Def Leppard At Hammersmith Odeon By Chris Welch
A wild and ferocious Def Leppard leapt at the throats of its audience and claimed another killing on the first major Lep safari in many moons. It happened at the Odeon Hammersmith and by all accounts, and travellers tales, at many other stopping off points on the Leppard's rampage around the country.
Graced by the presence of Phil Collen now on guitar with Steve Clark, the band are brimming with confidence, grit and power. And a packed Odeon crowd leapt to its feet and stayed their for the whole of the band's non-stop assault on the senses. Whoever said Leppard were over the hill was reckoning without the loyalty of an army of fans. They stretched out their arms in supplication, lit cigarette lighters in the time honoured fashion and shook their heads with sufficient violence to cause teeth, eyeballs etc to break free from their moorings.
'Rock Til You Drop' was the battle cry of the prettiest stars of Metal. Although the boys look younger and flashier than ever, they seem like seasoned pros with their stage craft, use of lighting and effects and command of the crowd. Joe Elliott, all padlocks, studs and black leather thrusts himself aggressively at the audience and sang with a voice blackened by the smoke of Sheffield. There seemed no danger of Joe dropping, despite the consistently high level of attack.
He ripped off his jacket to reveal a Union Jack waistcoat and waved a mike stand with a threatening gesture that seemed to signal he intends to export Leppard's success all around the world. After the changes and long silence from the band last year, and their less than successful spot at the Reading Festival a while back, it seems that the band have revived their fortunes and image - at a stroke.
Psyched up for hard touring they have lost some of their earlier innocence. Gone are the vocal harmonies and clipped beats of yesteryear. In their place - a much harder vocal and instrumental sound.
The disciplines of studio playing means that Rick Allen tends to play in a very disciplined style, with no room for surprises or deviation. His precision is absolute and he only allows himself a few carefully planned drum breaks, like a thunder of tom tom triplets at the end of a song. I would like to hear him loosen up and ad lib but that would probably upset the fine tuning of Leppard's motor.
While Rick remained hidden behind his kit, the rest made full use of the stage, as Phil in his spotty shirt pursued Rick Savage and Steve in a guitarists' waltz. Toes turned inwards, skinny legs akimbo, they danced a strange dance that would be of keen interest to anthropologists. 'Here vee see zee young peacock males dancing before the rest of the tribe, armed with the loud speakers - the very loud speakers - to assert their authority and command.'
Joe took this a stage further by leaping up onto the lighting gantry to turn a spotlight into our faces, while clouds of smoke periodically enveloped the group to eerie effect.
Joe roared his way through 'Photograph' from the 'Pyromania' album paving the way for some fast solo work from Phil. 'London - are you with us? We want you to hear you make some NOISE!' bellowed Joe determined to keep the crowd on their toes. On 'Ladystrange' there was some useful unison guitar, but I missed hearing any really cutting guitar solos. The band tended to roar through the PA and it was difficult to detect any single note stuff.
Even when Phil was featured in his own spot he chose power chords and lots of reverb, and when Rick Allen backed up Joe in a drums/vocals duet, his snare drum tended to sound like a box of gravel. But I suppose it's no use demanding subtlety when Leppard are in full cry. The aim is maximum excitement and volume epitomised by 'Rock of Ages', which featured Joe and Rick's chanting session with the audience.
The pace slowed for 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak' followed by 'Let it Go' when Joe formally introduced the new boy on guitar. 'He used to be a Girl, but he got better!' From then on the show whirled towards a climax of yelling fans, and blazing guitar and drum fury. There weren't very many memorable tunes, but one of the more musically satisfying moments came when they played an old time rocker to recall 'the old days at the Marquee'. You could say that Def Leppard need to control their volume and come up with some more in-depth material, but as one old fan told me 'They're up there - doing it'. And that's what counts in the jungles of rock.
Rock Goddess opened the show and according to my same informant 'They were terrific - brilliant' Sorry girls, I was stuck behind a huge articulated lorry in Earls Court at the time, cursing London's traffic. For this I accept any punishment you care to administer.
By Kerrang! 1983.
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