among the many impressed with Cruise’s transformation into a rock star. “He was great,” Elliott said. “He got really kind of in deep with the project.”
For many attendees, last night was also just a celebration of the era. “Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, we were all one big family,” Lita Ford said. And it was also a chance to maybe get some vindication. After all, the Eighties hard rock scene has often been regarded as the bastard step-child of the time, maligned in the same way disco was lambasted in the Seventies.
But a big Hollywood film and hit Broadway musical based on the songs of the time gives the tunes more credibility. “I think right now we have empirical proof that this music is infinitely more enduring than people gave it credit for back then,” director Adam Shankman told Rolling Stone.
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That is music to the ears of some of those who have not been treated kindly by critics over the years. “When you see the longevity of it, it does kind of make people kind of go, ‘You know what? REO Speedwagon didn’t suck as much as I thought they did,'” Kevin Cronin said. “‘They still suck, but not as much as I thought.’”
Elliott believes that those who give the music a chance will find some gems. “We don’t need a film to vindicate the fact that the Eighties had its moments,” he said. “So many people knock it, Lou Reed fans and Loudon Wainwright fans, whatever, they have a go at the Sunset Strip and say, ‘Oh, it’s awful.’ There is some good stuff. For people brave enough to be honest, you’ll find there’s a lot of great music in the Eighties.”