Perth, WA, Australia - Media Reviews
WAILING guitars, bare skin and the voices of more than 5000 at their backs - Def Leppard, the "unluckiest band in the world" - are back.
This claim, coined by seminal music magazine Rolling Stone, has always been carried by this British heavy metal act as a badge of honour.
Vindication could not be much sweeter for these five longstanding musicians, with their headlining slot at nib Stadium overnight their covenant.
Taking a well-earned rest last year after more than a decade on the road, Perth was their first stop in Australia since 2009.
Not alone for the ride, fellow American rockers Heart made their long-awaited debut - a pipedream after 40-plus years on the stage.
For the powerhouse sister combination at their helm, Ann and Nancy Wilson, time added a new sincerity to their pop ballads, leaving them raw and bleeding.
Fronting with a mature and demanding air, the older of the duo - Ann - her vocals roared.
Holding nothing back, the personalities of their pair could not be more conflicting - with the beatnik vibe of "rock goddess" guitarist Nancy on one hand to the fiery nature of Heart's frontwoman on the other.
But that's chemistry. Splicing Never to the rollicking Crazy On You and, of course, their '77 hit Barracuda with classics like Rock And Roll from Zeppelin and Farnham's You're The Voice - these 80s wonderkids were a tough act to follow.
Answering Wilson's battlecall, Def Leppard's long-locked vocalist Joe Elliot took his cue to lead.
After the downtime, many would expect to meet a less polished and, albeit, older array of metallers.
But the quintet – Phil Collen, Rick Savage, Rick Allen and Vivian Campbell fronted by Elliot - were not having a bar of it.
Emerging with a monster sound and a set packed full of adrenaline-surging hits, there was non-stop fist pumping and full crowd sing-along's until the very last beat.
Not taking any changes with song choices, they were there for the instant crowd pleasers.
Rocket, Animal and Let's Get Rocked were slotted against acoustic picks like Two Steps Behind - with the four stringsman, Elliot included, taking up the warmer instruments for a intimate moment. Campbell and the shirtless Collen were always up for a bit of sword fighting, using their fret-skills as the medium.
The wares of bassist Savage and the formidable one-armed drummer Allen led the opening to Rock On.
But the night's biggest moment came through a live televised Telethon appearance for Pour Some Sugar On Me, every fan rising to the occasion.
What is remarkable about these 1970s pop-rock icons is age is still not a factor.
Retaining the energy of days long gone, Perthites were left breathless after a high-powered rock lesson from some of the best.
By Perth Now 2011.
PERTH is noted for having particularly quiet audiences. This was apparent on Saturday when Sheffield's Def Leppard played a 100-minute set of its high-gloss metal on the opening night of the band's Australian tour.
Lead singer Joe Elliott had spent much of the evening trying to involve the crowd to sing along but it was only when Def Leppard's signature song Pour Some Sugar On Me was transmitted live on local television, as part of an annual telethon fundraiser, that the band truly came to life and found full voice. (Proving that nice guys don't always finish last, almost immediately after the concert the band headed to the Seven Network's studios where they could be seen manning the phones to collect pledges from viewers.)
Elliott had primed the crowd for the TV cross earlier, after the masses had failed to impress him with their less-than-enthusiastic singing on a cover of David Essex's Rock On. It was a curious situation, for while the five-man band appeared to be giving its all and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it, the spark wasn't quite there to make it a truly memorable night.
Sound problems had plagued the first few numbers, and that may have sapped some of the evening's initial energy. It proved to be a battle for the duration. The twin guitars of Vivian Campbell and the bare-chested Phil Collen cut through the still night on the openers Undefeated and the less-than-subtle Let's Get Rocked but Elliott's vocals were lost in a thick wall of noise. This situation was eventually remedied, and his manly shriek came to the fore, used to best effect on a two-song unplugged section.
High-definition screens surrounded Def Leppard, and it seemed entirely appropriate for a band that rose to prominence in the MTV era and went on to sell more than 40 million albums.
In a show where little was left to chance, the band made a fair fist of re-creating producer and songwriter Mutt Lange's epic 80s productions, and when the sound matched the effort - as on the driving instrumental Switch 625 - it was awesome. On the other hand, the dramatic switch from acoustic to electric instrumentation during Bringin' on the Heartbreak was ruined by the less-than-dynamic sound.
For the most part Def Leppard plundered its 80s heyday and its hair metal anthems such as Animal, Love Bites, Two Steps Behind and Armageddon It. The band and its songs have aged better than expected.
They came, they saw, they rocked. Next.
By The Australian 2011.
Def Leppard may be the unluckiest band in rock'n'roll. Not only did they push on after drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car crash and guitarist Steve Clark died from an accidental overdose, but they also weathered the twin explosions of punk and, later, grunge - movements that threatened to sweep away their polished brand of British heavy metal.
Def Leppard seem forged from the steel produced in their birthplace of Sheffield. They reminded us of their triumph over adversity as soon as they stormed on stage with latest single Undefeated, a dose of classic Def Lep followed by another statement of intent in 1992 hit Let's Get Rocked.
With singer Joe Elliott's improbably blond locks flowing, Allen hammering his customised kit with both legs and his only arm, and the guitarists, Irish journeyman Vivian Campbell and the shirtless, ageless punk Phil Colleen, trading licks, the band took 6000 fans back to the late 80s and early 90s, when Def Leppard ruled the airwaves with hits like Animal, Make Love Like a Man and the soft rock classics Love Bites.
Boasting the easiest singalong chorus ever, Rocket - "Yeah!" - proved a fan favourite, before bassist Rick "Sav" Savage provided a funky intro to David Essex's Rock On. An acoustic bracket of Two Steps Behind and Bringin' on the Heartache saw the band bring acoustic guitars to the front of stage, enlisting fans to join Def Lep for 10 minutes, before the band busted out the late Clark's hard rock instrumental, Switch 625.
The title track to their biggest album, 1987's Hysteria, shepherded in the horny brace of Amageddon It (geddit?) and breakthrough belter Photograph, with scrapbook pictures proving that while the faces may wrinkle, the hair remains the same.
Def Leppard re-routed their second Australian tour in three years so they could be in Perth for Telethon, busting out the main set finale, Pour Some Sugar on Me, for people in TV land as well as fist-pumping fans. Their involvement with the charity proved they have hearts of gold under that Sheffield steel.
Speaking of Heart, the North American rock veterans proved a thrilling support act. Looking like Julie Goodwin but with better pipes, Ann Wilson has an incredible voice, while sister Nancy was a flame-haired guitar goddess.
On their first Perth performance, Heart wowed many in the crowd from the opening cover of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll to the 1977 hard rock classic, Barracuda. Whether blazing away on an electric axe on that number, or high-kicking with the acoustic on Crazy On You, Nancy truly rocked. There was plenty of pure, uncut rock on Saturday night, so it was apt that Def Leppard closed the evening with 1983 favourite Rock of Ages, bringing us full circle with the glorious refrain of "still rolling, rock and rolling". Rock on.
By The West Australian 2011.
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