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Friday, 22nd August 2003

Albany, NY - Media Reviews

The classics make Def Leppard By Michael Eck

The phrase "Def Leppard" existed in young Joe Elliott's mind long before he ever had a band to attach it to. Little did he know that almost 25 years after he finally climbed on stage with such a well-monikered crew, Def Leppard -- which helped launch the great wave of British heavy metal -- would still be going strong in 2003. Elliott and the Lepps leavened a hit-packed show at the Pepsi Arena on Friday with a brace of songs from the group's latest album, "X," and a few nods to heavy-rocking forbears.

Many of the tunes from "X" fit well within the band's catalog of sing-along chart-toppers. But the rules of radio have changed since the '80s, when bands like Leppard ruled the airwaves. Translated, that means these guys can't scare up a hit to save themselves these days. Don't try telling that to the faithful, though. A number of folks in the crowd sang right along with the new stuff, too.

Elliott, 44, dedicated "Long Long Way To Go" from "X" to the combined U.S. and British forces in Iraq. Before singing "Now," he thanked those in the crowd decked out in Union Jacks for their years of support.

A quick acoustic interlude found the singer strumming a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," and he also quoted from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" during the hard-rocking "Rocket."

The latter also featured a guitar duel between fretmen Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen. While it showed off both gents' considerable skills, it was more friendly than competitive. The quintet didn't disappoint when it came time to roll out the classics.

Elliott did sound a little tired by midset, but he still made sure that all concerned had a good time.

The opening riff of "Photograph" would have made everyone jump to their feet if they hadn't already been standing for the entire show. It was the clear highlight of the night, but "Animal," "Hysteria," "Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages" and an encore of "Love Bites" were pretty fine, too.

Production-wise, the concert was surprisingly simple, with no video screens or pyrotechnics to accompany the music of a band so linked to the video age.

Opening act Ricky Warwick braved the arena solo and was quite impressive. A former member of New Model Army, the Belfast-born Warwick speaks with a brogue, strums with a vengeance and sings like a man possessed by northern soul. Imagine an Irish Mike Ness, and you've just about got the picture.

His solo debut, "Tattoos and Alibis," produced by Elliott, will be released in September.

By The Times Union 2003.

Old standbys worth ticket price at Def Leppard show By Deanna Amore

"Long live rock 'n' roll." Those simple words from one of Def Leppard's most famous songs make up a motto the band has lived by for almost 26 years.

And rock 'n' roll certainly lived on at the Pepsi Arena Friday night. It didn't take an elaborate stage set or pyrotechnics. All it took was five guys performing their hearts out, just wanting to entertain the crowd.

Def Leppard opened with "Let it Go" from 1981's "High 'N' Dry," and the crowd responded. It was old favorites like "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)," "Make Love Like a Man," "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Foolin' that kept the crowd on its feet.

Lead singer Joe Elliott has lost a few octaves and his voice has gotten a bit raspy over the years, but he showed the crowd that he hasn't lost a bit of energy as he bounded back and forth across the stage, playing to every section of the audience.

The band played songs off its latest release, "X." "Now" and "Long Long Way to Go," which was dedicated to American and British troops in Iraq, were crowd-pleasers, but it was definitely the old stuff that energized the fans.

Elliott, who seemed genuinely happy to still be performing, cracked some jokes and talked to the audience as if everyone was an old friend.

He also egged the fans on to cheer louder and louder and sing along, and he even teased them a bit with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."

"We're not near Alabama. Want to try it?" he asked as the crowd cheered.

Elliott also reminisced about the first time the band played in Albany, 23 years ago.

But it was the music that made the night. Other old favorites the band jammed on during the two-hour set included "Women," "Rocket" (with a little Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure), "Photograph," "Animal," "Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Rock of Ages." The band wrapped up the night with an encore of "Love Bites" and "Let's Get Rocked."

The opening act, Ricky Warwick, offered a refreshing set. It was interesting to just see a guy and his guitar on stage. He didn't need a back-up band or singers for his folksy-rock sound. It was something different and unexpected at a rock concert, and it was nice.

At just $42 for top-priced tickets - perhaps one of the most affordable shows to come to the area in quite some time - the show was worth the price of admission.

By The Saratogian 2003.

Def Leppard goes with what it knows and the crowd responds By Jude Hanley

How does a British rock & roll band that hasn't had a hit since the Gulf War draw 6,000 people to the Pepsi Arena on a Friday night? Simple, they give the fans what they want.

A lot of new bands are in such a rush to evolve that they forget what made them popular in the first place, but Def Leppard is the evolutionary equivalent of the saltwater crocodile. The band showed its fangs right from the get go with the ballistic "Let It Go" and then ran off several more rockers that, to be honest, sounded exactly the same.

Lead singer Joe Elliott's vocals were buried in the mix and I had trouble understanding anything he said. I know an awful lot has been made of Rick Allen's drumming, but it is even more impressive when you see him do it in person. Throughout the set, I kept marveling, not at the fact that Allen has one arm, but at the fact that he has developed a style that is as distinctive and immediately recognizable as any drummer in rock.

Elliott dedicated the next song, "Long Long Way To Go" from their new album "X", to the troops serving in Iraq. I haven't heard it played on the radio yet but it sounded a heck of a lot better than that 3 Doors Down song they keep playing. Everyone should call up their favorite radio station and demand they play it. The troops can always use more support.

Def Leppard is a first rate pop band, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Def Leppard and their Amercian counterparts Van Halen blazed the path for heavy metal to get radio airplay. Kiss and Led Zeppellin were never popular on the singles charts, but are the two most popular bands of their time. I mention this because the next song is one of the best pop songs ever. "Promises" is Def Leppard's masterpiece. Hailing from 1999's "Euphoria," it had the misfortune of being released amidst America's bewildering fascination with boy bands and underaged school girls. "Promises" has blazing guitars, a huge beat, beautiful soaring harmonies, more hooks than a tackle box, and great lyrics for a change. It ignited the already warm crowd. When pop is done right it is absolutely irresistible.

Next, Elliott pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd for some reason, followed by the lyrically silly "Whatever You Do I'll Be Two Steps Behind You." Why two steps? In the middle of "Rocket" the band acknowledged the true kings of British hard rock by taking a stab at Led Zeppelin's (by way of Willie Dixon) "Whole Lotta Love." It sounded great and again I was impressed by Allen's drumming. Rather than imitate John Bonham, he brought his sound to the song made it sound fresh, I only wish they'd played the whole thing. The band did a great version of "Photograph," and I found myself thinking about the girl I had a crush on in junior high school. Old songs are cool that way.

Like the recent REO Speedwagon/Styx/Journey show, Def Leppard had enough hits to keep the crowd ecstatic all night. The set list was well chosen. The final leg of the show included "Animal," "Armageddon it," "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Rock of Ages." Fans pumped their fists in the air so many times, they beat the oxygen out of it. After a very short break, the Leppards came back out, and before launching into the encore, informed the crowd that they were the best crowd they'd had all tour. I've said it before, the Capital District is a rock town.

The band then played the terrible "Love Bites," a horrid power ballad that made for an even worse encore. If you play a power ballad, and you don't see lots of lighters flickering in the distance, that's a hint to drop it from the set. The supercharged "Let's Get Rocked" bludgeoned the fans, sending them home happy and deaf. The entire concert was played at a volume that would make Blue Cheer envious. Nevertheless, the fans got what they wanted.

Did I, well no, I would have preferred a lot more songs like "Promises," and a lot fewer "Let's Get Rocked" rewrites, but if Def Leppard tried to make rock critics happy then they wouldn't be Def Leppard would they.

By The Record 2003.


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