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Tuesday, 28th June 2005

Portland, ME - Media Reviews

Def Leppard stays true to roots, rocks out By Aimsel L. Ponti

The road trip to promote their new best-of collection, "Rock of Ages," brought Def Leppard to Portland on Tuesday night.

They've played the Civic Center several times over the years and the fans still show up in droves. Although it was far from a sellout, everyone there was charged up and seemed to enjoy the 18-song extravaganza put on by singer Joe Elliott and the rest of the band. Vivian Campbell traded guitar licks with Phil Collen while Rick Savage handled bass duties. Drummer Rick Allen rounded out the band.

After Tesla opened the show with an impressive 45-minute set laden with their own hits, Def Leppard took over just before 9. Elliott walked on stage in black leather pants and a sleeveless button-down shirt and did what he's done thousands of times before, picked up his microphone stand and went to work.

Tearing into "Action" and then "Let's Get Rocked," DL lit up the room with their tight playing, signature power harmonies and songs that were born in the '80s. Four songs in they played "Foolin' " That's when I decided to take out my earplugs and join the living.

Old footage of the band was projected on a large screen behind the stage and we saw flashes of some pretty scary haircuts.

Worthy of note are the two cover songs that Def Leppard played. First was Badfinger's "No Matter What," which is on the "Rock of Ages" collection as a teaser for the all-covers record coming out sometime this fall. The other was another '70s gem, David Essex's "Rock on." Both were hits with the audience.

Fans also showed their appreciation for "Love Bites," during which I saw a guy in a row behind me play a mean air guitar. Def Leppard also unplugged for a song when they did "Two Steps Behind." With little encouragement the crowd was enlisted to sing backup vocals and passed the test with flying colors. Soon after, Elliott was tossed something pink and satiny by a female fan. He quipped, "I can't believe in 2005 I'm still getting these thrown up to me."

But unlike the over-the-top decadence of the Motley Crue show earlier this year, Def Leppard's focus was on delivering a rock show and not a rock spectacle. So there were no scantily clad women dancing on stage and no motorcycles. What we did get was song after song of classic Def Leppards music through the years. We were transported to the early years of MTV through the songs "Photograph" and encore song "Bringin' on the Heartache." The fans, mostly in the 30-45 range, loved every minute of it.

The final song of the night was perhaps their best-known. Even people who aren't necesarily familiar with Def Leppard or their place in rock 'n' roll history know "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and they poured a lot of it on us for sure.

But I go back to an earlier song from their set to really capture the essence of the evening. To quote from "Rock of Ages," "I want rock 'n' roll, long live rock 'n' roll." That was what we came for and that was what Def Leppard gave us. Born in the '80s, they are still around, and they most definitely still rock.

By Maine Today 2005.


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