Walking into the Def Leppard concert Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Center was like tripping into the Twilight Zone. The "Rock of Ages" band apparently has become the "Rock of Aged" band.
"Classic rock" radio DJs introducing the evening? Is Def Leppard now
No 18- to 25-year-olds in sight? Just their parents?
Archive for 2002
It wouldn't be a rock show until someone takes off his shirt.
At Friday night's Def Leppard show at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, 4,200 fans got not just one, but two bare chests of guitar players from the band that had the world singing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" in 1988.
While a few frontmen of new groups like Creed and Incubus disrobe these days, it was bands like Def Leppard that pioneered the art. And this audience, although about 3,000 shy of a sell-out, appreciated every piece of '80s rock 'n' roll nostalgia Def Leppard threw at them – from no shirts to lead singer Joe Elliott's silver-sequin shirt, from bombast to power ballad, and from "Pyromania" to "Hysteria."
When the members of Def Leppard wanted chart-topping singles for their new album, they turned to the hit-makers for teen pop acts 'N Sync, Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys.
That didn't mean the band was trading its hard-rock edge for bubble-gum pop, however. "X," the band's aptly titled 10th studio album, instead has the '80s rockers' signature sound along with fresh hooks as undeniable as those of today's teen sensations.
But is that a smart move at a time when pop-music listeners might be tiring – and even rebelling against – teen pop?
"Rock Rock (Till You Drop)" isn't just one of Def Leppard's biggest hits. It's practically a credo for the long-running hard rockband.
Def Leppard was one of commercial rock's most successful acts during the 1980s, through such monster-sized hit albums as "Pyromania" and "Hysteria." Yet the group also endured some mighty tragedies, including the loss of drummer Rick Allen's left arm following a car accident and the alcohol-related death of guitarist Steve Clark.
Still, Def Leppard has soldiered on. Though the band didn't match its super-duper album sales from the 1980s, in the succeeding decade a greatest hits collection ("Vault") and 1992's "Adrenalize" bothwent multi-platinum, while 1999's "Euphoria" went gold.
My palms are sweating. My heart is aflutter. I think I might puke.
I'm about to interview Joe Elliott, lead singer for Def Leppard. I don't usually get so nervous for telephone interviews with marginally famous musicians – I certainly didn't expect to get nervous for Joe Elliott, the frontman for a band I have little opinion of, positive or negative.
But this is different. Def Leppard – whether I like it or not – was the music of my youth. Past generations grew up with the Beatles, or the Who, or Motown. I endured acne, junior-high dances and breaking up with the love of my life, (fill in name of girl I have since forgotten), with the help of hair-metal bands and groups with keyboards instead of guitars.
During the 1980s, there was an "underground" music scene, sure, populated by bands such as the Replacements, the Pixies and the Smiths. But I discovered those bands much later; during the '80s, my feet were planted squarely "above ground." The Top 40 was my domain, my ear peeled to the radio every Sunday morning as I sat in my parents' car, waiting for them to emerge from post- Mass coffee and donuts.
It continues to amaze how classic rock bands can remain so dominant in concert despite little or no radio airplay or retail sales.
The latest to pass through was Def Leppard at the sold-out Universal Amphitheatre on Wednesday, and the British fivesome delivered a greatest-hits set that was just as well-received as when releases such as "Pyromania' and "Hysteria' ruled the charts.
Def Leppard's only problem was an overly loud PA system. Such volume distorted many of the group's most memorable selections, such as "Photograph,' "Pour Some Sugar on Me,' "Rock of Ages' and "Love Bites.'
What's a hard-rocking band to do when, in Spinal Tap parlance, its popularity grows more selective? When its new songs, aimed squarely at radio's young pop fans, fail to win listeners?
For Def Leppard, the course of action is simple: Hit the road with the hits.
At a nearly full Magness Arena on Tuesday night, the veteran British outfit returned to Denver with a loud, generous show heavy on material from the '80s. It's been more than a decade since the Leppards' days of sold-out, two-night stands at the old McNichols Arena, and despite the smaller venue, the group's on stage energy was surprisingly high.
The band took the stage in the wake of canned stomp-romps from Queen and Gary Glitter who needs an Avs game to pump a fist and yell "hey"? The sports arena crowd can use a release when hockey tickets are scarce, and Def Leppard fit the bill nicely.
Joe Elliott asked the question, "What do you want?" The E Center crowd responded in unison, "I want rock 'n' roll." And Def Leppard met the demand.
Monday night, Def Leppard showed why they are still one of the monsters of rock, delivering a pounding two-hour set that featured songs stretching across their entire two-decade career.
For those who complain the band never plays enough of its "old" stuff, Def Leppard opened the show as if it was the 1980s with "Ring of Fire," originally the B-side of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," The Leppards kept the adrenaline rushing with "Action" and "Rock Rock (Til You Drop)," featuring blistering guitar solos from Phil Collen.
Fans expect the hits when they go to a Def Leppard concert, and the band is happy to play them.
"They've come to terms with the fact that it's OK to like a band that's reliable," says singer Joe Elliott.
"The idea of seeing the Stones attracts some people because they think one of them might die soon. They go and see Guns N' Roses – or used to – because they might implode onstage and beat each other to death. With us, we're on time and reliable. That may come across to some people as a bit boring."
Not that they're mired in the past. The band's show is full of new material, but Def Leppard prides itself on its consistency.
STRUTTING confidently about the stage, clad in the tight-fitting leather garb that's always been essential to the hair-metal dress code, the members of Def Leppard appear to have been cryogenically frozen in the 1980s, only to be thawed and dumped in present-day Sacramento for the Friday night show at the Arco Arena.
There are minor discrepancies, of course, between the boys then and the boys now.
The Sheffield quintet, whose 1987 smash "Hysteria" has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide, lost founding guitarist Steve Clark in 1991 to a fatal combination of alcohol and drugs, paving the way for ex-Whitesnake shredder Vivian Campbell (a brunette!) to hop on board after the 1992 release of "Adrenalize." Otherwise, the band hasn't changed a bit, save for a few added wrinkles.
What would you do if you were the drummer for one of the most popular metal bands of the '80s? If you were Def Leppard's Rick Allen, you'd go the rock-star asshole route, abusing substances, driving fast and taking chances. Now, what would you do if, two years after recording a masterful and historic heavy metal album that sold over 10 million copies worldwide, you were road-raging down a rural English road on New Year's Eve and lost your arm in a horrible car accident? If you were Rick Allen, you'd re-assess your life, become a nice guy, keep rocking, find serenity, start a non-profit (www.ravendrumfoundation.org), and kick back and listen to the sound of one hand clapping.
The Wave: Do journalists always ask you questions about your missing arm, or are they too chicken?
Rick Allen: Normally I'm pretty forthcoming. I usually talk about it anyway.
When it comes to puzzle-piecing a concert setlist together, Def Leppard has changed its spots.
While the English hard-rockers — who mined platinum and then some by selling more than 25 million records with back-to-back mega-hit albums "Pyromania" and "Hysteria" alone in the 1980s — have a wealth of material to pour over in their quest to build the perfect concert beast, somewhere along the line the running order of things from opener to encore became somewhat predictable.
Until the band decided to throw caution to the wind during its recent eight-date tour of Japan.
As a result, longtime Def Leppard followers can expect to hear some changes when the band hits the "E" Center stage Monday.
The band has released its 10th studio album, full of the same sort of fist-pumping pop-rock numbers the band has made its staple for 25 years.
"On this record, it was totally about pleasing ourselves," says Phil Collen, longtime Def Leppard guitarist/vocalist.
"With previous albums, especially with 'Euphoria,' we were like, 'OK, we're going to make a record for the fans. We're going to make it sound like a pastiche of the Def Leppard career.' With this one, we felt that it was more about us."
The band had to work without famed producer Mutt Lange, who helped create the band's sound. "We'd always like his input. We'd play him stuff over the phone. He has the most busy, grueling schedule. He works harder than anyone I've ever met in my life. So, unfortunately, on this record, we didn't get a chance to directly work together, but he's always part of the whole thing."
Don't call it a comeback — they have been here for years (to paraphrase LL Cool J), and there is no arguing the fact that Def Leppard is one of the biggest rock bands of the past two decades. The English quintet has endured death, dismemberment and disinterested radio programmers to sell more than 45 million albums worldwide in the 22 years since Def Leppard started releasing albums. And even though the band might not be the chart-topping beast and automatic concert sell-out it once was, there is no reason to think a resilient group like Def Leppard can't return to some semblance of past glories. If Bon Jovi can pull it off, why not the band that pioneered the crossoverpath from hard rock to the pop charts?
Singer Joe Elliott — playing the E Center Monday with fellow Leppards Rick Savage, Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell and Rick Allen — is hopeful the band's latest, "X," marks a return to form. He calls it "almost the logical follow-up to 'Hysteria,' " the group's 16 million-selling 1987 album, although he is realistic enough to know it won't be as big.
"If you're walking onto a stage and you get a standing ovation when you step out, it's nice to know they're still there after 22 years, that people still want to come," Elliott said in an interview from his Dublin home, putting the idea of "success" into some perspective.
HAVING sold nearly 50 million records worldwide, Def Leppard ranks as one of the most popular bands of all time.
However, there is a misconception about the band that is nearly as big as its sales figures. And oddly enough, it has to do with what type of music the group plays.
Most people would say that Def Leppard plays heavy metal music. Most people would be wrong.
"I don't think that Def Leppard has ever been a heavy metal band," says Leppard-guitarist Vivian Campbell during a recent telephone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "Certainly in the early days, it was part of that movement and it got lumped in with that whole new wave of British heavy metal.