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Saturday, 12th February 2000

Halifax, NS - Media Reviews

Lots Of Pounce Left In This Old Cat By Stephen Cooke

There's a reason why they call it arena rock and it's not just because of the oversized metal barns where bands like Def Leppard play, such as the Halifax Metro Centre on Saturday night. It's almost as if the performers on stage are like Roman emperors, passing judgment on the poor citizens below, them in the middle of the arena's ring, either duking it out among themselves or fattening lions. In the case of rock 'n' roll, if the artist gives you a thumbs-up, it's usually with a hearty cry of We Love You Halifax! and a sincere promise to come back soon. A thumbs-down is a quick good night after one lousy encore.

Def Leppard's thumbs were - to quote Roger Ebert - up, way up, for their Halifax fans, who turned out in force to see the quintet, originally from Sheffield, England.

Hailed as the new wave of heavy metal when they first arrived on the scene more than two decades ago, these musicians are now a rare breed of road warriors. But they have one of the most successful rock albums of all time under their belts (Pyromania) and show no sign of giving up the ghost, despite the ghosts that haunt them.

The band's opener, Rock Rock (Till You Drop), set the tone for the evening, with guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell and bassist Rick Savage running amok on stage, while singer Joe Elliott acted as ringmaster in a tiger-print coat.

Wielding his mike stand like a marching bandmaster's baton, Elliott worked his pipes to full capacity on songs like Foolin' and Animal, despite complaining of a flu bug. It certainly wasn't showing in his performance and his bandmates hadn't caught it yet, judging by Def Leppard's trademark unearthly backing harmonies.

The requisite acoustic set began with a tossed-off Pinball Wizard by Elliott and Collen that generated hearty cheers from the crowd.

"You're a lot . . . better than last night," said Elliott, referring to the band's previous stop on their East Coast tour. "What do you think of Moncton?" Not surprisingly, the response was a chorus of boos. "Last night was like a church, this is more like a rock show!" he continued, as his bandmates rejoined him for unplugged versions of Miss You in a Heartbeat and Two Steps Behind.

For the third act, Def Leppard pulled out all the stops, running up the familiar Union Jack and launching into a greatest-hits collection that included Photograph, Rocket and Rock of Ages, before ending the night with encores of Let's Get Rocked and Let It Go.

They played only the title track to their more progressive release Slang and songs from their current CD Euphoria were kept to a minimum.

Def Leppard may be stuck in the past, but it's a past worth celebrating for their fans, judging by the turnout and the fact that even people in the stuffy side seats were up on their feet. Besides, no one on stage was wearing spandex, and if that's not progress I don't know what is.

If Def Leppard are pioneers of modern arena rock, Joan Jett is officially the first arena punk, putting alternative music in the Top 40 with I Love Rock 'n' Roll before the term alternative was even invented.

These days Jett sports a shaved head, leather pants and a rubber halter, but not much has changed in the sheer four-chord bliss found in songs like Bad Reputation and Cherry Bomb. It was punk paradise. Her recent CD's title track, the sexually overt Fetish, is probably the most subversive thing I've ever heard on the Metro Centre stage, second only to her cover of Iggy Pop's I Wanna Be Your Dog. Jett seemed a bit disappointed that the audience didn't bark as she commanded, but with a Def Leppard crowd she was probably barking up the wrong tree. Joan, come back and play the Marquee; I guarantee you a chorus of arfs like you wouldn't believe.

By The Chronicle Herald 2000.


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