home > tour history > 2011 > irvine > Media Reviews

Saturday, 10th September 2011

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

Fans enjoy classic rock at Jack FM show in Irvine By George A. Paul | Link 2

Art Alexakis stood onstage Saturday during Jack’s 6th Show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and gave props to other acts on the bill. Then Everclear's frontman stated what could easily serve as the retro radio station's new slogan: "Doesn't matter whether it's from the '70s, '80s or '90s - if the music rocks, it rocks." That might be a wiser choice. Although Jack FM/93.1 still uses its original catchphrase "playing what we want" and shuffles between alternative, rock, pop and rap crossover genres, if you listen long enough you'll eventually hear some of the same songs repeated.

Besides Everclear, Saturday's eight-hour concert in Irvine featured headliner Def Leppard, Heart, Dramarama, Marcy Playground, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Evan Watson, M80s and Metal Shop, although unlike in previous years, most of the roster was relegated to the side stage, near the main concourse entrance. Def Leppard and Heart - who are currently touring together and just played Gibson Amphitheatre - had dibs on the main stage.

Yet Def Leppard was hampered by a muddy, bass-heavy mix that tended to overwhelm their trademark group vocal chants, though that didn't stop enthusiastic reactions from the large party-hearty audience.

Brawny anthem "Undefeated" kicked off an otherwise engaging 90-minute set, as images of Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Michael Phelps and other inspirational figures appeared on large LED screens and stairs. It's one of three solid new studio tracks on the British hard-rock band's three-disc Mirror Ball - Live & More collection, available exclusively at Walmart (fans should also check out the brilliant Queen-styled "Kings of the World").

Disc 2 of that set basically follows what transpired in O.C., so the song order hasn't changed much since the last tour. Smoky-voiced singer Joe Elliott even prompts a California crowd at one point on Mirror Ball; he did a decent vocal job throughout this Jack gig, despite avoiding some high notes.

Shirtless lead guitarist and Laguna Hills resident Phil Collen displayed his fine guitar prowess on an eye-catching array of colorful Jackson electric axes. An extended "Rocket" found him making windmill motions and trading off solos with Vivian Campbell. Following a mercifully short bass solo by Rick Savage, the band's frequent live remake of David Essex's '70s hit "Rock On" was slinky and suited them well (though something else from 2006's covers album Yeah! would have been a nice change of pace).

An acoustic segment, during which Elliott and the musicians headed out to a T-shaped stage extension and dedicated the ballad "Two Steps Behind" to "the lost heroes of 9/11," was a standout. The partially stripped-down "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" started great until the transition back to electric meant more overwhelming bass. The infectious "Armageddon It," the haunting build-up of "Foolin'" and the hard-hitting instrumental "Switch 625" were other highlights.

Last year, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart put out Red Velvet Car, their first studio album in six years. With acoustic-based textures and a mature rock sound, it touches upon their '70s heyday, yet only the freaky "WTF" (yes, it stands for what you think) was aired at the Jack show. The rest of the performance found the ladies in mostly robust vocal form and getting an overwhelming response, including for their trademark Led Zeppelin (the fierce "Rock and Roll" to open; a baroque handling of "The Battle of Evermore" for the first encore) and Who numbers (an ultra-dramatic "Love Reign O'er Me" was the final closer).

Then there was an ample dose of classic rock radio staples: Ann's trills were feisty on "Magic Man," "Heartless" boasted a pile-driving crunch, "Straight On" was unadulterated sexuality. Although the glossy '80s pop hits ("What About Love," "Alone") were dialed back a bit, Ann still whipped herself into a frenzy. Meanwhile, a mandolin and flute-infused "These Dreams" was gorgeous; "Crazy on You" and "Barracuda" packed quite a punch, too.

Earlier in the day, tribute band M80s shakily played covers of the Romantics, the Cure, the Buggles, Rick Springfield, Kim Wilde and more to early arrivals.

New York City's Marcy Playground achieved success with its 1997 debut disc, but the post-grunge trio's recent works - 2009's solid Leaving Wonderland ... In a Fit of Rage and last year's ambitious remix album - are far more interesting. Here, the unassuming group excelled on those songs (the insistent "Star Baby," piercing "Devil Woman") while familiar alt-rock hits ("Sex and Candy," "Saint Joe on the School Bus") were just satisfactory.

Dramarama plays this area a few times a year, but hadn't done a major radio festival locally since KROQ's Inland Invasion in 2003. Despite a brief power outage that halted their set shortly after it began, the L.A. rock band's supercharged set still blew everyone else on the side stage away. Singer and longtime La Habra resident John Easdale mentioned that the group's follow up to 2005's Everybody Dies is recorded, though it has no firm release date yet. More than 25 years after forming, "It's really exciting to still be doing this. It's not what you'd expect," he admitted.

Walking onstage with a Tab cola in hand and wearing a black cowboy hat, Easdale epitomized cool. Everyone onstage worked up quite a sweat. An urgent "Some Crazy Dame" opened the set as lead guitarist Mark Englert engaged in the first of several wild man solos. "Prayer," a cautionary tale centered on drugs, and a second attempt at the melancholy rocker "Scenario" were equally intense.

The crowd packed in front of the stage perked up at the start of the driving alt-rock hit "Work for Food," during which Englert was all over the stage and playfully interacted with bassist Mike Davis. Never letting up, "Try Five Times" was a quick bluesy romp and the powerfully chaotic "Last Cigarette" found Easdale replacing its old Johnny Carson line with Jimmy Kimmel. Finally, "Anything Anything" had fans pogoing right along as Easdale spit out the anguished lyrics of the group's best-known song, with Tony Snow bashing away on drums and Englert impressing with more careening riffs.

Later, even Alexakis admitted that Dramarama kicked butt. Everclear dealt with poor wavering sound, so the band's ramshackle set was erratic. The gregarious Alexakis nearly overcame those problems by telling stories and recalling things he loves about living in Southern California. An acoustic cover of Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" was iffy, but "Heroin Girl" retained the old punkish spirit, while the pop-ish "Heartspark Dollarsign" came off strongly. "Everything to Everyone," "Wonderful" and "Santa Monica" were all vibrant singalongs, even if you couldn't hear everything onstage.

By OC Register 2011.

Concert Review: Def Leppard's Phil Collen and Joe Elliott By Dan Harr

Over the last several years, I've come to the realization that nostalgia-minded music festivals bring out crowds more interested in drinking beer (or alcohol of any variety), shooting photos of pals with their cellphones and generally just taking advantage of any excuse to party.

Such was mostly the case at Jack's 6th Show, an annual event held at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The good news was despite the casual attitude of the majority of the less-than-capacity crowd, there was some solid music making courtesy of Def Leppard, Heart, Dramarama and Marcy Playground.

Best known for their 1997 hit "Sex and Candy," Marcy Playground performed that hit and other solid original rock during a nine-song set. In truth, while the fans responded loudest when the trio out of NYC played "Sex and Candy" near the end of their 30-minute outing, other songs outdistanced that; the indie rocker "Poppies" and Nirvana-styled "Saint Joe on the School Bus" were decidedly more powerful.

Singer-songwriter John Easdale led Dramarama through a mighty performance, even overcoming a power failure that silenced the quintet's music making only two songs into their all-too-brief set.

"We broke the system," Easdale joked.

The good news is that Dramarama was ultimately able to start playing again, performing that song ("Scenario") and many others with a fiery style highlighted by "Prayer," "Work for Food" and "Last Cigarette." The ferocious performance of "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" ended a 30-minute set celebrating one of the 1980s' unsung alternative rock heroes.

There is nothing necessarily wrong Everclear, although I admit to never having been a big fan of the outfit. I had reviewed Art Alexakis and company several times before seeing them perform on Saturday and I found the group's best-known hits ("Father of Mine," "I Will Buy You a New Life") still don't resonate with me. What's worse is that Alexakis' voice was croaky and by the time the band got to the breezy, reggae-tinged "Wonderful" (my favorite song by Everclear) nine songs into the 10-song set, it was a painful listen. Don't even get me started on his flat acoustic version of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" a few songs before that.

When the action shifted over to the main stage at Irvine Meadows - oops - Verizon Wireless - singer-songwriter-guitarist Evan Watson took the stage to offer up a short set of acoustic blues. His voice was not especially effective, with his set reaching its zenith when Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell joined him on the stage for a cover of the Prince classic "Purple Rain."

Thankfully, there were a couple of good acts on the way to keep the party crowd and even us few discerning listeners happy.

Heart, featuring sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, offered up plenty of firepower over the course of an appearance stretching just over an hour. From the opening salvo, a straight-ahead cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" to new material ("WTF" from the group’s 2010 effort Red Velvet Car) and an assortment of '70s and '80s hits, the crowd was given frequent reasons to cheer. "Barracuda," "Heartless," "Crazy On You" and "Magic Man" showcased Ann's still-powerful soprano, while Nancy's rhythm guitar work and work on the mandolin (notably on "These Dreams") was as impressive as her fantastic harmony vocals - all of which really helped elevate the set.

Heart's encore featured the one-two punch of Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" and the Who's epic "Love Reign O'er Me."

Headlining was Def Leppard, who turned in a fantastic, heavy-on-the-hits 90-minute showcase; the only downer being the bass mix that made everything sound a bit muddy. In fact, sometimes the lead guitar solos just didn't sound as mighty as they should have. I'm not the first to note this; writer George A. Paul also wrote this in his review that ran on the Soundcheck blog.

The performance was solid, with Joe Elliott and his long-time band mates belting out hits like "Let's Get Rocked," "Hysteria" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." A strong lighting component and effective visuals projected on large screens added to the show, notably during the opening "Undefeated" (a new song featured on Def Leppard's recently-issued Mirror Ball - Live & More collection).

Guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell offered up plenty of flashy solos, with Campbell shining on "Love Bites" and Collen's fretwork shining on "Photograph" and "Foolin'."

The most emotional part of the show came when Def Leppard paid tribute on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Performing an acoustic-styled "Two Steps Behind," the group then remained on a small stage that was positioned out in the crowd. After playing that poignant song, the ensemble performed "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" with acoustic guitars most of the way, before Collen and Campbell were handed electric guitars to bring the classic home in full electric glory.

By Music News Nashville 2011.


share this page:

get def leppard news

Stay in touch with the latest updates.

explore def leppard tour history
All News
Tour News
Album News
All Tours