Kansas City, MO - Media Reviews
The 13,000 fans who filled the Sprint Center to the rafters on Friday were served a heaping helping of tasty oldies-but-goodies. Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon and Tesla, road-tested and battle-scarred rock veterans with decades of seasoning, dished up hits exactly the way nostalgic fans remembered them.
Def Leppard, a British quintet that rose to stardom in the 1980s with a handful of candy-coated heavy metal anthems, headlined the show. Only their decision to play one too many selections from their most recent album prevented Def Leppard’s 95-minute set from achieving perfection.
Although the twin guitars of Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen still roar like fighter jets, Def Leppard’s music poses as much danger as a declawed kitten. The band traded anger for exuberance on riff-heavy songs like “Armageddon It,” “Rocket” and “Photograph.”
The live footage projected on a giant video screen included high-definition close-ups of Collen’s oiled torso, images that evoked the shirtless flag bearer for Tonga who caused a sensation at the Rio Olympics earlier this month.
Vocalist Joe Elliott took an informal poll that confirmed the visual impression that more than a quarter of the audience hadn’t been born when his band formed in 1977. The sight of children singing along with the sultry 1988 hit “Love Bites” was unnerving.
Def Leppard’s sugary crunch produced heartier fist-pumping, but REO Speedwagon’s 60-minute outing induced more heartfelt responses. Front man Kevin Cronin noted that “you guys have been with this band … from the early seventies.”
The visceral reaction of fans to REO Speedwagon songs including the 1978 hit “Time for Me to Fly” indicated that the band’s repertoire has become a fundamental component of their identities.
Cronin said that “our lives have not been quite the same since” he composed “Keep On Loving You” in 1980. Prior to the success of the chart-topping power ballad, the band specialized in burly heartland rock. A rendition of the weather-beaten “Back on the Road Again” was the most vivid representation of that bygone style. A version of the languid 1985 ditty “Can’t Fight This Feeling” reflected the band’s later soft rock phase.
Surprises aren’t ordinarily welcome at oldies concerts, but Tesla delivered an unexpected treat. Following a rendition of the 1990 hit “Signs” during its opening set, the California hard rock band gave the marvelous new blues-based song “Save That Goodness” its concert premiere. Abetted by contributions from Def Leppard’s Collen and the soulful vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Tesla demonstrated that old bands can learn new tricks.
By The Kansas City Star 2016.
Classic Rock Summer is a series wherein we attempt to see as many classic-rock concerts coming through the Kansas City area as possible. From May through September, we will immerse ourselves in the music of our parents, from yacht rock to oldies to hair metal, you’ll find us there.
While the weather was turning downtown into a veritable series of waterfalls and small rivers last night, the inside of the Sprint Center was high ‘n’ dry.
But for the repeated flood warnings blowing up everyone’s phones, no one would have given a thought to the weather outside, because Def Leppard’s performance would’ve kept everyone fascinated, even if a tornado were attempting to destroy downtown. Despite some weird vocal quirks that saw the band sometimes sounding as if they were playing instrumentals, the English pop-metal band’s sound was robust and strong, thanks to a strong guitar work from Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell.
There’s something about the way Def Leppard mixes hard rock with pop hooks that makes for a dynamic show. It’s not all riffs, and it’s not all schmaltzy power ballads, but a mix between the two lets the audience ride a wave of ups and downs. Just when the crowd has been relaxed by “Foolin’” and “Love Bites,” it gets amped up with “Armageddon It.” That’s the way it went all night.
The band made clever use of its video screen on several occasions -- “Rocket” saw a series of stacked television sets playing clips of all the musicians referenced in the song, while “Hysteria” had a video comprised of live footage from the band’s earliest days all the way to the present. The footage of late guitarist Steve Clark was a little emotional and had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of what was missing from the band’s more recent material, such as “Man Enough.”
For all of the fun, though, I still just do not understand the appeal of the Adrenalize single, “Let’s Get Rocked.” The audience sang along and fist-pumped in a way that made me remember exactly how huge of a single it was back in ‘92. But at that point, at least there was the excuse that it had been five years since the band's last album. My wife seriously considered going to find somewhere to charge her phone. However, these are more personal objections than critical ones, and Def Leppard managed to pull it off capably.
“Capably” might be the best way to describe the songs in which singer Joe Elliott’s voice noticeably needed some help. “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” brought on some very apparent changes in Elliott’s phrasing, and the swells that characterize the end of the song’s verses and chorus were rather clipped, lending the song an unfortunate thudding woodenness.
While the first song of the encore, “Rock of Ages,” saw a huge roar of approval, it was the reaction to the final song of the night, “Photograph,” that was rapturous. It was the culmination of a night that had seen every hit turned into fist-pumping sing-alongs, but Elliott could’ve done nothing more than sing the first line to “Photograph,” and the crowd would’ve easily taken it from there.
By The Pitch 2016.
The 80’s live again at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
On Friday August 26th, it was time to get out those jean jackets, feather your hair back and make Aqua Net stock rise once more. That’s right Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon and Tesla pulled into town and delivered that rock and roll music we all (well some of us) remember from our past.
The time had come for the boys from Sheffield England to take the stage and deliver decades of hits to the fans that were waiting in the wings. For a band that has been around for as long as Def Leppard has, it does not sound like they have lost a step at all. It was like putting in a cassette tape and listening to a digitally remastered copy, they were incredible."
"Tons of lights and effects coming from their gigantic screen played right into every song and added to the nostalgia of the night. Hits like “Animal”, “Foolin” and “Love Bites”, a plethora of songs that Def Leppard has made famous throughout the years rained down on the Sprint Center patrons for them to dance the night away. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was what everyone thought might be the end of the night, but wait there was more. Def Leppard came out and treated the crowd to a two song encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”. This was definitely a show for the ages and one that brought smiles to the faces of many a people that got to go back out and relive their youth.
By Rock Revolt 2016.
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