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Thursday, 27th February 2003

London/Brixton, England - Media Reviews

Def Leppard @ Brixton Academy By Gavin H

You know the bit in Men In Black, where the old guy (Tommy Lee Jones' original partner) realises he's a bit past it and the reins are subsequently handed over to the younger, somewhat fresher model (Will Smith)? Well, as I arrive at the Brixton Academy, it feels as though this concert has all the makings of being the musical version of that scenario.

Vintage rockers Def Leppard have been treading the boards for some 24 years now and nobody would forgive them if they suddenly decided to call it a day and pass the gauntlet on to new blood. Tonight's support act, The Darkness, would happily take up that offer, but if the old hands have anything to do with it, they'll soldier on for a good few more years yet.

I'd like to take this opportunity to express my feelings of discontent about the Brixton Academy staff. Having waited in the guest list queue for 25 minutes, watching the standard queue disappear into the building, I finally get to the door to collect my photo pass, only to be told it isn't there.

As I make a phone call to find out if it's definitely been left for me, several others are turned away, all of whom are adamant that their actual tickets are awaiting them. The doorman's answer to these dejected people is "we've got literally 300 tickets to look through here and they're all over the place". When I'm turned away for a second time I ask him why it's so difficult to find people's tickets/passes, surely they're in alphabetical order of people's surname. Apparently "it's not as simple as that mate". Well clearly, sir, you are!

Before I can argue any longer I hear The Darkness take to the stage, so give up on my photo pass and make my way into the venue. This is the third time I've seen this band perform live and it's no secret that I think they are fantastic. The hardcore Def Leppard fans warm to the music and the flamboyant stage antics of frontman Justin Hawkins, whose choice of attire tonight is pink leather trousers and a pale pink T-shirt.

By the third song, The Best Of Me, the audience have taken to clapping in time to the music and the warm applause that follows is taken with appreciative, though somewhat surprised smirks from the band. New single Get Your Hands Off My Woman goes down a storm and Justin leaves the stage momentarily, only to return in a leopard-skin catsuit. The guy is a genius, and one of the best frontmen I have ever seen. How many other people can you name who could fit guitar playing behind head, flexing and kissing of one's biceps and countless scissor kicks in the space of a half-hour set?

Debut single I Believe In A Thing Called Love draws the set towards the end, before an extended version of B-Side Love On The Rocks (With No Ice) brings the house down, with Justin riding through the crowd aloft one of the crew's shoulders. So, with the newcomers flying high, just how do the experienced chaps better that?

Well, for a start they burst on to the stage with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and the response from the crowd shows that they are clearly up for it. Def Leppard always were the Iron Maiden that your mum quite liked, thanks to a whole arsenal of ballady rock numbers. The acoustic Two Steps Behind and new tracks You're So Beautiful and Long Long Way To Go are all greeted with large amounts of swaying and smiling faces and as I look around the crowd I'm surprised to see that, at 26, I'm by no means the youngest person here.

An hour into the set and I find myself enjoying it a lot more than I expected. Recent single Now rocks - big time, while Hysteria and the tongue'n'cheek Make Love Like A Man remind me how of when I used to listen to the band constantly during my college years.

The best part of the set, by far, comes in the final third, which is dedicated to the old classics. Pour Some Sugar On Me, Animal, Armageddon It, Rock Of Ages and a blistering 10 minute version of Rocket bring the show to an incredible climax and there's still just enough time for their biggest hit When Love And Hate Collide before they say their farewells and disappear backstage.

So, the verdict is that, whist they might have added a few inches to the old waistlines and the odd wrinkle to their faces, Def Leppard still know how to rock and set a fine example to the youngsters. As for The Darkness, they surely have all of that to come and hopefully at least 24 years of it too.

By Gavin H 2003.

Def Leppard @ Brixton Academy By Marqvas

This past Thursday night I went down to the Brixton Academy to see Def Leppard complete the UK tour in support of their latest release 'X'. The academy is synonymous with all that is musical and you name the greats and they've all probably played there.

Def Leppard presented a tight uncomplicated package of hits. Tracks from my favourite Pyromania through Hysteria through to their latest release 'X'. A jam packed Academy were on their feet from the first bar and for two hours Def Leppard had the audience eating from their palms. Me on the other hand was not so easily taken. Lets take a quick review of the situation. Nice venue, which allows for a good view of the stage. Good lighting rig used well and a nice sound that was not a distorting sludge fest like some other venues around the corner. A top quality act that have sold literally billions of albums and have had more hits than brain cells.

Yes, they worked the audience well with a mix of hard rock delights like Foolin' to an acoustical jam on tracks like Two Step Behind. (Mention must be made of bassist Rick Savage who must be the coolest looking bassist one can have in a band).

So what's the problem? I can't help feeling that they lost the plot after Pyromania and changed from a Heavy Rock act into a bubblegum Pop Rock outfit churning out the same sounding chewable "recyclable ballady type poppycock. Yes, the eighties to be in you had to show versatility with a cool ballad but shit Sherlock regurgetation is for cows!

The 'X' release is a watered down viscous of Hysteria and Euphoria = We Bore Ya - To me real 'Def Leppard' is when they're 'High N Dry whilst travelling On Through the Night suffering from Pyromania.

By Marqvas 2003.

Def Leppard @ Brixton Academy By James Ritter

When did gigs stop being fun?? Your writer went to see Oasis at Finsbury Park over the summer and found the whole experience ugly, boorish and ultimately very boring - is this what rock 'n' roll is about these days?? Is this the sum of our progression??

Hold the phone!! Jaded gig-goer has epiphany, of all things, at a Def Leppard concert, of all places!!! Sadly, it wasn't the Lep-sters who inspired him to write his first review for ages, but four young men from the UK who go by the name of The Darkness.

Take all of the best but most-neglected elements from rock history: bandanas, guitar solos (lots of them), high fives, men sounding like women when they sing, ass-shaking; add them all together with youth, spunk and a REAL sense of humour and you get the most refreshing gig experience since Guns 'N' Roses went all pompous on our asses.

Yes, The Darkness are camp, silly and quite possibly taking the piss but at the same time they can solo like Satan himself blessed them with the skills of Eddie Van Halan, they know how to put on a SHOW (High point of set: the singer walking through the crowd on the shoulders of his roadie WHILST soloing and then taking a fag of an audience member - and continuing to solo) and they have the tunes; all of which, by the way, sound like they would have made it on to Appetite For Destruction: I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Love On The Rocks (With No Ice) and the band's own Sweet Child O' Mine, Love Is Only A Feeling.

If you ever sit at home and long for the good old days of stadium rock, bands that have more than one idea for their songs and leaving a gig with a smile on your face, then The Darkness are for you.

All of this return to 'classic rock' traditions should have made Def Leppard prepare for a second wind as kings of rock in the UK - and when they stomp onstage in a blur of big lights and (still quite) big hair, you could almost believe it's true - the bassist has an eighties style headset and his mum's blouse on, the one-arm drummer plays drum solos (how??) and Joe Elliott - ummm. looks a bit too much like Widow Twanky after extra Ginsters.

Yes, time has been hard on the once stadium filling lads from Sheffield, and whilst they do manage to pull off the moves and please their (now pretty old) audience, you get the feeling that maybe they shouldn't be up there - especially when the predictable Here's a song from our new album!! brings barely disguised groans from the crowd and the lack of hits frankly brings your writer down to earth with a large bump. So, rock music might be back, but let the lesson learned from tonight's show be: don't take yourselves too seriously and rock is never, ever out of the question.

By James Ritter @ Dripfed 2003.

Def Leppard @ Brixton Academy By J Ritchie

First up, former Almighty front man Ricky Warwick, who was playing a solo acoustic spot. Not bad but just like a pub singer really - nothing special and not a tune remained in my head after the gig. His debut album maybe worth a look as Joe Elliott is listed as the producer.

The Darkness have been the object of much hype in the rock press - a camp heavy metal band as Classic Rock magazine named them! They started off with a Quo like boogie riff before the vocalist, dressed in a fetching pink jumpsuit, started his highly-strung vocals. A mixture of Geddy Lee meets Jon Anderson with the stage moves of the late, great Freddie Mercury! The music is classic heavy rock but the thing that will make or break the band are the highly pitched vocals - hard to explain unless you hear them first hand. Not a bad set but those vocals are something else.

Def Leppard took to the stage in a mass of lights and a packed audience full of loyal fans. Let It Go started off their set in fine style. All the classics were there including Photograph, Foolin', Rocket, Promises, Bringin' On The Heartbreak and Animal. Even the classic Sweet cover Action was aired and boy does the band rock out on this! Newer tracks are represented by Now and the forthcoming UK single Long Long Way To Go. The acoustic spot featured Two Steps Behind, which has become a firm favourite from the Retroactive album. A great concert - the heaviest I've ever seen them play - with a good mix of songs. Quality melodic rock from a band that just gets better with age - come back soon!

By J Ritchie 2003.


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