New Orleans, LA - Media Reviews
The grunge offensive began its capture upon the world of popular music in 1991. Due in large part to MTV’s Headbanger's Ball, heavy metal had reigned for many halcyon years. The appearance of earnest and less flamboyant rockers such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Nirvana heralded doom for the majority of the rockers out there. Except Def Leppard. Amazingly they were neither shunned by MTV nor banished from arenas. Originally inspired by Frank Sinatra, they famously performed in the round on a revolving stage during their 1992/1993 Adrenalize tour. Demand was such that they even visited some markets twice.
A brief history: Drummer Rick Allen’s left arm was amputated after a freak car accident New Year’s Eve of 1984. Founding guitarist Steve Clark died at age 30 after ingesting a lethal combination of alcohol and drugs in 1991. The Sheffield quintet seemed jinxed. Tragedy had severely marred them. Yet their credibility and relevance have remained firmly intact throughout the duration of a nearly three-decade career. Unfortunately, their physical appearance has led some critics to place them within the "hair metal" sub genre; however, the quality and consistency of their recorded output places them in a more hallowed league. Durable songs and dedicated fans render them legends. Few albums are certified with Diamond Status indicating 10 million units sold. Def Leppard have two such albums: 1983’s Pyromania and the 1987 behemoth Hysteria. They share this rank with Pink Floyd, the Beatles, AC/DC and Michael Jackson.
Queen’s "We Will Rock You" prophetically blares aloud while the house lights invariably dim. Darkness overwhelms the arena and the Leps assume their places within the very same venue that hosted them on both the Hysteria and Adrenalize tours many years ago. Thick red lights emanate from ahigh and lower vertically throughout the audience, reminding fans of the signature laser beams from the Hysteria tour. Lead singer Joe Elliot, bassist Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell open the show with Retroactive’s "Action." Looking just as handsome as he did in 1987 when he enraptured the world with his mullet and shredded jeans, Elliot sings a boastful promise: Everybody wants a piece of the action / Everybody needs a main attraction / I got what everybody needs / Satisfaction guarantee.
"Oh yeah, New Orleans! Do you wanna get rocked?" Elliot roars as black curtains unfold, revealing two overhead film screens. Throughout the night, assorted photographs and video images from the band’s past are broadcast overhead. "Do You Wanna Get Rocked?" is the only tracked performed tonight from the Adrenalize album. It is followed by Hysteria’s version of Creation, "Women." Def Leppard are known just as much for their signature backing vocals as they are for their signature lead vocals. Savage, Allen, Collen and Campbell form a characteristic and unmistakable heavy metal choir on the majority of Leppard tracks.
"Good evening to you all. How are ya? It’s great to be back. It’s been a long time, way too long actually. [Last night] we enjoyed your hospitality on Bourbon Street and other places of ill repute," Elliot interjects. After "Promises," the only track played from 1999’s Euphoria, Elliot expands upon the band’s absence: "[It’s been] twelve years since we played here which is way too long really. Sorry about that but we’re here at last. We are celebrating something here. We are celebrating 25 years since we came to the States." Ostensibly, the Leppards are touring in support of their latest endeavor: Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection. With many "greatest hits" compilations there is often a new track added to the mix. One such track on Rock Of Ages is Badfinger’s "No Matter What," which they consequently perform in addition to informing the multitude of their intention to eventually release a covers record. The audience joins the Leppard choir during fan favorites "Love Bites" and the apocalyptic rockin’ love song "Armageddon It."
"For the next four minutes we are inviting you to join the band." Elliot invites the audience to sing along during "Two Steps Behind," the second track performed from Retroactive. Hysteria’s "Gods of War" follows with images of various political leaders broadcast overhead such as George Bush, Sr., Margaret Thatcher, Adolph Hitler, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and many others. An ominous fog of dry ice engulfs the stage, perhaps symbolic of the band’s stance on war.
The surge of hits continues with two odes played in succession. During "Rocket," the boys pay homage to their glam rock predecessors such as David Bowie, Elton John, and Queen. They wax ecstatic during their monster hit "Photograph," the ultimate Marilyn Monroe tribute. Sorry Elton! Elliot is ironic on the next song introduction: "It sounds a bit weird to say this but this next song is the title track from our new album." Thus begins the outré intro to the biblically titled "Rock of Ages." Gunter glieben glauchen globen!! This is apparently the finale as the lads spend a lengthy amount of time saying their goodbyes, earnestly looking many fans directly in the eye. For a moment their earnestness appears final and we suffer a glimmer of dread that they actually might not come back on stage.
Collen dons his signature glow in the dark Bela Lugosi guitar for the last song, "Pour Some Sugar On Me," the track that launched the Leppard’s global dominion. Elliot’s early boasts during "Action" ring true as there are no dissatisfied souls in the house. His last words to the audience are decidedly more humble: "Do us a big favor. Don’t forget us and we won’t forget you." Queen ushered the evening in and rightfully another of their tracks provides the show’s coda: "We Are The Champions."
Joe Elliot conjured up the band’s name during art class while still in school. The band had originally been called Atomic Mass. Based on one of his drawings of a leopard with no ears, the guys selected the moniker Deaf Leopard. They later changed the spelling to Def Leppard, so it would appear more Led Zeppelin-esque.
There are many similarities between these two influential groups: sexy and charismatic lead singers, kick ass axemen, and infamous backstage debauchery, carousing, and decadence. Both redefined the musical stylings of their respective decades. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were both undeniable forces in the history of rock music. Apart from the fact that Led Zeppelin disbanded, there really is only one difference between the two. Led Zeppelin were never this much fun!.
By Mish Mash Magazine 2005.
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