London, England - Media Reviews
The hard rock icons take to the Royal Albert Hall’s Teenage Cancer Trust gig series with an irresistible detonation of pomp and bluster
Whatever one’s thoughts on a band like Def Leppard, you’d be hard-pressed not to be thrilled to the core by the opening detonations of this live show. They creep on stage while a recording of The Who’s 'Won’t Get Fooled Again' thunders from the speakers at the Royal Albert Hall, in honour of Roger Daltrey who precedes them with a speech on the Teenage Cancer Trust, for whose work this show is in aid of. Drummer Rick Allen is the first to make his presence known with a stampeding addition to the track’s pummelling rhythm, before the lights suddenly blare with intense white heat to reveal the rest of the band. Joe Elliot holds his mic stand draped in a Union Jack triumphantly aloft, in the throes of his finest Daltrey scream. The sheer surge of brilliant power is colossal, and one that the fivesome have no problem perpetuating. Allen’s powerhouse presence at the back notwithstanding – he plays atop a towering illuminated staircase in a sequined Union Jack top and matching headphones – it’s as if the group have three additional frontmen in the forms of guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell and bassist Rick Savage. They and Allen jostle for the limelight, strutting and prowling in playful competition, throwing shreds of duelling guitar and bass across the firing line.
This multi-pronged swagger is what carries the entire show, as much orchestrated and deliberate as it is free and easy. For all the uncontainable energy that underpins Def Leppard live, there’s a precision and a calculation to what they do. Their backdrop projects quintessential imagery – neon dive bar signs during Let It Go, amplifiers and snakes elsewhere. They’re garbed in sleeveless leather, gold jackets and Union Jack sequins; for the first of their bombastic power-ballads, Love Bites, its lyrics are scrawled on the screens as they’re sung in faux-romantic script on a tear-stained parchment. This is a band evidently unafraid of their own cheesiness, their status as straight-up rockers. They pay no mind to any awkward attempts at reinvention, rather they revel in their own pomp and bluster and are all the more marvellous for it.
They pay constant reverence to their past. During a fierce outing of Hysteria they careen around stage while screens project videos of the bands’ finest performances of the track throughout their 40 year career – it’s notable that they have every ounce as much energy now as they do in the clips of their earliest renditions – while reels of classic band photos accompany Let’s Get Rocked. Elliott takes time to honour each member of his band, Vivian Campbell’s own victorious battle with cancer and his new role as an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Hospice is mentioned to a roar of appreciation – “He’s taking over from the legendary Eamonn Holmes!” – while Rick Savage is “still my best mate after 41 years.”
The most powerful ovation of the night, however, is reserved for Rick Allen. It’s bolstered, sure, by the fact the band have just returned onstage for their encore after a joyously pumping rendition of their ubiquitous hit Pour Some Sugar On Me, with the already reverential atmosphere at its very peak, but is nonetheless duly granted to a virtuoso of his craft. He leads the way, as is tradition, with “Gunter glieben glauten globen” before the sweep of Rock Of Ages takes over the Hall. Photograph follows to close the evening, simmering with unashamed pomposity. It encapsulates everything excellent about this show, and about this most brilliantly bombastic of rock bands.
By Gigwise 2018.
“I PROMISE you this,” yelled Joe Elliott at the end of this extraordinary pageant of glossed-up heavy rock, “we won’t forget about you, if you don’t forget about us.”
Def Leppard may be many things (boisterously over the top, inclined towards such ancient rock rituals as drum and even bass solos) but they are never forgettable.
Amazingly, given their 40-year history, this is the first time the full band had appeared at the Royal Albert Hall.
Backed by huge video screens, charting those decades through some wonderfully gawky old photos, the Sheffield quartet made their debut in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, their guitarist Vivian Campbell himself a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Introduced, to their obvious and touching delight, by Who singer and Trust stalwart Roger Daltrey, they took to the stage by crashing through the last verses of the warm-up track: The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Def Leppard have sold 100 million albums.
A quarter of those were for the 1987 album Hysteria, from which tracks like the crowd singalongs Rocket and the perennially saucy Pour Some Sugar On Me were highlights.
But they barely allowed the interest level to drop for the whole of the two hours, each of the two guitarists stepping forward to wow the hands-aloft hordes with another spiralling solo.
A crunching version of the David Essex hit Rock On was extraordinary, bass player Rick Savage, who formed the band with Elliott in 1977 after they met at a Sheffield spoon factory, beefing up the famous rhythm.
Up on his riser at the back, drummer Rick Allen, who famously lost his left arm in a sports car crash, hammered out patterns on his specially-adapted kit that would leave most dual-limbed drummers flailing.
Def Leppard have a way with a winning pop hook but what sets them apart from their cohorts is their warmth and charm; Elliott, in particular, looking, as do most blond-mopped rock singers in middle age, like your wayward Auntie Flo, whips proceedings along with witty asides and frequent forays into the auditorium.
“We’ll be back at the end of the year,” he declared. And so, one feels, will this audience.
Incidentally support band Slydigs are clearly a Def Leppard in the making: a rolling, bluesy delight during their half-hour set.
By Express 2018.
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