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Monday, 2nd July 2012

Cincinnati, OH - Media Reviews

Rock for any age shines at Def Leppard show By Garin Pirnia

Two renowned hair metal bands of the '80s arrived back at Riverbend Monday night for an encore performance of last year's Rock of Ages tour. Of course, this had absolutely nothing to do with the Rock of Ages Broadway show and recent film - it's just a name of one of Def Leppard's earliest hits.

For both bands, it was an opportunity to showcase their greatest songs. Poison just celebrated 26 years of albums and Leppard remarked their first record came out 32 years ago . Despite poring over mainly decades-old material, Poison and Leppard made their hits sound timeless.

Poison opened the night with a set festooned with skulls, a purple and neon green color scheme and pyrotechnic smoke. The two-tiered stage platform had stairs, which enabled lead singer Bret Michaels to easily bounce around.

After getting the masses to wave their hands to "Ride the Wind," he mentioned how he performed his number one hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" the previous night at Paul Brown Stadium with Kenny Chesney.

He dedicated the next song, a cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band," to the men and women in the Armed Forces. This would be the first of several dedications to the troops along with drummer Rikki Rockett at one point wearing patriotic garb.

Michaels pulled out his harmonica and stated, "This is where it all started for me" and played "American" followed by another hit cover, "Your Mama Don't Dance." For about five minutes or longer, guitarist C.C. DeVille did a lengthy guitar solo and then drummer Rockett did his solo. It sounded good but just seemed like gratuitous filler that sucked momentum away from the show.

"Every Rose" came near the end with a self-aware Michaels adding, "A very dramatic acoustic guitar ending is coming 'atcha." During the penultimate "Talk Dirty to Me," Rockett had a penchant for flipping his sticks in a very cool manner that carried over to the last song "Nothin' But a Good Time."

Poison might've had some decent hits in their time, but they couldn't compete with progenitor Def Leppard who knew how to open their own show with histrionics.

Four monitors above the stage screened footage of the band, while four of the five members lined up atop the platform with drummer Rick Allen centered between the staircases. Elliott walked down the steps and started singing "Undefeated," a fairly new track from last year's "Mirror Ball: Live and More" album.

Elliott gripped his glittery mic stand and egged the crowd to throw their hands in the air. Audience members made rock hand signs and snapped photos with their phones. Akin to Poison, Leppard culled from their most popular albums: their breakthrough "Pyromania," "Hysteria" and the '90s "Adrenalize." "Let it Go" from their sophomore record "High 'n' Dry" was the oldest song they played, and "It's All About Believin'" from "Mirror" was one of the newest songs the band performed.

Songs like "Animal" and "Love Bites" were enhanced with visuals and bassist Rick Savage posturing on the scaffold while he railed on his instrument against screams of approval. Elliott showed his allegiance to the U.K. with a t-shirt adorned in the Union Jack . When the first set ended, the same flag showed up on the monitors, contrasting Poison's American sentiments.

The best part of the evening came when the quintet, armed with acoustic guitars and a shaker, gathered around a corner of the stage.

"How many of you here tonight were here last year?" Elliott asked the crowd. Last year's show was the first one back from Elliott's father dying. "I'll never forget what you did for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, the bottom of my father's heart," he gushed.

The band played an unplugged medley of their songs including "Where Does Love Go When it Dies," "Now," "When Love and Hate Collide," and "Two Steps Behind" with Elliott raising his hands to heaven.

The band returned to their electric guitars and played songs "Woman," "Bringin' on the Heartache," the instrumental interlude "Switch 625," "Hysteria," "Armageddon It" and "Photograph" replete with old photos of the band throughout the years.

"This is an important year for the band," Elliott said. "Hysteria" turns 25 years old, "Adrenalize" turns 20 years old and it's also been 20 years since Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell joined the band replacing former guitarist Steve Clark.

Elliott thanked the crowd for their support and ended on one of their biggest hits, the arena rock "Pour Some Sugar on Me" that got bodies moving and the crowd singing along.

Def Leppard returned for only one encore, the apt "Rock of Ages."

"You're still here, we're still here," Elliott said to the audience. While they sang lyrics "long live rock 'n' roll," guitars engulfed in a fiery inferno and images of rock legends Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix flickered across the screens. Once the combustible song ended, Elliott parted with "Til next time. And there will be a next time. Don't forget about us and we won't forget about you." He bowed to the crowd and walked away blowing kisses.

Leppard has perpetuated rock 'n' roll longer than most bands that came out during the same time period. Eventually the hokey "Rock of Ages" theater/film concept will fade away, but Elliott and crew will thankfully be here to make sure Cincinnati continues to get properly "rocked."

By Cincinnati Community Press 2012.


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