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Wednesday, 16th April 2003

Roanoke, VA - Media Reviews

Leppard can still whip up hysteria By Ralph Berrier

The heavy-metal heroes' melodic flair and irresistible hits kept 3,656 fans well entertained Wednesday night at the Roanoke Civic Center.

Let's answer a few of the most pressing questions you probably had going into Wednesday night's Def Leppard concert. Yes, they still have a one-armed drummer, the valiant Rick Allen. Yes, lead singer Joe Elliott's signature screech still peels paint off the walls. Finally, yes, yes, yes, the one-time conquerors still play their hard-rock hits as if the 1990s never happened.

Def Leppard unsheathed its entire 1980s arsenal of hits, much to the delight of 3,656 heavy metal diehards at the Roanoke Civic Center. More than half of the 20-song set was taken from the band's two biggest albums, "Pyromania" (1983) and "Hysteria" (1987), a pair of '80s pop-metal classics.

Ostensibly, Def Leppard is touring in support of its new album, "X," which sounds like such a throwback you almost wonder if it's leftover material from the "Hysteria" sessions. Some of the new stuff they played Wednesday, especially "You're So Beautiful," sounded like it could have been a hit in 1987. We'll see how it fares today.

Really, though, the highlights were the oldies: "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," "Photograph," "Rock of Ages," "Foolin'," "Hysteria," "Pour Some Sugar on Me" ... need we continue? After a half-dozen songs from "Hysteria," you began to wonder, "Was EVERY song on that album a hit?" Yes, apparently.

The stage was surprisingly and smartly free of excessive frills and pyrotechnics. Even though it's easy to lump Def Leppard in with other '80s hairbands that softened metal to make it malleable for the pop charts, the Leppard boys always had a little more edge and a little more melody about them.

Even those who couldn't stand hard rock in the '80s probably will admit to having liked at least a Def Leppard song or two. Vivian Campbell's and Phil Collen's retro guitar licks and Rick Savage's rumbling bass were on full display, and the multi-vocal shout-it-out-loud choruses reminded us why Def Leppard was heroic to its fans, a guilty pleasure to most everyone else.

By Ralph Berrier @ The Roanoke Times 2003.


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