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Friday, 26th September 2003

Ridgefield, WA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard: Rock and rote By Brett Oppegaard

The Def Leppard concert Friday night at The Amphitheater at Clark County was so, uh, Def Leppard.

As part of the recent culture void of sorts, '80s bands suddenly have become cool again, and this British quintet definitely was one of the best from that era.

But since the band hasn't written a decent song in more than a decade, this show seemed mainly about reliving the past -- a time when "Hysteria" was the top album in the world, selling 16 million copies, and it was trendy for guys to have perms.

For a bit of personal background, I owned a few records, but "Pyromania" was the first cassette tape I ever purchased. "High 'N' Dry" was the second. I don't know where those are now, probably melted on a dashboard of a Mazda GLC in some wrecking yard, but I can say with certainty that I don't have any Def Leppard CDs.

So I fondly remember this group from the time when I had to rewind, and there was a point in my life when nothing would have been better than seeing Def Leppard in concert. Yet I hadn't, until now.

Statically, it was just what I imagined it would be like, except frontman Joe Elliott is a bit more pudgy and now wears shiny sweat pants.

There wasn't a lot of musical variation from the albums, as the band briskly played hit after hit in a two-hour set, including such songs as "Let It Go," "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," "Foolin," "Animal," "Love Bites," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Armageddon It," "Too Late for Love" and "Photograph."

It all seemed so rote, until the group loosened up with a version of "Rocket" that included a snippet of music and lyrics from The Who's "My Generation." There was a lot of improvisation and tempo shifts in the tune, including a good guitar solo from Phil Collen, that indicated this band had more to offer than it was offering.

By the way, it was another warm and clear night at the amphitheater. Only a few dozen people, though, sat on the lawn. Most were in the reserved seating area, which appeared quite full.

Singer Elliott, for his part, remained energetic and continually was stoking that crowd with hand gestures and emphatic poses, even though his voice faded significantly by the end of the show. Both guitarists, Collen and Vivian Campbell, roamed around the stage shirtless, while one-armed drummer Rick Allen busily banged away on the foot pedals of his specialized kit.

That glimpse of real passion in the song "Rocket," though, made the rest of the show seem even flatter than it probably was.

Stifled by success, it appears, this group is taking the easy money rather than pushing itself. With the resurgence in popularity of anything '80s, Def Leppard certainly has a part to play. Maybe the band won't have any more big singles. But interpretation of those past hits can be compelling, too. Just playing the same songs the same ways over and over will get old again quickly for everyone.

By The Columbian 2003.


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