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Tuesday, 10th June 2003

Lexington, KY - Media Reviews

Def Leppard's drive retains its vitality By Walter Tunis

The sole stage prop at last night's Def Leppard performance was a black banner with a huge X scribbled on it.

X, of course, is the title of an album the veteran British rock band has been hawking for nearly a year. But the banner became little more than an advertisement for a product few in the Rupp Arena crowd of 3,500< were interested in buying and few in the band were all that intent on selling.

This, instead, was a show about history and Hysteria.

The history was told right from the concert's onset as vocalist Joe Elliott led Def Leppard through the four pop-metal epics that made up the first half of its 1981 album, High 'N' Dry.

The Hysteria, apart from the rabid response the modest-sized but mighty-in-spirit crowd unleashed throughout the concert, came when the Leppard brigade pounded out six near-consecutive hits from the multi-platinum-selling 1987 album of the same name. The downpour of Hysteria hits was interrupted only by two even bigger 1983 singles: Photograph and Rock of Ages.

So it came as little surprise that X never hit the spot. With all the hits being tossed around, the recent album was visited only twice: on a power ballad called Long Long Way to Go and a slice of alternative pop-favored guitar rock titled Now.

Today, Def Leppard, despite very honest efforts to update its catalog with newer material, exists on the potency of its past. But what distinguished the band during this Rupp return was the way the physical drive that fueled its past concerts here (the last of which was over decade ago) has retained nearly all of its incredible vitality.

Guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell still created solos with a huge electric presence but also teamed regularly, as in the chunky and cheery spitfire rhythms of Let's Get Rocked. Drummer Rick Allen still delivers expertly orchestrated beats (as in the show-opening High 'N' Dry rocker Let It Go) despite having lost his left arm in a car accident 18 years ago. Bassist Rick Savage, the most discreet sound architect of the bunch, again proved the band's ace in the hole when it revisited the more layered and high volume charge of Rocket.

Elliott, the ringleader of this tireless circus, didn't wail with quite the ferocity of years past. But as arena rock singers go, his range is still remarkable.

But what sold this show more than anything was attitude. All it took were the grins Elliott, Campbell and Collen flashed to the crowd during Armageddon It to see Def Leppard remains one of the merriest hits machines to make it out of the '80s alive.

By Walter Tunis @ Lexington Herald-Leader 2003.


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