Winnipeg, MB - Media Reviews
Their glory days are well behind them, but Def Leppard didn't leave their fans high and dry last night.
The 26-year veteran British quintet showed a crowd of about 5,000 at the Winnipeg Arena they may have aged but they haven't changed their spots. They were still serious about putting on a true arena rock show, with an equal mixture of old and new songs that would satisfy fans of any era of the band - from its heavy rockin' early days to the slick, radio-friendly material of the late 1980s and early '90s.
The group - vocalist Joe Elliott, bassist Rick Savage, guitarist Vivian Campbell, guitarist Phil Collen and drummer Rick Allen - started off by playing the entire first side of their 1981 debut album, High 'N' Dry, featuring their breakthrough hit, Bringin' on the Heartbreak.
The song was also notable for being the first of many last night to get the lighters out.
FEWER BICS THAN IN PAST
But there weren't as many Bics flicked as there were during the band's glory days. Perhaps not as many people smoke today as when Def Leppard were filling arenas.
Though initially plagued by a bad sound mix, the problems were worked out a few songs into the gig as the band settled down to deliver its surprisingly large number of hits from its 10 albums, along with an equal amount of up-tempo pop-rockers and ballads.
All seven of the singles from 1987's 15-million seller Hysteria were sprinkled throughout the almost two-hour set - Hysteria, Women, Rocket, Animal, Armageddon It, Pour Some Sugar On Me and Love Bites - along with the best of their material from Pyromania and Adrenalize, including Foolin', Photograph and Rock of Ages.
The band was one of the biggest-selling of the 1980s and other than a blinding light show, didn't rely on special effects or pyrotechnics to get the audience excited, preferring to let its greatest hits do the talking.
For the most part they did, but the show had a tendency to lose steam during sets of slower songs and it downright lagged during material from their new album, X, a bland, ballad-heavy, over-produced beer coaster, which gave many fans a chance for a bathroom break during Long Long Way to Go and Now, with Elliott taking a turn on acoustic guitar.
The vocalist was a true rock 'n' roll showman, strutting around the stage and getting people out of their seats. One-armed drummer Allen was equally impressive, playing what looked like a standard drum kit and pulling off a solo.
Opening act Ricky Warwick took the stage alone, with just an acoustic guitar to showcase songs off his forthcoming Elliott-produced debut album, Tattoos and Alibis. There were no signs of the Belfast native's heavy metal past as leader of heavy metal band, The Almighty, during his half-hour set. He's switched gears to become an earnest, folk-inspired singer-songwriter and was a nice contrast to the show yet to come.
By The Winnipeg Sun 2003.
WHITE Lion is extinct, Jackyl is endangered but Def Leppard lives on to prowl another day.
The 25-year-old British rock band that essentially created pop-metal in the early '80s - not to mention the associated trend of lousy spelling - returned to Winnipeg Arena last night in the second of two consecutive nostalgia shows. Like Poison, the glam-metal relic that headlined the arena on Tuesday, Def Leppard's enduring appeal has nothing to do with its original, video-propelled image and everything to do with songwriting.
For a couple of years in the '80s, these knuckleheads from the English city of Sheffield recorded an astonishing number of hit singles, which helped the band sell more 33 million records around the world.
That's what last night's crowd of about 5,000 came to hear: the tunes, starting with Let It Go at 8:30 p.m. and ending with an encore that included Love Bites almost two hours later.
In '87, at the height of Def Leppard's popularity, the band brought a state-of-the-art, 360-degree stage to Winnipeg Arena during the Hysteria tour. Last night, the Englishmen performed on a conventional stage, confronting the audience head-on with a big row of Marshall stacks.
The sound wasn't great, but the band remains tight. Drummer Rick Allen, who's been playing with one arm for almost two decades now, is impressive to the point of inspiring, and not just to people with disabilities.
Out in front of him, guitarists Phil Collen and Viv Campbell and bassist Rick Savage chugged away at light metal riffs like a trio of construction workers with jackhammers. Singer Joe Elliott was the only significant moving object, and he helped deflect attention from Collen, who had removed his shirt to reveal a scrawny body by the fourth song, the power ballad Bringin' On The Heartbreak. Mercifully, Def Leppard played just a handful of songs from X, its awful new album, leaving more room in the set for popariffic '80s nuggets from Hysteria, Pyromania and High 'n' Dry.
The highlights included a strong version of Foolin' early in the set and late appearances by Rocket, Photograph, Animal, Pour Some Sugar On Me and Rock Of Ages. Stinkers from X dragged down the middle of the show.
The fans, including about 1,000 on the floor who were on their feet from the beginning, seemed to have a blast, cheering on every song as loudly and enthusiastically as that 360-degree crowd 16 years ago.
But then you'd have to be a fan to lap up two very generous hours of corporate pop-metal, in all its remarkably unfunky glory. If you wandered in off Maroons Road without a soft spot for Def Leppard, you might have wondered what all the adulation was about.
Ricky Warwick, an acoustic guitarist from Northern Ireland, opened the show with a solo set of rootsy, contemporary folk-rock that was a weird match for Def Leppard's vintage arena rock. But the two acts share a connection in Joe Elliott, who produced Warwick's forthcoming CD, Tattoos And Alibis.
By Winnipeg Free Press 2003.
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