Tacoma, WA - Media Reviews
When Def Leppard released “Pyromania” in 1983, I was 10 years old and immediately awestruck by this twin-guitar band from England. It was also back in the early years of MTV (the “M” stands for music), and you couldn’t go 45 minutes without seeing another Def Leppard video. It was a great time to be alive.
I have purchased nearly every release by the band over the years, but in the 30 years since witnessing them for the first time on MTV, I had never seen them live and in concert. When offered the opportunity to check them out and write a review, it was one of those snap decisions that don’t even involve thought. It’s just a given, like asking me whether I would like a piece of chocolate cake. Of course I do, you don’t even need to ask.
I headed down to the Tacoma Dome on Saturday, Oct. 1 prepared for anything. I’ve seen several older acts over the years that were quite a far cry from their heyday. The songs get slower. Some numbers were played in a different tune so the singer can still handle the lyrics. On a few occasions, it nearly brought the wrong kind of tears to my eyes.
This wasn’t going to be one of those shows.
The boys kicked the show off with “Let’s Go,” the lead track off of their most-recent, self-titled album. I hadn’t heard it yet, and it sounded like pure Leppard. Having gotten the crowd’s attention, the band kicked into “Animal” from the “Hysteria” album. At this point, I could tell that the band was already feeling it, and the audience reaction was a big pop.
One of my favorite opening riffs to any song is from “Let it Go” from Leppard’s “High ‘n’ Dry” album. This would kick off song three, and I now found myself beginning to feel like that kid again, watching them on the television. The band followed up with “Dangerous,” the second track off their new album and it did the job just right.
Up next, the band tackled “Foolin’” from “Pyromania.” Since it has long been one of my favorites, I had wondered whether they would tackle the song. The vocals by Joe Elliott involved some serious high-end screaming back in the day, and as everyone knows, Father Time plays no favorites when it comes to that much wear and tear on the vocal chords. While Elliott laid back a bit on the high-end stuff at the Tacoma Dome, his bandmates actually came through with heavier vocals that made the song happen just the way it should.
“Love Bites” from “Hysteria” was up next and it was time to slow things down. Back in the day, the crowd would have been a sea of lighters in the air, paying tribute to the band. That doesn’t happen in 2016. Instead, it was a sea of cell phones lit up and pointed toward the band. I may be a little too old school, but something about that just doesn’t wash right with me. However, the song was phenomenal.
Things picked back up with “Armageddon It” next. This song reminded me of just how huge their album “Hysteria” was back in 1987 and following. Nearly every song off the album was released as a single, and charted in America. They followed it up with the David Essex cover of “Rock On.” I’ll have to admit, it’s one of my least favorite songs ever, but the band really put a hard-edged, stomp feel to the song that lifted it up quite a bit.
Up next was a heavy, punchy “Rocket” from “Hysteria,” followed by “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” from “High ‘n’ Dry,” which is probably my all-time favorite number by the band. They nailed it to the wall. The band pulled another number from back in the day with “Switch 625” and by this time, the crowd was absolutely electric. The title track from “Hysteria” was next and the band captured the dynamic highs and lows of the tune perfectly.
The band rounded out the night with “Let’s Get Rocked” from their album “Adrenalize,” followed by “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” It was the song that owned the summer of 1988, and it still felt just as tasty in 2016. The two encore numbers were “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” from “Pyromania.” The musicianship and stage presence by this band totally blew me away. It’s hard to believe that they’ve been going at it for over 35 years. I’d see them again in a heartbeat.
Opening the show was Tesla. While I wasn’t much of a fan back in the day, I have to say that the band puts together a heavy and tight 40-minute set. Lead singer Jeff Keith was working the crowd for all it’s worth and it was obvious that he was having a blast up there. The feature act was REO Speedwagon. I was really blown away by Speedwagon. They were way more rocking live than I had anticipated, and to be honest, the Tacoma Dome crowd seemed to give them as much love as the headliners to follow.
By Tacoma Weekly 2016.
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