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Monday, 21st April 2003

Greenville, SC - Media Reviews

Def Leppard roars at Bi-Lo Center By Donna Isbell

Fire is a favorite musical subject of Def Leppard, and after Monday night's concert at the Bi-Lo Center, it's easy to see why. Playing a mix of old and new songs, obscure and familiar, the band ignited a slow-burning fan response that reached its peak an hour or so into the show and never let up. You could call it rock 'n' roll pyromania, to borrow a word from the hugely popular 1983 Def Leppard album that started it all.

Opening with "Ring of Fire," a lesser-known tune from its 1993 outtakes collection "Retro Active," Def Leppard rocked until fans were ready to drop — what fans there were, that is. Unfortunately, the arena was less than half full. Too bad, because fans missed out on one of the most dynamic rock 'n' roll shows Greenville has seen in a while.

Although the 25-million-selling Def Leppard hasn't had an enormous hit in a few years, the band didn't fall into the pattern of so many other once-mega groups whose popularity has moved down a few notches from the stratosphere: They didn't play a tired greatest-hits show. The new album, "X," got its share of attention.

As lead singer Joe Elliott said as he introduced the tune "Now," from the "X" disc, it's "an album we stand behind and believe in and are very proud of." Elliott dedicated another new tune, "Long Long Way To Go" to the American and British soldiers in Iraq, setting off a deafening cheer.

Still, it was classic Def Leppard that fans came to see, and there was plenty of it. Early in the show came a lacerating version of "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," highlighted by Elliott's wailing vocals, followed up with "Foolin'" and the playfully macho "Make Love Like a Man."

The biggest production number of the evening was an extended version of "Rocket," with shirtless guitarist Phil Collen in the spotlight, windmilling like Pete Townshend and falling on his back while still playing.

Fan favorite "Pour Some Sugar on Me" got the place dancing, followed up nicely by "Rock of Ages."

Elliott, who has traded in his '80s trademark shredded jeans for black leather pants, still works the stage like a hyperactive 20-year-old, and the female fans still scream. But some of the biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for drummer Rick Allen, rock 'n' roll's best-known - well, only - one-armed drummer, who plays a specially designed kit and pounds the living daylights out of it. He got to shine on a couple of smoking drum solos, and he made the most of them.

Two hours and a couple gallons of sweat into the show, Def Leppard started the encores, including "Let's Get Rocked." It's hard to imagine that anyone in the audience didn't heed that advice.

By Donna Isbell @ greenvilleonline 2003.

Def Leppard @ Bi-Lo Center By Amanda Stahl

The evening started with Ricky Warwick, a blue collar acoustic act. Between his rough voice, which called to mind Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, and sleeveless denim shirt, I was surprised to hear his rich Irish accent as he injected humorous anecdotes between songs. I could even imagine John Mellencamp singing "Three Sides to Every Story." (For this song, Warwick was joined by Def Leppard's Vivian Campbell). With titles like "I Don't Wanna Waste Away" and "Ending is Better Than Mending," Warwick showcased his ability to blend catchy melodies and insightful lyrics. He managed a big rock finish with just his acoustic guitar.

Def Leppard followed with a long set that was technically proficient although often lacking in real feeling. Certainly the band looked good; they've aged well and used a relatively low budget but very colorful light show reminiscent of the more elaborate lasers and effects used during their heyday. The somewhat sparse crowd was enthusiastic but a bit rusty, confusing sign language "I love yous" for the more appropriate devil horn hand symbol.

Probably the most emotive contribution came from guitarist Phil Collen who reveled in the spotlight most of the night while the equally competent Vivian Campbell was relegated to the shadows. In fact, for the first half of the set, I wondered why a former guitar god like Campbell had been hired to play such basic parts. Both guitarists had a wonderfully fluid style, as evidenced during a mid-set duel when Campbell was finally allowed to showcase his talent. It was nice to hear them let loose and play as I was already well-tired of the muted arpeggios that Collen ceaselessly supplied when he wasn't soloing. Although not as flashy, the rest of the band performed competently. At one point , frontman Joe Elliot took it upon himself to don an acoustic guitar for a quickie sing-a-long version of "Sweet Home Alabama" that the crowd loved. Drummer Rick Allen played remarkably well in spite of his obvious handicap of having only one arm. The singer was misty eyed as he introduced and thanked his plucky band mate for all his years of service.

Def Leppard played almost all of their hits in their 22-song set, ensuring that every fan got his money's worth. Some songs, such as "Let's Get Rocked" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me," came across as embarrassing attempts at rap from the days when Caucasians just didn't do that. "Hysteria" worked well in a live format and sounded almost like David Bowie's "Heroes." The band didn't neglect its new album, "X," and dedicated "Long Long Way to Go" to the British and American troops in Iraq. They also performed a half acoustic, half electric version of "Now" off that record. "Bringin' On The Heartbreak," Foolin'" and "Rock of Ages" were the high points of the night, sounding like genuine rock anthems in contrast to the overly polished later hits such as "Animal" and "Armageddon It." "Rock of Ages" in particular showed why Def Leppard were early metal legends and made a resounding finish to the main show. Maybe things should have ended there, but the band seemed determined to dilute its efforts. They returned onstage in a blizzard of bubbles for a squishy version of "Love Bites." So much for head banging! The final song was "Let's Get Rocked," possibly the lamest rehash that they ever recorded. This was a disappointing ending to an otherwise satisfying night.

By Amanda Stahl @ Concert Shots 2003.


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