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Friday, 3rd October 2003

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard proves it's still burning By Ben Wener

Above all, let it be known that Def Leppard can still rock. Actually, given how little press these English road dogs get these days, maybe that should be a proclamation.

To the delight of roughly 6,000 loyal fans Friday night at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater - the final large-scale show of a tour behind a disc (the ignored "X") that came out nearly a year and a half ago - the band perhaps most instrumental in making glossy, hairy pop- metal an '80s sensation proved its chops are intact and its potency has been reduced by a mere fraction.

That's saying a lot. It's been 20 years since Def Leppard conquered America with the influential mega-seller "Pyromania," and it's been nearly 15 since the group's peak, when the blockbuster hit machine "Hysteria" made these guys MTV staples alongside Bon Jovi and Guns N' Roses.

So the fact that they still sound polished yet punchy and deliver no-frills fun while most of their contemporaries are creaky, croaking messes resorting to flashy fireworks displays to entertain - hey, that demands almost as much respect as one-armed drumming powerhouse Rick Allen does for having persevered.

OK, so barrel-chested frontman Joe Elliott isn't the slender pinup he once was, and it's a good thing he's got three mates backing him on those high notes. And, sure, their intensity has been slightly diminished; for starters, though they haven't stopped dressing the part, they simply haven't the stamina to bound across the stage like the athletic rockers they once were.

More crucially, without Steve Clark, who died in 1991 of an overdose, their guitar attack now lacks grit. Viv Campbell has been a suitable replacement, and main six- stringer Phil Collen certainly shreds, but today their sound is more about dazzling technique than raw metal soul.

What you got out of their two-hour show, then, depends on what sort of Def Leppard fan you are. Personally, I couldn't stop playing "Pyromania" when it came out, and though I had moved on to the Smiths and Sonic Youth by the time "Hysteria" arrived in '87, I still wore out a cassette copy. For someone like me, who had forsaken the giddy rush of raising a fist and shouting "ahh-f-f-foolin'" with soccer- cheer enthusiasm, the nostalgia factor was high.

I had forgotten just how many hits they've had - not just fleeting singles-of-summer, but lasting, infectious smashes. "Rock of Ages" and "Animal" and "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and the glam- rock tribute "Rocket" and especially the irresistibly silly "Pour Some Sugar on Me" - these are songs that flat-out refuse to leave your brain for days after you've heard them. That said, Def Leppard hasn't kept up with the times, spending the past decade retreading the "Hysteria" template to diminishing returns. Like rockabilly and disco and a few other bygone styles, pop- metal is trapped by its era.

The result: The band now churns out hopelessly dated music for an audience that apparently hasn't noticed we're in a new millennium.

They ate this up. I certainly enjoyed myself, too. But I'd suggest Joe and Phil and the rest keep in mind their own recycled credo: "It's better to burn out than fade away.".

By OC Register 2003.

Def Leppard and Ricky Warwick @ Verizon Amphitheater By Dave Schwartz

Ricky Warwick, former front man for the punk/hard rock band "The Almighty," opened to a sparse yet appreciative audience. I thought it a somewhat interesting choice to place a largely unknown acoustic performer as opener for a metal band, but Warwick proved to the early arrivals that his spot was earned, not a gift. Warwick worked his way through many of tracks from his recent release, "Tattoos & Alibis," confirming to all that he hasn't lost ability to write a song or engage an audience.

Def Leppard took their stage for the second from last performance of the tour. With rare exception and a great deal of energy, the band journeyed through most of the songs that the fans had come to hear. I was a bit disappointed that Joe Elliott's voice was thrashed, but it's not surprising after nearly a year on the road. This reality proved to be a minor distraction as the crowd danced and sang with the many hits. And in a throw back to the "Pour Some Sugar on Me" days, articles of clothing from the crowd still found a way on the stage. But then that's rock and roll isn't it!

The show clearly wasn't a sell-out, but those in attendance more than made up for a few empty seats. Expect Def Leppard back on tour in the states in 2004.

By DaBelly 2003.


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