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Wednesday, 7th October 2015

Moline, IL - Media Reviews

New song spices Def Leppard's retro vibe during iWireless concert By David Burke

The onramp to memory lane contained a surprise for Def Leppard fans Wednesday night at the iWireless Center. The band kicked off its 90-plus minute set with "Let's Go," the first single off its 11th album, self-titled, out at the end of the month.

Lead singer Joe Elliott said this was the first time the band had performed the song, already on the top-10 on American rock charts, in concert — and online set lists back up that fact.

"You've put a band that's been around for 35 years back on the top of the pile," he told the near-sellout crowd (minus the rear third of the iWi's upper bowl).

Once the five-Brit band got back on the hard rock highway, it was a smooth drive. Backed by a cacophony of lights and a one-story high, stage wide video screen, the band provided solid recreations of its hits that still heavy populate classic rock radio.

All in their mid-50s, the band hasn't lost a step. Elliott may not sprint around the stage like he used to, but bandmates such as guitarist Phil Collen — the oldest of the band at 57 — was shirtless, ripped and sweaty throughout the night.

Def Leppard took a one-song break from their own hits with a revved-up version of David Essex's "Rock On," with Elliott emerging from a lift above the stage.

The crowd, most of whom were on their feet the entire night, was especially pumped after a drum solo on "Switch 625" from Rick Allen, who lost his left arm in an accident more than 20 years ago.

The band indulged in a bit of nostalgia itself, using decades-old concert clips and photos to illustrate "Hysteria," and a series of black-and-white film reels of Def Leppard for "Photograph," which closed out the encore.

While Def Leppard has famously had the same lineup since 1992, its warmup act Foreigner has only one player from the past. Co-founder Mick Jones is the only remaining member since its last hits.

But the seven-man band provided stellar renditions of its songs in its 60-minute set, with lead singer Kelly Hansen echoing Lou Gramm's material with complete precision. Playing only nine songs — unfortunately not among them, "Blue Morning, Blue Day," "Say You Will," "That Was Yesterday" and "Waiting For a Girl Like You" — the band stayed true to its recordings until an extended version of "Juke Box Hero" to close its set. Returning for an encore on "I Want to Know What Love Is," the band was joined by a dozen members of the Moline High School concert choir. Unfortunately the students were not mic'ed, and between the crowd singing along and the band's own vocals, the teens' voices were lost — although they did have enthusiasm in delivering the chorus.

Tesla opened the show with a 40-minute set notable for lead singer Jeff Keith's clearly comprehendible lyric delivery, despite a driving beat around him.

Keith provided the unintentional humor for the night when he referred to the city where he was playing as "Moline, Iowa." By the end of the night, he knew what state he was in and all four of the Quad-Cities — eventually being reminded of Bettendorf.

By Quad City Times 2015.

Tesla, Foreigner, Def Leppard serve up rock buffet By Shane Brown

I was a block away from the iWireless Center when I spotted him.

He was hard to miss.

"RAWK AN' ROLL!" the guy shouted as he high-fived his buddy, clearly excited for what was to come.

We might have been able to ignore his shouting, but there was no escaping his T-shirt. This pumped-up music fan was wearing THE single rattiest concert T-shirt I'd ever seen. Pocked with stains and adorned with holes, the off-color antique looked like it was one stiff wind away from disintegrating right off this dude's torso.

But there, in the center, sat the faded and weather-worn logo of Def Leppard.

I was tempted to make fun of the poor guy until I realized his ratty stained T-shirt was symbolic of this entire night. If there's ever a band that's weathered the storm and kept on rocking against the odds, it's Def Leppard. And Wednesday night, they -- and their friends Foreigner and Tesla -- darn near rocked the roof off the iWi in spectacular fashion.

The show was a three-course feast of rock, and Def Leppard was merely the dessert.

Up first was a quick set from metal stalwarts Tesla, still touring on the back of their 2014 comeback album "Simplicity." Twenty-five minutes seems unfairly short for a band with such a long history, but Tesla made the most of it and received a crowd response warmer than most openers could dream of.

It's kind of sad that a group known for pushing the boundaries of hard rock remains best known for a cheezy acoustic cover of a song that was fairly cheezy to begin with. But when the opening chords of "Signs" rang out, the crowd went nuts and sang along to every cheezy morsel.

Mick Jones is the only original member of Foreigner still in this touring lineup, which means Foreigner is dangerously close to becoming the world's leading Foreigner tribute band. And with Lou Gramm fronting his own band these days, even that title might be up for dispute.

New singer Kelly Hansen is no Lou Gramm, but I'm pretty sure he borrowed Lou's larynx for a while. The two vocalists are shockingly close in both tone and range.

How can you go wrong when every song in your set is either a Top 10 hit or a radio staple? It only took seconds for Foreigner to win the crowd over with an instant blast of "Double Vision" followed by a scorching version of "Head Games" that had everyone chanting along at full blast. Each song was delivered with the polished sheen of a band that's had 35 years worth of practice.

Hansen's mission was to woo the crowd, and he pulled it off with ease, even jumping into the front rows for some high-fives during "Cold As Ice."

"We're just feet away from the Ole Miss," he pandered with a grin. "Maybe there's something in the water that makes sooooooo many beautiful ladies in this crowd!"

Based on the applause, the biggest stars of the night may very well have been the Moline High School Concert Choir, who came out to boost the already anthemic "I Want To Know What Love Is." Paired with "Hot Blooded," it made for an encore that few bands would dare to top.

But we still had dessert to get to.

Judging by that ratty T-shirt and so many others in the crowd like it, this was just the band that most folks came to see. And when the curtain dropped for Def Leppard's entrance, it sounded like all of Moline erupted into one giant shriek.

The Def Leppard story is the kind of saga that VH-1 invented "Behind the Music" for. When they first emerged out of the same Sheffield UK music scene as the Human League and ABC, it was a game-changer. With a dangerous wall-of-sound and alien-like processed vocals, Def Leppard instantly became the metal alternative to new wave and connected with fans across the globe.

Fame and fortune and album sales of topping 100 million soon followed. But so did a series of tragedies that would crush a lesser band:

-- On New Year's Eve 1984, drummer Rick Allen was in a serious car crash that resulted in the loss of his left arm. The band kept rocking.

-- In 1991, guitarist Steve Clark died of an accidental mix of prescription drugs and alcohol. The band kept rocking.

The hardships continue even to this day. Clark's replacement, Vivian Campbell, has been fighting lymphoma for the past two years. But that didn't stop him from taking the stage with his fellow bandmates to the epic "Let's Go," the brand new single from their forthcoming album.

"This was the very first time we've ever played that one live," announced singer Joe Elliott triumphantly. "And it happened right here in Moline."

After decades of vocal torture, you'd expect Elliott's vocal cords would have long since checked out and fled for safety. But somehow he's still capable of hitting most of the high notes in the band's frenetic set. A bummer, then, that the vocals were occasionally lost in an atypical muddy sound mix, which was a bit of a drag.

An energetic "Foolin'" broke through the mire with a blistering guitar solo from Phil Collen, and a solo acoustic turn from Elliott on "Two Steps Behind" was the most pure and honest moment in an evening full of highs -- "Armageddon It" was soul-crushing -- and lows (despite being a fan favorite, "Love Bites" came off anemic and lifeless.)

More successful was the band's other epic slow jam, "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," which pulsed with vitriol and sounded miles better than even the studio recording.

Deadline pressures forced me to miss the end of the set, but I'll eat my hat if it didn't involve songs about photographs, aged rocks and sugar getting poured all over people.

Their chart-topping days may be behind them -- or are they? "Let's Go" just debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. rock charts. Either way, their appreciative fans want the Rock of Ages to continue for as long as possible.

This is one ratty T-shirt that won't go quietly to the back of the closet without a fight.

By Quad City Online 2015.


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