LIVE REPORT: Def Leppard
, April 10th, 2013 12:28
Aug Stone gets Adrenalized at Def Leppard’s Vegas Residency
When my old friend Joe emailed me to meet him in Vegas, 2000 miles away, to see Def Lep perform Hysteria in its entirety, all it took were the words "it will be killer" to convince me. Between March 22 and April 13, Def Leppard are hosting Viva Hysteria & More - a different greatest hits set each night followed by the whole of the classic 1987 album and an encore over an 11-date residency at The Joint in Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel. What would comprise the greatest hits set and encore was a matter of intense speculation. Surely each night couldn’t be skewed to only the first three albums, could it? In the 26 years since Hysteria’s release, I’ve only been familiar with their, often great, covers album, 2006’s Yeah!. Thrilling as it would be to hear their versions of ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ or ‘20th Century Boy’, I wasn’t holding my breath. It turns out it wasn’t too far-fetched to expect a cover after all.
As the lights dim to expectant cheers, The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ kicks in over the PA, louder than what has come before. Soon the house lights go out, the curtain opens, and Def Lep join in with Townsend’s power chords for the final minute of the song. A giant Union Jack looms behind the band. Joe Elliot in shades, cowboy hat, purple blazer, t-shirt and jeans. They launch into ‘Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)’. And as ‘Stagefright’ flows into ‘Foolin’’ and on through ‘Too Late For Love’, for a few minutes there hangs in the air the glorious possibility that they might play the whole of Pyromania as well. What happens next is just as surprising. ‘Wasted’ and "staying on the first record" for ‘Rock Brigade’. A catwalk has been blocked off by a velvet cord and early on Elliot announces that they’ll be thrown off the tour if they use it. But before the fourth song, the obstacle is taken away and Elliott strolls out down the middle of the auditorium. It soon becomes apparent what he means by being "thrown off the tour" as he announces the five-piece as ‘Ded Flatbird, the world’s premier Def Leppard cover band’. Elliott introducing himself as ‘Booty Reuben’ and the rest of the band with aliases such as Sav’s ‘Fleetwood Beck’ and ‘Lincoln Twain’ for Vivian Campbell. Next up is ‘Make Love Like A Man’, a catchy enough song, and the set ends with surprisingly familiar fellow Adrenalize single, ‘Let’s Get Rocked’, both quite enjoyable. ‘Booty Reuben’ announces: "we’ll see you in 20 minutes".
After 15, a gigantic screen is unveiled centerstage for a short film detailing the history of the band and making a nice tribute to original guitarist Steve Clark who passed away in 1991. Then the room goes black as the opening strains of ‘Women’ ring out. A shirtless Phil Collen is ascending skyward on a platform at the end of the catwalk. Hysteria has begun. The stage is now revealed as one befitting such a rock band. Multi-levelled, created specifically for these Vegas dates, Rick Allen high on a drum riser, Rick Savage having three microphones – both sides of the stage and one up top at the back – and two sets of bass pedals. For ‘Rocket’, TV screens seem to cover the set à la the video. Up next, ‘Animal’ is a particular highlight. The band stay scrupulously true to every note on the record. Phil Collen’s guitar playing throughout the night is impressive, muscular yet always tasteful as he throws in ripping flourishes leading up to the actual melodic lines. And as always with Def Leppard, those backing vocals are astounding. The crowd go wild of course for ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, the excitement carrying over into ‘Armageddon It’. And despite what could have been a comedown after the all-singles side one, the album tracks of side two hold their own, with ‘Hysteria’ itself being a rush of pure pop. One marvels at Elliott’s voice hitting all those high notes the entire evening, especially on closer ‘Love And Affection’.
After the band leave the stage , I turn to my old friend and we postulate the encore will either be ‘Rock Of Ages’ or ‘Photograph’, it would be too much to ask for both. But we are wondrously proved wrong as walking back on to rapturous applause, Elliott turns towards the drum riser and announces "Rick Allen’s going to count us in", the drummer triggering the ‘Gunter Glieben Glauten Globen’ intro of an ecstatic ‘Rock Of Ages’. With barely a breath after its final resounding chords, Collen and Viv Campbell are marching up the catwalk bashing out the intro to ‘Photograph’. An unbelievably great version of one of the best pop songs ever written. This encore couldn’t have been more perfect.
Walking out of the venue was simply euphoric, having been filled with a sense of how the band was linked from an early age with one’s love of music and how inseparable that is from one’s life. From ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ being all over the early days of the novelty that was MTV to one’s first love running one’s heart around through all seven singles off Hysteria. And realizing how much even after 30 years I and everyone else exiting The Joint still very much love listening to this band. As Joe Elliott says in the intermission film, "the key factor to Def Leppard’s success is the fact that we’ve always really concentrated on making great songs". And tonight we got two-and-a-half hours of them.
All photos by Erik Kabik.