Saginaw, MI - Media Reviews
When Def Leppard hit the stage and launched into "Rock, Rock Till You Drop" Tuesday night at Saginaw's Wendler Arena, an excitable crowd was only too happy to oblige the British pop metal rockers with a standing ovation.
Leppard, making the second of three stops in Michigan, charged into a nearly two-hour set that was laden with hit after hit - an ample testament to how many times the band rode to the top of the charts with the success of such multimillion-selling albums as "Pyromania," "Hysteria" and "Adrenalize."
Although the band got off to a shaky start, by the time singer Joe Elliott barked out "We are Def Leppard, and this is what we do" to start off a thumping version of "Women," Leppard was in full command of its chops, taking the audience back to the '80s when songs like "Rocket," "Hysteria," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Foolin"' and "Animal" were heavily rotated on MTV.
But this was more than just a nostalgia show. The crowd was filled with as many young faces as old.
As the Leps jumped into "Photograph" in the second half of the show, hands were raised in the air and the main floor bobbed up and down to drummer Rick Allen's chugging downbeats.
Known for its studio alchemy - and a penchant for taking longer to complete albums than most bands stay in the limelight - Leppard brought the same kind of rich production values to Wendler's live setting.
Guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell traded melodic, surgical precision leads while Elliott worked the throng to the pulse of Rick Savage's bass.
Vocals blended with almost surreal harmony, especially on ballads like "Love Bites."
The only drawbacks were that Campbell, a wood shredder known for his work with metal stalwarts Ronnie James Dio and Whitesnake, wasn't given a little more room to let his squawking leads breathe, and that Leppard's anthemic hard rock, best suited for larger arenas, seemed somewhat less powerful when bounced off several empty rows of seats in the upper decks.
Tesla offshoots Moon Dog Mane opened the show with some raucous, barroom 12-bar rock 'n' roll, but with the exception of Tesla's "Signs," the group did little to challenge Leppard's drawing power.
By The Saginaw News 1999.
Phil Collen was right. When Def Leppard hit the Wendler Arena stage Tuesday, it was pure fun, just as the guitarist had promised in an earlier interview. A close-cropped, Joe Elliott still has the swagger, giving the band's brand of arena rock'n'roll its raucous credibility.
Collen and Vivian Campbell fired off a twin-attack, taking a tag-team approach in the light of the blazing guitar. Rick Savage proved an able sparring partner on bass, and Rick Allen, well, once again, the one-armed drummer proved anything is possible when you set your mind to it. Performing for a crowd of some 4,000 - many of them fans from the band's "Pyromania" days - the group banged away like teen-agers in a garage band. The struck the pose, and it rang true. They trotted out the cliches and made them seem new again. And throughout the night, it was impossible to see who was having more fun. Suffice it to say the fans weren't the only ones to go home with no voice. Yet this is not to say the British band that put melody back in metal has crossed to the dark side. The hoarseness came honestly, Elliott giving fans his all for more than two hours. Or maybe it was trying to get heard above the thunderous response of an appreciative audience. Style aside, the night proved more than anything the poweof a good song. Out came numbers popular "back when MTV played music," Elliott quipped, drawing murmurs of approval. "Photograph," "Foolin'" and a killer version of "Rock of Ages" found Elliott in fine voice, a legion of air-guitarists accompanying his every phrase.
More than two decades in the business gives a band a lot of material, and Def Leppard came prepared, dusting off "Armageddon It," "Love Bites" and "Rocket." There were the newer numbers, a sampling of the latest album, "Euphoria," and the crowd favorite, "Pour Some Sugar on Me." By the time Elliott and company beckoned the crowd with "Let's Get Rocked," the deed was done. "You really know how to make someone feel wanted around here," he said. "We appreciate that."
That isn't to say the night didn't have the occasional omission. Where were the support musicians so many groups drag along these days, fresh talent to buoy up their own sagging skills? The night was also stripped of the usual high-tech fanfare accompanying Def Leppard; the group is stretching its legs, Collen explained, with the more elaborate stage set still a few months ahead. Instead of the usual lasers and exploding pyrotechnic props, a bank of overhead lights played off a huge Union Jack and smaller Irish show of colors. Yet in both instances, the sparsity only showed Def Leppard is more than a fluke, more than a spectacle. It's refreshing, said one concertgoer, to see a band play that really knew how to play.
The only distraction Tuesday came with a sound system that at times made the music sound as if it were filtered through a thick quilt. Elliott must have realized it as well; he took a detour to the backstage area and came back with a sound that cut through the arena like a knife. Almost seven years to the day after their last Saginaw appearance, Def Leppard again left a house hungry for more. Hopefully, it won't take another seven before they serve up a second helping. Tuesday's show opened with a pleasant surprise, the band Moon Dog Mane with guitarist Frank Hannon of Tesla fame.
"I remember playing here before," Hannon said backstage. "It was right after the circus and even though they had cleaned things up, you could still smell the animals." His new group didn't hold it against Saginaw, delivering a solid set fueled by, you guessed it, some razor-sharp guitar. Fans can catch both bands in action again tonight at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit. Admission to the concert is included in the fair's gate fee.
By The Saginaw News 1999.
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