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Friday, 31st October 2003

London, England - Media Reviews

Stainless Steel By Malcolm Dome

The choice of venue brings lashings of nostalgia for the former NWOBHM glory boys. Eee, I remember 'ammersmith when t'were all fields.

In 1983 Def Leppard's 'Pyromania' album turned the rock world on its head. Just before Christmas that year Leppard played what should have been a triumphant gig at Hammersmith Odeon (as the Apollo was then known). It was a chance for British fans to applaud the achievements of 'one of our own'. Instead, the band recieved a grudgelingly respectable response. The UK seemed to have a problem with the band's success.

Some 20 years later, things are different. The boys from Sheffield have grown up and become a formidable live band - and they're welcomed on stage at the same venue with near hysteria (no pun intended).

The new-look Hammersmith Odeon (it might now be officially called the Apollo but, as Joe Elliott points out, tonight: "This'll always be the Odeon") is packed, and every song is greeted with deserved enthusiasm. Classic songs cascade from the stage: 'Women', 'Rocket' (with a teasing snippet of 'We Will Rock You' - a portent of what is to come), 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Now', 'Rock of Ages', 'Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)', 'Photograph' every one an excuse for a singalong. There's even a celebration of Rick Allen's impending 40th birthday, with cake brought on stage by his mum.

The momentum never slackens as Leppard quickly get into their stride. They may no longer be state-of-the-art or tickling the upper echelons of the chart, but there's now a real case to be made for the band at last coming into their own. Seen back in 1979 as kids with great potential, they have grown into giants of rock who are able to stand apart from long-time studio mentor 'Mutt' Lange and survive on their own mettle. The virtuosity of guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen is impressive but never overshadows the songs; the rhythmic Ricks (drummer Allen, and Savage on bass) are ebullient, both muscially and personality-wise; frontman Joe Elliott is the master of timing.

The vocalist is in nostalgiac mood, recalling the first times they played at this venue, with Sammy Hagar and AC/DC in 1979. He also affectionately mentions Classic Rock's own Geoff Barton, and how he played a crucial part in bringing the band to the nation's attention during his celebrated tenure at Sounds magazine.

The rapport between fans and band really is a bond of friendship, with those both on and off the stage genuinely enjoying the two hours of classic music. You could quibble about there being nothing from Leppard's first two albums, but does it matter? Not when Brian May joins the band on stage for the climactic sign-off with a version of Queen's 'Tie Your Mother Down', with Leppard genuinely in awe of the Queen guitarist's presence.

From the viewpoint of both the band and their fans, it was a proud return.

By Classic Rock Magazine 2003.


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