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Thursday, 6th May 1993

Copenhagen, Denmark - Media Reviews

CHUNKY Def Leppard: Not quite male bonding By Tom Hibbert

159 shows of the world tour later, Def Leppard - the biggest band in the world, allegedly (well, they sell millions of records but they're experiencing difficulties in filling venues in Europe - have arrived in "wonderful, wonderful" Copenhagen.

Backstage at the city's Forum (6,500 capacity; 4,000 tickets, approx, sold) singer Joe Elliott is working out mildly with some soft weights while guitarist Phil Collen does, with practice amplifier and electric guitar, that which he likes to do most - twiddly-twiddly skereeee. They are suggesting that Def Leppard are not, actually, as it happens, rock 'n' roll at all.

"We don't throw journalists through windows," says Elliott in his South Yorkshire tones. "I think Spinal Tap put an end to all that. I don't think it's a good idea to do that anymore. Not that we ever did. I have yet to throw a TV out of a window. Though I threw a paper cup out of a window the other day."

"I was really shocked," says Collen, the Londoner.

"It's great to see that bit of footage of Keith Richard's and his roadie laughing as they throw a TV out of the window and a camera follows it down," goes Elliott. "But, big deal, you know, if we're going to copy Keith, we try to write Sympathy for the Devil or Gimme Shelter or something rather than play the rock 'n' roll pranks."

The following morning after the show and over the breakfast table, something of a lie is given to the fellows' "we're-down-to-earth-and-sober-we-play-golf-we-do" protests. Elliott is sitting next to his hero, a living legend called Robert Plant, here in Denmark on a promotional jaunt and hob-nobbing with the hard rock upstarts. Phil Collen is playing Egyptian-styled music on a tape recorder and the reason for this unusual choice of breakfast listening becomes clear as a belly dancer appears from nowhere, pulls Plant to his feet and proceeds to kiss the celebrated vocalist's chest while exposing her bosoms. Leppard think this is an enormous hoot. This is a "Prank", Robert Plant, meanwhile, seems somewhat embarrassed. "Ooh, quite put me off my yoghurt," he murmurs.

Lads eh?

That is entertainment, one supposes - and it's a talent to entertain on which Def Leppard pride themselves. Joe Elliott has described his group as an "alternative to Sting".

"We don't go on about trying to save the Brazilian rain forest," he says. Collen nods in agreement. "We're not ashamed of the fact that we can write lyrics like Let's Get Rocked which 99 percent of the world thinks is completely ridiculous, stupid and immature. If George Bush stood up on stage and pretended to be Eddie Van Halen that would be ridiculous, so when I see the Billy Braggs of this world using music as a soapbox it pisses me off. Music should always entertain, first and foremost. Nobody would take us seriously if we did songs like shut the ozone layer, save the rain forests, stop killing people in Bosnia. Everybody would laugh at us. I'd rather listen to Noddy Holder (Slade) sing about nothing at all than do a duet with Sinead O'Connor. We're not that desperate for publicity. We'll always be Leppard."

Sometimes Def Leppard members pass away because they drink overmuch (guitarist Steve Clark in 1991; happily the replacement, Vivian Campbell, looks hugely healthy) and sometimes their arms fall off in accidents (Rick Allen is the greatest one-armed drummer since Maulty of The Barbarians) but "we'll always be Leppard".

The Danes, milling around in their dowdy, distinctly non-HM clothes upon the concrete floor of this unfriendly venue, seem quite pleased to hear this. Def Leppard take the stage, Elliott points at the audience (he is very big at pointing at the audience; it's his party piece) and the Danes point back and Joe howls something like "Awright Copenhagen" into his microphone and the Danes howl something like "Oooh Hurrah!" back.

"The language thing in Europe is a bit of a problem," Elliott explained earlier. "Most of them understand Whoo! Yeah! F**k! But I don't say F**k too often. All that happens is I get to Germany and start going 'Bon Nuit',"

"Bon Nuit", perhaps, go the Danes as the two guitarists and Rick "Sav" Savage run a-scurrying oop and down the game-show styled stairs of the stage and Elliott points at the audience and does little pirouettes (copyright: Robert Plant) during the opening song, the one with the "stupid" lyrics, Let's Get Rocked. Beneath, Allen's drumkit there are spotlights and these wobble about sending out signals of entertainment - green laser beams! - to this pocket of Scandinavia.

"I like a band to put on a spectacle," Elliott said earlier. "People think it's pretentious but so what? Look at a band like Pink Floyd. They still have the flying pigs and the beds shooting all over the place. There's nothing wrong with that whole entertainment side of stuff."

There are no fat pigs or shooting beds with Def Leppard. There are some wobbly old green lasers and some Mysteron-styled circling circles on the foot of the stage, but that is it. For entertainment we must depend upon the music. Some of this is quite irksome, we have lengthy unaccompanied solo guitar work-outs from Phil and from Viv and, oh dear, what could be more dull than indulgent twiderlee-dee nonsense apart from a drum solo. We don't get a drum solo.

But, goodness, Def Leppard, when they are not rocking out in idiot fashion, have some excellent songs which could accurately be described as pop. There's Make Love Like a Man which is a splendidly chunky rock anthem and there's Foolin' which is a cracker and sounds like Abba with teapots and there's Animal which is so rousingly thrilling that no one could be forgiven for thinking that Def Leppard have turned into Blue Oyster Cult.

Then we get a snatch of an old favourite - "Oh-oh-Black-Betty-bam-a-lam" - and then the cigarette lighters of the Danes are called up and stand to attention for Tonight whose harmonies are surprisingly delicate and impressive.

Yes, at their best Def Leppard are an enjoyable experience "indeed". They say all the corny things like "let's see some hands in the air" and "rock 'n' roll" and they are clearly happy in their work.

"Touring makes it all worthwhile," Collen claims. "We're not a Limo band. We make a point of going in a van because we all get on so well."

"It's not quite male bonding," added Elliott "but it's not The Who either, where Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry kick the shit out of each other."

"For an encore; a 'special guest' is dragged into the spotlight: Robert Plant out of Led Zeppelin whooping in battle with the pretender Joe. Denmark rocks.

Later in the hotel bar, Plant and myself engage in a discussion about who exactly are the greatest group of all time. Elliott looks rather disappointed as we reach the conclusion that the greatest group of all time are not in fact Def Leppard but Moby Grape instead. Joe Elliott has never heard of Moby Grape. Nobody’s perfect.

By Tom Hibbert @ Q Magazine 1993.


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