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Tuesday, 26th November 1996

London, England - Media Reviews

Rock Till We Drop By Jerry Ewing

Three songs in ('Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)', 'Action' and 'Foolin'') and Def Leppard are not playing strictly by the book. Neither, for that matter, are the crowd. In place of the enormodome rock circus in which we expect Def Leppard to strut their stuff, the crowd are faced with a wall of Marshalls and five normal blokes are rockin' onstage like it's 1981. A bit like some of Leppard's first ever gigs, in fact (except that Joe Elliott no longer possesses that ridiculous bubble perm).

This is clearly not something that the sell-out crowd have been expecting and although their cheers at the end of each song nearly raise the roof, they are taking some time to get used to the fact that tonight isn't about drum risers that hoist themselves 30 feet above the audience, lasers that pick out each fret as Phil Collen whips out another frenzied solo or flashbombs that light up the arena.

Three songs in then, and both parties are still quizzically sounding each other out. Leppard, for their part, have raced through the opening trio, with Joe Elliott caterwauling away like one of his testicles hasn't yet quite dropped and Viv Campbell apparently rooted to the spot by the lack of noticeable effects.

Th general consensus is that it's merely OK. OK, for a band that can, on their day, rival the best hard rock acts in the live arena (apart from probably AC/DC), isn't good enough. And then it all kicks into overdrive.

As Leppard seemingly realise why they're playing it the way they are, so does the crowd, and the vibe builds majestically. It is a greatest hits set, but at this time in their career, this is probably exactly what they need to deliver. It's just that maybe Def Leppard should have stripped down this bare and laid themselves open on stage some way back now.

But credit where credit's due, when faced by adversity, Def Leppard have never turned tail and run. And now, when they are regarded by some as passe, they have refused to buckle to current trends or pander to marketing whims, and the back to basics approach evident on the greater part of their last album 'Slang' is in full effect tonight.

A hefty bulk of 'Hysteria' era tunes are lapped up by the delirious faithful. 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak' sees lighters held aloft by those still with bubble perms and the rockier moments from the new album fit in perfectly. OK, so 'Make Love Like A Man' has to be the dumbest song penned this side of 'I Love It Loud' by Kiss and the lyrics to 'When Love & Hate Collide' read like a lovesick sixth former's poetry, but this is hard rock and the ability to laugh at yourself is an important part of the equation.

So when Leppard penned 'Let's Get Rocked' (aired tonight, despite protestations that they would never play it again), they were probably aware that they were giving journalists a good four years and counting of cracking jokes at the songs expense. And despite the near criminal exclusion of 'Gift Of Flesh' from 'Slang', tonight, as always, the rock was never out of the question.

By Metal Hammer 1996.


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