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Saturday, 18th April 2015

Vancouver, BC - Media Reviews

Def Leppard's "happy metal" makes Vancouver smile By Steve Newton

The first time Def Leppard played Vancouver was in July of 1983, on a co-headlining date at the Pacific Coliseum with '70s-rock holdouts Uriah Heep. This was six months after the release of its breakthrough Pyromania album, which spawned four singles--"Photograph", "Rock of Ages", "Foolin'", and "Too Late for Love"--and to date has sold over 10 millon copies in the U.S. alone.

The youthful British band (average age 21) was near the peak of its popularity at that time, although it would actually soar way beyond that peak four years later with the release of Hysteria, which boasted a whopping seven singles--"Animal", "Women", "Pour Some Sugar on Me", "Hysteria", "Armageddon It", "Love Bites", and "Rocket"--and moved over 12 million copies in the States.

Yes, the '80s were good to Def Leppard. Whether or not Def Leppard was good to the '80s is a matter of taste, as it has been viewed as a major catalyst of the decade's hair-metal movement. Lead vocalist Joe Elliott might dispute that claim, however. "We weren't a big-hair band," he told me during a 2003 interview, "we were a longhair band. Our hair was no bigger than Zeppelin or Sabbath, and nobody ever called them big hair."

At any rate, big- or longhaired, the group never got anywhere near as popular again. In fact, back in 1995 it played the Commodore--as part of a three-continents-in-one-day promotion to help sell a greatest hits CD--and the crowd went mild.

But nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to loud rock--or "happy metal!" as my old buddy Stick would joyfully describe it. That's why the band is still making the rounds of the arenas in 2015, and packing 'em in like they did at Rogers Arena last night.

It came as no surprise that, of the 11 songs listed above, Def Leppard performed nine of them. They opened with Pyromania's "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)"--which got the vast majority of the crowd on its feet, where it would stay for good--and closed 17 tunes later with "Photograph". The biggest lull in the proceedings came during the set's most recent song, "Paper Sun", which, being from 1999's Euphoria, isn't that recent at all.

Lead singer Joe Elliott still sounds allright at 55, and what he lacks in the ability to hit those high notes he makes up for with showmanship and charisma. All he had to do was stand there in the spotlight with his arms outstretched and the crowd would roar its approval.

Guitarist Phil Collen is the oldest band member at 57, but somehow he's managed to hang on to the same sleek torso he had back in '83. His six-string counterpart, Vivian Campbell--who first rose to prominence in '82 as guitarist for Dio--can still tear up the frets bigtime. He sounded (and looked) particularly sharp on a sparkly red Les Paul during the frantic solo for "High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)".

Nothing against Elliott, but the musical high point of the show for me came when he hung up the mike and Campbell and Collen went to town on "Switch 625", a driving instrumental from the 1981 High 'n' Dry album that was written by original guitarist Steve Clark, who died of a drug overdose in '91 at the age of 30.

The band had also almost lost its drummer on New Year's Eve 1984 when 21-year-old Rick Allen was thrown from his Corvette, losing his left arm. But he battled back, learned how to play a specially designed electronic kit with one arm, and still propels the band today. Every time his face flashed on the massive video screen at the back of the stage he looked happy as hell. It's pretty obvious that he's the type of guy who will rock rock till he drops.

By The Georgia Straight 2015.

Def Leppard Purr, Not Roar, in Vancouver By Robert Collins

Despite their colossal commercial success, a recurring theme in seemingly every Def Leppard media interview is a complaint that they’ve been critically overlooked throughout their lengthy career.

It’s a legitimate grievance. The numbers don’t lie. Yorkshire’s best-selling musical export have been shifting units and putting tushes on seats since the early 1980s. People love the Leppard. But at the Vancouver leg of their trans-Canada jaunt at Rogers Arena last night, they also proved why a critical re-evaluation isn’t due any time soon.

For a band whose songs are awash with the promise of imminent and limitless rocking (“Rock! Rock! Till You Drop,” “Rocket,” “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Rock of Ages” and a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” were all unleashed last night), this was a concert that merely partied politely as it chugged along in third gear.

Much of the blame for an evening that delivered hits but few thrills has to sit with vocalist Joe Elliott, the once lithe front man whose stage persona is now reduced to ambling around, holding up his mic stand and pointing at fans. Bereft of energy and enthusiasm, his scripted stage banter provided a prime example of why touring rock bands need to switch up their set list on a nightly basis. As much for themselves as their audiences.

“Good evening Vancouver!” bellowed Elliott, after a rousing “Animal”. “Guess what? It’s Saturday night!”

This rote introduction to “High’n’Dry (Saturday Night),” perfectly summed up his uninspired approach to frontmanship. Spontaneity be damned. Best stick to what’s worked in the past.

Even though the front man was operating on autopilot, the band was still churning out razor sharp harmonies and hits, “Loves Bites,” “Rocket” and the inevitable “Pour Some Sugar On Me” all sending the crowd into nostalgic rapture. Guitarist Phil Collen (whose sharp abs beneath a flapping leather vest hinted at a workout regime Elliott would be wise to emulate) ripped the first of countless pristine solos during “Foolin’.” Incredible one-armed drummer Rick Allen was able to take centre stage during instrumental “Switch 625,” the giant screen revealing his fascinating and unique technique for the first time.

Midway through the show Elliott sauntered down the stage runway alone sporting an acoustic guitar.

“It’s just you and me. How’d you feel about that?” he asked to a muted response, before listing his favourite Canadian artists and mumbling that “I can’t play Rush on an acoustic guitar.” Instead, he strummed his way through the Bryan Adamsesque “Two Steps Behind,” the crowd singing along with every word.

For a band whose back catalogue is so firmly entrenched in the youth of so many people, crowds will enjoy Def Leppard concerts for many years to come on nostalgia value alone. But converting arenas into ’80s discos isn’t going to convert Def Leppard into critics’ darlings either.

“I got a question for you. Do you wanna get rocked?” asked Elliott as the introduction to “Let’s Get Rocked,” the same question he’s asked at an identical point a thousand times before. The answer, inevitably, was yes please. But if Def Leppard are serious about cementing their musical legacy, they’re going to need to up their game next time around.

By CTV News 2015.


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