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Thursday, 3rd April 2008

Reading, PA - Fan Reviews

Fan Review - Bright Lights, Smoke Machines and Pockets Full of Guitar Picks At the Sovereign Center By Tonya

Thursday, April 3rd's gig at the Sovereign Center in Reading PA marked the fourth date on the first US leg of Def Leppard's tour in support of their forthcoming album, "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. The Leps are in fine form physically and seem to be tighter than ever as a band. The camaraderie they share is very evident as they play to the crowd. They still have the same fire and brilliance they have always shown as a band on stage which indicates that they are still a band that truly enjoys performing for their audiences and they are not simply going through the motions at this stage in their careers.

The show began this time with Styx taking the opening slot. Ablaze in purple and yellow lights for most of the show, guitarist Tommy Shaw still sounds great doing the classic songs he sang lead on in Styx's heyday such as "Fooling Yourself" and "Too Much Time on My Hands," both of which were performed at the show. One great moment of the set was the appearance of Styx's original bass player Chuck Panozzo at the gig who joined in with the band during the set. The band's current lead singer/keyboardist, Lawrence Gowan, does a decent job of vocals and has a rather energetic stage presence with keyboard spinning (I've never seen a revolving keyboard at a concert before.) and photo snapping (not sure what that's about) during the gig. OK, he's no Dennis De Young and he's certainly no Freddie Mercury, but then again, who can be either of those vocalists. (Gowan briefly lapsed into a lyric from Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" at one point during the band's set.) Though the band delivered their hits, the sound system was a bit too overly bass laden and it made them a bit hard to hear at times. Overall, they delivered a fantastic set which rocked the crowd at the Sovereign. Styx left the stage in a flurry of items (guitar picks and shopping bags galore) being tossed out into the audience at the end.

REO Speedwagon was next to hit the stage. At first, the sound was great for REO, but then the same problem with the muffled sound became an issue as they continued through their set. Kevin Cronin can still deliver the vocals with the same vocal finesse he did back in the 80's. He also has a really good rapport with the audience, which is something that wasn't as evident when Styx was performing. The band performed mostly hits, but did add one new song from their most recent CD "Find Your Own Way Home." The new CD was thematically represented by the band's stage set, which included the direction finders seen on the CD cover. From "Don't Let Him Go" to "Riding the Storm Out," the band performed with a lot of energy which remained strong throughout the entire set.

Last, but certainly not least, Def Leppard took the stage. The band received the most reaction from the crowd and there did not seem to be the audio issues there were with the first two bands in Def Leppard's set. Not that people weren't dancing and singing to Styx and Reo's music, it's just that there was certain energy from the audience that was more evident when it was Def Leppard's turn to rock the Sovereign. "That was then...this is now." Those words across the huge video screen behind the band as the extremely effective montage which started the show brought them to the stage seemed to signify where the band is presently. The montage was a great way to celebrate the past (it featured pictures, album covers and a listing of every song they've done from those albums) and bring the audience up to speed on where we are in Leppard Hystery at present. The intro video presentation of the show ties in nicely to what the band seems to be doing with the "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge" cover artwork, which is kind of like a time capsule of all things Def Leppard. Joe Elliott once said in an interview on the Video Archive video first released in 1995 that the release of Vault, followed by Slang, which took the band in a completely different direction, was the end of phase one of Def Leppard and the start of phase two. With "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge," the band is most certainly approaching phase three of their career.

The band's set list comprised a wide gamut of their repertoire from "Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)" from "High and Dry" which goes all the way back to the pre Collen and Campbell days of 1981, to "Nine Lives" from the forthcoming "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge." "Nine Lives" was the only "Sparkle" track performed during the show, a decision which given the fact that many audiences, although curious about the new songs, tend to like to sing, dance and rave along to the songs they know very well during a concert, was an understandable choice by the band. I am sure more new songs will be added as the tour progresses. Joe Elliott introduced the song and mentioned Tim McGraw, who sings the opening lines of the song, while Joe donned a black cowboy hat for the start of the song.

The band's artistry as musicians was definitely a standout. Phil Collen's prowess on the guitar (gotta love that Bela Lugosi guitar!) is definitely in your face, especially in the harder tracks played onstage such as "Animal" and "Armeggedon It." Collen and Vivian Campbell definitely mesh well as a guitar team on stage. Rick Allen, with his drum kit adorned by some sunflowers, was smiling throughout the entire show and proved that he is the ever present pulse behind the band. His drumming was never stronger than was heard during this gig and he continues to be a great inspiration with all that he does. He truly deserves the moniker, "The Thunder God," as his playing has never been better! Rick Savage got his moment to shine in the spotlight with a fantastic bass solo that preceded the David Essex classic "Rock On" which was on Def Leppard's "Yeah!" covers CD. Savage manages to get so many vibrant, resonant tones with his bass work and his famous "I see you out there!" pose during the solo proves that even bass players (usually the quiet ones in the bands) can be rock gods!

The entire Def Leppard set was an integral mix of audio and visual; a sheer delight for the ears and the eyes. The video playing behind the band during the show fit very well with the songs. Joe Elliott definitely knows how to work an audience and always has done. An amusing moment was when he reminded the audience that they forgot their cue on singing the chorus of "Bringing on the Heartbreak" before he started the next verse. Another highlight was seeing all the band members, minus Rick Allen who was getting a bit of a break during an acoustic part of the show, all standing at the thrust (or catwalk of the stage, if you prefer) together to perform "Two Steps Behind." The show was an exciting preview of what is to come with phase three of Def Leppard and let's hope that phase includes lots more great music and plenty of next times for more terrific shows like this one!


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