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Wednesday, 4th May 2016

Lafayette, LA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard, Styx, Tesla Give It Up 100% at Lafayette's Cajundome By Leslie Michele

Last week when Def Leppard played the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, it was to a virtually sold out arena full of happy fans, glad that the band kept good on their promise to reschedule the date they’d cancelled after doctors advised Joe Elliott to take a rest earlier this year. “He would have carried on but last year he had walking pneumonia and when it cleared up he got a really bad cough and it was like non-stop,” guitarist Phil Collen explained to Songfacts during the band’s short break. Now back on the road with not one but two splendid openers – Styx and Tesla – it’s back to being all about the music and giving the fans a good jolt of rock & roll.

Tesla, the California band which was lucky enough to bypass the Sunset Strip hair metal phase by staying true to their rock roots, came out with guns blazing, thanks in part to the musicians behind the songs: Frank Hannon and Dave Rude on guitars, Brian Wheat on bass, Troy Luccketta on drums and the forever-young-vocal chords of Jeff Keith. It didn’t seem to matter to them that a lot of the crowd was either still rolling in or lingering around the merch table, they gave 110%, pushing the songs to the limit and rallying up everyone who was there to see them play hits like “Modern Day Cowboy,” “Love Song” and “Signs.” Next to Cheap Trick, they have become the go-to band for opening big concert tickets; and rightly so. Their songs get you pepped up, Keith is one of the most personable frontmen in the business and with Hannon you have one of the most underrated yet talented guitar players still jamming today. Not bad for a band at the thirty year mark in their career.

Styx is nearing their 50th anniversary as a band and I don’t think I have seen them play this hard and loud in years. And what a great surprise to have original bass player Chuck Panozzo come out to play on several songs, “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself.” Tommy Shaw, James Young and Lawrence Gowan all shared lead vocals, Todd Sucherman outdid himself on drums and Ricky Phillips locked in so well that Styx 2016 was as good as they were in 1977 when they released The Grand Illusion and were a hugely popular arena rock band.

“Tommy Shaw still kicks ass,” the young man sitting behind me yelled to his friend. “He is the man!” Coming from someone who probably wasn’t even born when they recorded their self-titled debut in 1972, or for that matter when the band charted with two superhits (“Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade”) in 1978, this says a lot about the power of a great song lasting for generations. The entire arena reacted as well to other Styx favorites such as “Lady,” “Too Much Time On My Hands” and the JY-led song “America.”

Also, in a moment of memorialization, keyboardist Gowan honored Prince and David Bowie with snippets of “1999” and “Changes” before heralding in their own “Come Sail Away;” then dazzling with an encore of “Rockin’ The Paradise” and “Renegade.”

Def Leppard would have their hands full in topping those two bands and they did a mighty fine job holding their own. They had the big numbers, the big screens behind them, the big drums and the big guitars all propelling them into the fans’ faces for hit after hit after hit: “Foolin’,” “Love Bites,” “Hysteria,” “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Rock Of Ages,” “Rocket” and “Armageddon It.”

It was great to see “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” turned back into the rock anthem it started out as, before they rearranged it acoustically for a midset spotlight number. Here is was even stepped up a notch to kinetically segue into Collen’s guitar frenzy, “Switch 625,” a definite highlight for Collen, drummer Rick Allen and bass player Rick Savage, whom Elliott introduced earlier as his best friend.

Leppard has certainly had it’s share of troubles over it’s almost forty year career – from Allen’s near-fatal car wreck that took his left arm, the death of guitar player Steve Clark, Vivian Campbell’s fight with cancer and the disappointing sales of their last few records – but it’s only seemed to make the unit stronger, the band members closer and the live shows more energetic. That camaraderie is, as Allen told me in a 2012 interview, “the driving force behind why we do this, why we make music together.” Added Campbell in a 2013 interview, “It’s not like we’re The Monkees and we wear matching pajamas and live in the same house or anything like that (laughs) but we do have a healthy respect for each other and we learn to listen to each other and creatively to work together.”

So if you’re looking for a good concert to spend money on this summer, Def Leppard will be out there on the road with Tesla and REO Speedwagon taking over for Styx and you won’t be disappointed, if this show at the Cajundome is any indication.

By Glide Magazine 2016.


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