It’s been 25 years since Def Leppard stood astride the rock world with the release of their Hysteria album, which spawned six hit singles. The opening night of this summer’s tour in West Valley showed that the resulting quarter-century hasn’t dulled any of their abilities. It’s tempting to use some of the more hackneyed terms to describe a concert like “blistering,” “onslaught” or “awesome,” but they would all be appropriate in this case. However, if pressed to use a single word to sum up the performance, I’d probably have to make up a hybrid like “magnifi-deafening.”
When lead singer Joe Elliot told the crowd the show was a “fucking great way to kick off the tour,” he wasn’t kidding. He and his mates opened up a can of musical whupass on a near-capacity crowd. Smoothly moving between songs, the group did not disappoint as they hammered their way through a nearly two-hour set. Longtime fans had little to complain about as the band served up a heaping helping of their hits. “Rocket”? Check. “Foolin’”? Yep. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”? “Photograph”? They were all there and then some. Hitting those musical highlights allowed them the leeway to sneak in a couple of new songs and some more obscure tunes they don’t normally perform.
In what proved to be a nice break from the musical blitz, the five musicians sat atop a lone equipment trunk to perform stripped-down acoustic versions of some numbers, including “Two Steps Behind” and “When Love and Hate Collide.”
Poison, one of two opening acts, showed that life on the road suits them well. Singer (and reality TV star) Bret Michaels pranced around the stage with the energy of a 5 year old hopped up on Pixie Stix, repeatedly telling the crowd he was “fired up” to be on the same bill as Def Leppard. Noticably absent from their set list were the hits “Something to Believe In” and “Ride the Wind,” but those were replaced by their covers of “American Band” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
Lita Ford (remember her?) was able to bring back a few of the awkward tingles she used to inspire in teenage boys when she ruled MTV during the late 1980’s. Of course, she sang “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever” (the audience probably would have rioted if she hadn’t), along with some of songs off her latest album plus a rousing version of “The Bitch is Back.”
Rock & roll shows have seemingly become smaller since the grandiose days of the '70s and '80s. Huge arena shows have mostly given way to smaller venues and more intimate performances. Wednesday’s show, while not exactly on such a grandiose scale, was a nice echo of the way things used to be.