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Wednesday, 15th July 2015

Youngstown, OH - Media Reviews

Def Leppard, Tesla deliver euphoric concert in Youngstown By Peter Roche

The guys in Def Leppard have seen it all in their 38-years together, riding an emotional rollercoaster that would’ve given lesser bands psychic whiplash.

The Sheffield natives broke out of England with 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry and became MTV mainstays with 1983’s mega-platinum Pyromania—only to have drummer Rick Allen nearly lose his life in a horrific car crash.

But Def Leppard soldiered on, with a recuperated (but one-armed) Allen learning to play a custom kit to accommodate his amputation. The bad boys stormed the charts again in the late ‘80s with the Mutt Lange-produced Hysteria even as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal cooled and hair bands took a back seat to alternative rock and grunge.

All seemed lost when guitarist Steve Clark died suddenly at age 30, a victim of his own vices. But the Leppard lads emerged from exile once more with another hit record—1992’s Adrenalize. Clark’s replacement, Vivian Campbell (ex-Whitesnake, Shadow Kings), helped co-guitarist Phil Collen guide the band through the ‘90s and into the ‘00s, at which time the shredder began a longstanding battle with lymphoma.

But you can’t keep a good band down, and Leppard (who are now touring in advance of an eponymously-titled 2015 album) are about as resilient as they come in this increasingly fickle, fortune-flopping rock and roll business. We’re confident the new record will rock—and that Campbell will give cancer another boot to the curb.

As if to demonstrate their tenacity, the five-piece bookended their July 15th show at Covelli Center in Youngstown with a pair of non-‘80s nuggets: Opening salvo “Disintegrate” (from 1999’s Euphoria) and grand finale “Kings of the World” (from 2011’s Mirror Ball and More).

In between was nothing but bona fide Billboard hits: A veritable hard rock submarine sandwich served up by Collen, Campbell, and Allen—with affable ringleader-vocalist Joe Elliott emceeing the party and bassist Rick Savage towing the bottom line on five-string.

A giant scrim dropped onstage as classic tracks by Queen and AC-DC faded out, revealing the five band members as they surged into a defiant “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” and pheromone-charged “Animal.” Clad in black pants and jacket (with matching Chuck Taylor sneakers), Elliott worked a standalone mic front-and-center as “Sav” thrummed his Jackson bass. Campbell favored a green Les Paul at stage right. Opposite him, on the left (house right), Collen wielded a “London 1957” Jackson PC1 guitar, bicep bulging with even the slightest downward tweak of the tremolo bar.

And how about Phil’s physique? Where his Slang siblings sported overcoats (ditching them as the show progressed and temps rose), Collen didn’t bother with a shirt or jacket at all—the better to display his well-defined (and prodigiously oiled) pecs and abs. Despite his age, the rocker has embraced a vigorous workout regimen, sculpting his compact frame to the point at which he easily appear on the cover of next month’s Men’s Health magazine as Guitar World.

For those keeping score, this iteration of Def Lep is the longest-running. The lineup’s combined experience showed on stage, too, what with Allen and Savage’s ratchet-taut rhythms on “Foolin’,” and Collen and Campbell’s twin guitar attack on oldie “Let It Go” (a Pete Willis-written number from High ‘n’ Dry).

The show shifted into high gear with caustic valentine “Love Bites” and the aggressive “Armageddon It,” whereon Elliott and Collen paraded down a catwalk extending into the middle of the arena floor. Savage likewise sauntered the runway for a brief bass solo that segued into the group’s dead-on cover of 1973 David Essex hit “Rock On!” Elliott then gave his peers a moment’s respite with a solo version of Retro Active goody “Two Steps Behind,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar as the crowd sang along.

“All of you are members of Def Leppard for the next four minutes!” he announced beforehand.

A massive video backdrop bore still images and movie clips that complemented the music. One such motif converted the stage into a virtual red light district. Images of war and ecological disaster flickered on surprise Euphoria offering “Paper Sun,” while song lyrics appeared (in fancy script) on “Love Bites.”

Poised beneath the gigantic screen at his Remo kit, Allen pounded away with a gloved left hand clenching a lone stick, his bare feet throttling custom pedals for kick-bass and snare. This Renaissance man is drumming better than ever—but what most impressed us about Allen (as shown on the video feed) was his constant smile: This dude loves his job.

Where most musicians in Allen’s station might rest on their laurels and phone in every other performance, he relishes his work. It’s as if the drummer takes nothing for granted—and now regards the loss of his limb as but a minor (if challenging) inconvenience in a lifetime sprinkled with good fortunes (and topped with a rock and roll cherry).

Allen’s shirt and headphones weren’t the only accoutrements adorned by Britain’s Union Jack: Elliott’s microphone stand had a flag draping from it, and Collen’s guitars had straps with pennants that whooshed about his boots as he prowled. Sav’s bass had a Jack motif, too—albeit in black, white, and charcoal grey instead of red, white, and blue.

The boys love their country, that’s for sure: The Jack featured heavily in early Def Leppard videos on Elliott’s shirts (and Allen’s tank-tops and shorts).

Campbell was born in Ireland (Belfast, to be exact). No English saltires for him, thank you—just ethereal guitar arpeggios (“Rocket”), crisp leads (“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak”), and searing solos (“Switch 625”). Viv also contributed background vocals, blending his pipes with those of Savage and Collen to create those signature dense Def Lep harmonies.

A slideshow of vintage band pictures cycled over the big screen during “Hysteria,” which served as a touching tribute to Clark.

Man, were the guys ever that young? Were we?

Adrenalize anthem “Let’s Get Rocked” throbbed. Hysteria hit “Pour Some Sugar On Me” got everyone out of their seats (if they weren’t up already) to dance and snap pictures with their iPhones. Both songs reminded us just how adept this band was (sic: is) at costuming standard three-chord guitar progressions with infectious hooks and clever guitar parts until they become model hard rock mantras that withstand the passage of time (and the passing of trends).

To wit: Encore numbers “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”—two entries from an era when Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, and Mary Lou Retton were weekly watercooler topics—still pack their stadium punch.

Warming things up at Covelli was none other than Tesla, who opened for Def Lep on the Hysteria Tour back when we caught both bands for the first time (at a memorable in-the-round concert at Richfield Coliseum on February 2, 1988).

Still fronted by silky-headed singer Jeff Keith, the guys eschewed latter-day discs Forever More (2008) and Simplicity (2014) in favor of head-banging hits (and a couple acoustic gems) from the Mechanical Resonance and Psychotic Supper days (1986-1992).

The Covelli crowd didn’t seem to mind, rewarding Keith and co. with an arena’s worth of echoey applause following an uppity “Edison’s Medicine,” spritely “The Way It Is,” and optimistic “Getting’ Better.”

Slender, raspy-throated Keith copped the best Mick Jagger / Steven Tyler dance moves, writhing, slinking, and high-stepping as he belted “Hang Tough” and “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” (from 1989’s The Great Radio Controversy). Bassist Brian Wheat manhandled a massive Fender Thunderbird bass, banging his head to drummer Troy Luccketta’s brawny beats.

Stetson-hatted Frank Hannon alternated between a Dean guitar and a Fender Telecaster—but he also used his hands to conjure wacky-sounding signals from moog etherwave theremin. Later, Hannon broke out his cherry Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck guitar, drizzling wickedly-fast licks and gritty chords over rhythm guitarist Dave Rude’s crackling Les Paul lines.

Tesla’s take on the Five Man Electrical Band hippy protest “Signs” was a mid-set highlight, but it was megahit “Love Song” that truly caressed Covelli ears—and melted Youngstown hearts. Prefaced by the tandem acoustic guitars of Rude and Hannon, the power ballad grew bigger with each of its eight minutes, swelling until ticketholders took up its Love will find a way outro.

And hey—did anyone notice Keith’s shirt? From a distance, it resembled an ordinary yellow tee (augmented by a silk scarf). But our vantage point allowed us to (ahem) marvel at its iron-on applique: A reprint of Frank Miller’s comic book cover art from Daredevil #181 (the issue where Bullseye murders DD’s squeeze, Elektra).

Nice, Jeff!

The moral of this story? The New Wave of British Heavy Metal ain’t dead so long as Def Leppard are still alive and kicking (which they most emphatically are); Tesla are still comin’ atcha live thirty years on; Phil Collen is a chiseled Michelangelo; Rick Allen’s enthusiasm is contagious; and Vivian Campbell is gonna kick cancer back into remission in time for the new Def Lep album this Fall.

By Cleveland Music Examiner 2015.

Def Leppard Concert Review By Guy D'Astolfo

If Wednesday night’s Def Leppard concert at Covelli Centre was a celebration, then Vivian Campbell was having the best time out of everybody at the party.

The guitarist, his once long hair cut short, has been battling cancer and missed a few shows last month. But he was back for the Covelli show,and sporting a sincere smile, like a man who isn’t taking anything for granted.

Def Leppard has weathered hard times before and now wears its longevity like a badge of honor.

During the song “Hysteria,” the big screen behind the stage showed photos and videos from the band’s ’80s heyday. It served as a reminder of the British hair-metal act’s status.

To be clear, Def Leppard is still in fighting trim and can still rock. Even front man Joe Elliott, a little pudgy these days, managed to hold the soaring notes on “Photograph,” albeit with a little strain.

Of course, the band never really took a break. They even have a new album due later this year. But Wednesday’s show was all about the hits, and included no new material.

Another triumphant moment was the solo by one-armed drummer Rick Allen that preceded the ballad “Hysteria.” The screen showed close-ups of him toeing the pedals with both feet, while the look on his face indicated he was loving life.

What gave Def Leppard its era-defining sound were things like Allen’s pounding drum work, and especially the guitar fills and solos of “shirtless” Phil Collen, who seems to be more ripped than ever. Too bad his signature style got lost in sonic sludge on “Bringing on the Heartache.”

Def Leppard’s roughly 90-minute set had some other highlights:

Rick Savage’s thumping bass solo that led into a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On.” By the time it ended, it was all exuberant power chords, and no trace of the original’s psychedelics.

Elliott, wielding an acoustic guitar, singing “Two Steps Behind” in solo mode on the catwalk that jutted into the crowd.

I was waiting for the final encore, which of course was “Photograph,” so I could cross it off my bucket list. That tune has long been on my Top 10 list of Songs I Crank Up When They Come on the Radio, but it was underwhelming. The riffs were collapsing on themselves, at least where I was sitting.

The best rock’n’roll moment — brief as it was — might have flashed by during the bridge of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” You know, the part where Elliott trades lines with the band: “You got the peaches …”

That was a little bit of magic.

Def Leppard began its encore with the 1983 hit “Rock of Ages,” which begins “It’s better to burn out than fade away.”

Three-plus decades later, that statement had a new perspective but it still rings true. At least nobody in the sold-out crowd at Covelli disagreed.

As the band gave its final bows to thunderous applause, Elliot acknowledged the roaring adulation.

“We’ll see you next time,” he said, adding “and there will be a next time.”

By The Vindicator 2015.

Def Leppard roars at Covelli Centre By Andy Gray

The 90-minute set was heavy on hits, and Def Leppard - Joe Elliott, lead vocals; Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, guitars; Rick Savage, bass; and Rick Allen, drums - still does an impressive job recreating the epic-sized Mutt Lange-produced songs live.

Elliott took a few vocal shortcuts - most noticeably on "Foolin'," where that soaring "Is anybody out there?" line was dropped an octave - but his voice was strong, whether it was wailing over the guitars on "Love Bites" or more subtle phrasing on the acoustic "Two Steps Behind."

Collen, buff and shirtless with a Union Jack dragging from the back of his guitar, and Campbell, who looked surprisingly healthy for someone undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, traded guitar solos throughout the evening.

Savage took a bass solo to lead into "Rock On." And Allen, who lost an arm in auto accident in 1984, was showcased on "Switch 625." The massive video screen at the back of the stage allowed the crowd to see how he uses a set of foot pedals to help work his kit.

By Tribtoday 2015 - Read the full review via the link.


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