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Saturday, 29th June 2002

Kansas City, KS - Media Reviews

Def Leppard pours on the power at daylong festival By Robert Eisele

The annual Red, White and Boom music festival Saturday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater was a sea of tattoos, sunburns, body piercings and the occasional patriotic headgear. And the men in the crowd looked a little rough, too.

Never mind the irony of the veteran British rock band Def Leppard headlining a festival ostensibly celebrating the American revolution. This crowd came to party, and party they did throughout a long day culminated by a high-energy set of anthemic, fist-pumping rockers.

Among the first bands to exploit the power of music videos, Def Leppard has built a rabid following in the 25 years since lead singer Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage founded the group in Sheffield, England.

Elliott still is shouting out the raspy lead vocals on such decibel-pounding tunes as the set-opening "Let's Get Rocked" a piece pulsing with primal energy that was a clear case of preaching to the crowd.

Savage still lays down a propulsive bass line, which was echoed by drummer Rick Allen on songs like the infectious "Foolin' " and the succinctly titled "Love Bites."

The band, which has been off the road and in the studio of late, seemed primed and ready to make some noise.

"This is the first gig we've played in about 15 months," Elliott said. "It's always nice to get back on the road, and this is a great place to start."

In between the none-too-subtle imagery of "Rocket" and the flesh-for-fantasy of "Photograph," the group tested out some material from the forthcoming disc, "X."

The first single, "Now," a hard-driving tune about the urgency of an incendiary love, proved to be a crowd-pleaser. Instrumentally, the song featured a building tension between acoustic and electric guitars that effectively reflected the mood of the lyrics.

Though Def Leppard was the main attraction, there was plenty of other music-making going on throughout a sun-drenched day filled with an eclectic lineup of artists. San Francisco pop-rockers Train weighed in with an enjoyable set highlighted by frontman Pat Monahan's engaging presence and interpretive powers on selections such as "Meet Virginia," a syncopated, jazz-tinged musical portrait of an idiosyncratic, rugged individualist from the group's self-titled 1999 debut.

Train struck gold with their sophomore effort, particularly on the title tune "Drops of Jupiter," a luminous look at the fiery, first-blush passion of romantic love.

Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch's music boasts a sophistication well beyond her years. Her songs run the gamut from midtempo tunes like "You Get Me" to the hard-edged rocker "Everywhere," and all were delivered with remarkable poise and self-assurance for one so young.

India Arie's too-brief set reflected a more acoustic influence, ranging from the percussive beat of "Strength, Courage and Wisdom" to the melodic "Promises," with a bluesy take on Gershwin's "Summertime" thrown in for good measure.

By Kansas City Star 2002.


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