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Sunday, 23rd September 2007

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard rocks for the memories By Steve Fryer

The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater "house band" almost sold out the place, with no new product to push other than some T-shirts that really weren't very new, either.

Def Leppard played, by this count, its seventh show at Verizon on Sunday, going back to the late 1980s when it was called Irvine Meadows. The venue, which is practically their second home, had only a few terrace seats empty and 75 percent of the lawn was occupied.

Sure, having popular bands like Foreigner and Styx on the bill and some discounted lawn packages helped push ticket sales. But the headliner still has to deliver and Def Leppard did so, thus explaining how it can get a big crowd on its feet and keep it there for more than 90 minutes, even 20 years after the band reached its popularity peak.

They don't have a new album in the stores; "Yeah" is Def Leppard's most-recent record, released in May 2006. They don't even have a newer hits package out (and with three of those available already, there is no need for another).

This is a just-get-out-there-and-play-the-hits tour. Def Leppard followed the plan by emphasizing their megaselling "Hysteria" album of 1987. Their first three songs Sunday were off of that one - "Rocket" kicked it off, followed by "Animal" and "Excitable," the latter long overdue to be played on stage. Later, Def Leppard pulled from "Hysteria" "Love Bites," the album's title track, "Armageddon It," and finished the regular set with, of course, "Pour Some Sugar On Me."

"Two Steps Behind" was played, as it has a connection to Verizon. As Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott said, it was recorded at the place in 1993. He did not mention, though, that it was played twice that night because some recording equipment did not work on the first take.

Highlights were "Foolin'," "Another Hit And Run," and the instrumental "Switch 625," which followed right on the heels of "Bringin' On The Heartbreak" just like it does on the "High And Dry" album. The dual guitar attack of Phil Collen and Viv Campbell, the best thing about a Def Leppard show, was especially hot on those songs.

Elliott was in better form than he was here last summer, when his voice was raspy and lacked power. His voice was clear and strong this time, although it too-often was buried under the guitar-heavy mix.

Rick Allen continues to be a marvel on drums. He lost his left arm in a car accident more than 20 years ago, but makes up for it with the most active feet in the drumming business. He sounds like any other very good drummer.

Overall, the guys played with a lot of energy and commitment, which is impressive given that they play the exact same 16 songs in the exact same order night after night on this tour, if the setlists provided by defleppard.com are accurate. It's hard to believe that cannot become mundane, playing the same songs in the same order, after a couple of months of it. But Def Leppard plays like this is all fairly fresh for them.

And as long as we are discussing setlists. Reviewers love making setlist suggestions, so let's give it a go here. Drop "Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)," one of the weaker songs from "High And Dry," and replace it with "Me And My Wine" from that album. The only song played Sunday from "Yeah" was "Rock On," but there so many other better ones from that gem-laden covers disc, including "20th Century Boy" and their fine version of "Waterloo Sunset."

If you wanted hits, you got them from Foreigner and Styx, which preceded Def Leppard at this classic-rock extravaganza.

Foreigner might be foreign to somebody who had not seen the band in a long time. Mick Jones is the only remaining original member, but he started the group and it's always been his band so that's OK. They opened with an energetic "Double Vision" and kept the crowd singing along to staples "Cold As Ice" and "Juke Box Hero," the latter which included a taste of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

Styx these days is more rocking than you might remember. They set the tone with a toughened-up "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" and finished with a similarly hard-edged "Renegade." In between were good versions of "Come Sail Away" and "Too Much Time On My Hands."

If you are a Styx fan at all, you should see them these days. It's also an inspirational moment whenever founding member Chuck Panozzo gets on stage and plays bass or guitar with the band, which he did for a few songs Sunday. Panozzo plays and looks great for a man who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1998 and had prostate cancer surgery in 2003.

It was an entertaining night at Verizon Wireless, which might be starting to show its age. The colors of the seats are starting to get washed out by years of exposure to the sun. But they're still comfortable enough.

Oh, and instruct your vendors that when they are carrying those big boxes of lemonade on their hips and they exit one row to step down to the lower row, they should be careful to make a wider turn so those boxes don't hit the back of the head of the guy occupying the aisle seat. Thank you.

By Orange County Register 2007.


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