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Def Leppard Tour History Fan Archive.

Media Review - Def Leppard, Journey celebrate rock of aged By Kyle Munson

Def Leppard and Journey can’t help it at this late stage in their careers: Their roots are showing.

While the 6,300 fans Thursday night at Hilton Coliseum in Ames wallowed in 1980s nostalgia - or imagined it in the case of the young college students wearing crisp, new Leppard T-shirts - the bands on stage channeled their own, earlier musical heroes.

Two of Leppard’s finest performances Thursday were covers from “Yeah!,” its current tribute album to the early-1970s English glam rock that inspired its melodic, inoffensive pop-metal. Guitarist Phil Collen grooved through a rendition of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” while it was bassist Rick Savage who eased the band into the slow and slinky David Essex hit “Rock On.”

Journey, meanwhile, constructed its set around the screaming lead guitar of founding member Neal Schon, 52. He began with a Jimi Hendrix-style Star-Spangled Banner and hinted at the late guitar icon throughout his San Francisco-bred band’s 16-song opening set. (Schon tagged a taste of “The Wind Cries Mary,” for instance, onto the end of one of his flashy solos.)

Leppard from Sheffield, England, remains a beast still very much intact in comparison to its glory days. Nothing short of the 1991 death of guitarist Steve Clark or the 1984 car accident that claimed the left arm of drummer Rick Allen has seriously altered the 29-year-old band’s lineup. The problem Thursday, however, was frontman Joe Elliott’s voice — the weakest, raspiest he’s sounded in recent years. Whether it was fatigue from a summer spent on the road, he was all but overpowered by his bandmates’ backup vocals in “Animal” and other songs.

Journey, on the other hand, has split with its most famous lead singer (Steve Perry) and this summer temporarily lost his sound-alike replacement, Steve Augeri, to a throat infection. That left third-stringer Jeff Scott Soto, 40, to lead the band as if he were competing in a dance-a-thon. I’ve seen it before in younger substitute singers who enter arenas with a veteran band: They confuse charisma with calisthenics. At least Soto was a solid if not compelling vocalist. Journey drummer Deen Castronovo was sequestered behind his drum kit and an acoustical shield, but he nailed lead vocals on three ballads — not that I was dying to hear the syrupy “Faithfully.”

All of Journey, Soto included, seemed to gel best in its obligatory encore tune, the hard-charging “Separate Ways.” Leppard’s encore consisted of the ultra-predictable “Love Bites” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” followed by Elliott’s plea to fans: “Don’t forget us, and we won’t forget you.”

Not that Leppard stops touring long enough to let us forget.

Prior to all the nostalgia, solo acoustic opener Stoll Vaughan offered the night’s lone, bright spark of future promise. The Kentucky singer-guitarist capped his rootsy four-song set with “Allright,” the lead track off his worthy new “Love Like a Mule” album. Journey’s Jonathan Cain (on harmonica) and bassist Ross Valory sat in as guests.

I’d pay good money to hear Vaughan play a club gig, or Leppard sink its teeth into an all-T. Rex set in a smaller venue.

Another arena rehash of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” I’m not so keen on. No doubt the college students who only recently have succumbed to Leppard’s “Hysteria” would vehemently disagree.

By Kyle Munson @ Des Moines Register 2006.