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Friday, 29th July 2005

St. Paul, MN - Media Reviews

1980s power-ballad acts make for nostalgic night By Chris Riemenschneider

A review of Friday night's doubleheader concert with Def Leppard and Bryan Adams at Midway Stadium in St. Paul might read like the evening's weather report: pleasant, breezy, mild, lukewarm.

Two of rock's biggest hitmakers of the '80s -- before being tossed aside in the '90s along with acid-washed jeans -- pulled off something of a comeback. The concert drew close to 13,000 people, about 1,000 more than American icons Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson did three weeks earlier.

Both of Friday's acts were out to please their rediscovered masses in the easiest manner possible. That much was certain after they each wheeled out their ultra-sappy power ballads -- you know, the kind of songs that every Top 40 rock band of the '80s put out to attract to teenage girls to buy their records. For Adams, it was "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" and "Heaven." For Def Lep, "Love Bites." The key word here is "bites."

There was plenty of other cheese to go with the ballpark fare: Adams led the crowd through what seemed like 45 minutes of na-na-nas during "Cuts Like a Knife"; the Leppard guys strutted out on stage to Queen's "We Will Rock You" as if they've taken over as Britain's kings of metal.

From a sentimental standpoint, though, Def Leppard was hard to resist. Arguably the band with the saddest episode of VH1's "Behind the Music," they drew on their survivor instinct with fist-pumping hits like "Rock of Ages,"Rocket,"Photograph" and "Foolin'." Singer Joe Elliott can still wail out many of the old notes, but guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell ("the new guy") hit most of the show's highs.

"It's been 25 years since we first came to America," Elliott said. "Usually, of all the gigs we play, this [city] comes in at least the top two."

It's probably a line said in every town, but the version of Badfinger's "No Matter What" that followed localized it a little (Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland lives in the Twin Cities). One thing you can give Adams credit for is his unchanged, no-frills manner. The Canadian singer still looks, acts and sounds like your favorite big brother. He was at his most basic Friday night, with a straight-ahead band whose members dressed in T-shirts and jeans and even had matching short haircuts. As simple as the band's wardrobe, the versions of heartland rockers like "Summer of '69" and "Somebody" fit the summertime vibe perfectly.

Too bad Adams didn't play more of those instead of "Everything I Do." He even defended its schmaltz with an uncharacteristically bitter, impolite introduction of the song based off a local critic's panning of it back in the early '90s. Adams' message to the critic: "I'd like to say it from 15 years later: Stick it up your ... ." That also could be a line said in every city on the tour.

By Star Tribune 2005.

A Def touch By Ross Raihala

An '80s band with staying power, Def Leppard plays with confidence, polish and undeniable pop-metal muscle in a doubleheader with rocker Bryan Adams. With Motley Crüe enjoying its most prosperous year since the first Bush administration and the reunited Iron Maiden and Judas Priest also doing big business, '80s metal bands haven't had it this good since, well, the '80s.

But even though they indulged in the hairspray and tight trousers, Def Leppard always was a different beast. Less threatening and more melodic, band members were more the children of Bowie than of Sabbath. Plus, girls liked them.

Def Leppard also never really went away. The band's lineup remains essentially the same as for 1983's breakthrough "Pyromania," minus deceased guitarist Steve Clark and drummer Rick Allen's left arm. Yeah, they don't draw like they once did, but the band always has managed to maintain arena-sized audiences somewhere in the world.

That's why they played Friday's night concert at Midway Stadium, in front of about 13,000 ecstatic fans, with confidence, polish and undeniable pop-metal muscle. Only lead singer Joe Elliott's voice showed any serious signs of age, but given the unsubtle material - "Let's Get Rocked," "Rock On," "Rocket" - it was easy to forgive.

The amiable crowd certainly didn't care. The breezy, warm evening helped foster the good vibes, too, as did the loose, chummy feel of the outdoor baseball stadium. This was an audience ready to remember, not necessarily relive, their wild youth.

Save for a few selections from the band's coming album of covers - like Badfinger's likable classic "No Matter What" - Def Leppard stuck to the hits. The ballad "Love Bites" may well be the definitive power ballad, and crunchier songs like "Foolin'" and "Photograph" hold up remarkably well.

The band is sharing the tour with Bryan Adams, another '80s rocker with a largely female following. He was on first - they swap headlining duties each night - and played all the numbers the fans wanted ("Cuts Like a Knife," "Heaven") and a few they didn't, which was anything from his new album.

Along the way, Adams invited a few fans onstage to sing with him - a cue for many to hit the endlessly long beer and portable toilet lines. He also told an amusing, and probably apocryphal, story about how an unnamed Twin Cities rock critic trashed his teeth-grindingly awful ballad "(Everything I Do) I Do it for You" in a live review 15 years ago, just before the song went on to become his biggest hit.

Oh Bryan, I bet you say that to all your crowds.

By Pioneer Press 2005.


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