August, Texas, outdoor venue. Only one thing could bring me out of my air-conditioned comfort on a dog day summer Monday night- Def Leppard. The teenage girl in me was in full spirit as the first two acts cleared the stage and the roadies began the finishing touches on the Def Leppard stage setup. For a full 5 minutes I saw, under a tented canopy, the drum set of The ThunderGod (aka: Rick Allen), and felt all my senses tingle.
I was close: Center stage, row F. One seat away from the catwalk, and mere feet away from the band. The lights dimmed, the curtain fell and the echo of “Let’s Go” began to ring through the stadium.
I should clarify that I have had a hard love/hate relationship with the Leppard boys. The kind you have with your first serious boyfriend whose sincerely done you wrong. You always love him, with that deep burning desire. Looking at him is home, but because of your deep burning love, you pick him apart and push him to do better. You expect more of him because you know he’s capable of it, and you are disappointed when he doesn’t rise to the occasion because again, you know he’s better than that.
After the 1994 rise of Adrenalize, a much awaited album after the heat of Hysteria, we got a two kinda-hit wonder album of Retro-active, soon followed by a Greatest Hits release of Vault. A few of us hard-core Lep fans knew Retro-active was a B-side album, bringing to life a few reinvented versions of songs we loved included on earlier UK versions of On Through the Night and High N’ Dry. American fans now had access to these gems, but unfortunately didn’t really care, with the exception of two minor hits; “When Love and Hate Collide” and “Miss You in a Heartbeat”. Now, almost 20 years after any sort of major activity from these guys, we have a new self titled album and a tour to back it up.
Before this tour came around, my expectations were honestly a bit low. I know they’ve toured in the past couple of years. I’ve skipped the tours, mainly because I’ve been let down in the past. While the dynamics of the shows have always been well put together, even in their hay-day I didn’t enjoy seeing the boys live. Whether it was a mix of alcohol and women, included with too much partying, the lack of vocal performance on Joe’s behalf was so off-putting I couldn’t bring myself to go.
Please understand, as a hard-core fan, I was going from a perception of musical performance, and not for a good-time partying and pot-smoking standpoint. I’m sure from that perspective their shows were spot on. We expect more from those we love. Again, being let down by someone you love is immensely worse than just knowing they are in town and not visiting.
So back to present day. Why now? Of course I’d done my research. I knew they had cleaned themselves up in a major way. This new album, while not hitting hard on the radio side, had released two incredible new videos, not disappointing fans to the quality of years past. This new album is good. I let myself get my hopes up for the show, and knew this time things would be different. So as the curtain fell and the chords of “Let’s Go” began, I watched them emerge from the shadows onto the stage and knew without a doubt, this was their moment.
I was attending this show as a fan. I was not on assignment. My seats were not comped, nor was I allowed to bring in my professional camera. This show was for ME. I was there on my dime, and I was lucky to get such seats that I did at the last minute. In an instant “Let’s Go” transformed into “Animal”, and I was back in time instantly. The chords of perfection rang from the guitars of Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell.
Rick Savage posed in his classic crouched-over position looked exactly as he had in the days of Hysteria. The ThunderGod sat mightily behind the massive drum kit, only to be seen from the huge monitors via camera. Then, center stage less than 30 feet from me, with appropriately fitting tight black rock and roll jeans faceted with patches of leather and zippers for no reason was the immaculately posed Joe Elliot. His face, just as I remembered. The years have been nothing but kind to him. Groomed with excitement, I was close enough to see a wry smile of contentment flash between Joe and Rick. Clearly the stage was their home, and they were owning it.
In an instant the lights fell dark as Animal wrapped it’s final chord, and a single guitar sang out the intro to Def Leppard’s very first hit, “Let it Go”. The spotlight honed in on Joe and his tone and movements were the exact same of the 18 year old we saw in the first days of MTV. In my mind Joe transformed into the shaggy-headed teenager sporting the UK flag sleeveless tee and jumping the stage like a madman. He sounded timeless. These were my Lep boys. The ones I wanted and hoped to see. I was hypnotized.
For a brief few moments the boys took a break to speak to the Dallas audience. Joe was inches from me. At the young age of 58 he looked none the worse for wear. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve seen them look any better. I’ve been a Lep fan for nearly 30 years. I’ve seen the rise and fall of the boys, watched the hard times as they rebuilt Rick Allen, and lost Steve Clark. These guys have been through a lot- to say the least. Yet they’ve never separated, never fallen short, and never disappointed their true fans.
Fan or not, this was an evening to remember. A full EIGHTEEN song setlist rang everything from the rock anthems of On Through The Night through Adrenalize, and touched on their new self titled album. It was magnificence. They WORKED the show. Never breaking, and even throwing in a spot on cover of David Essex’s “Rock On”. It couldn’t have been more right.
There was one point in the show I must address, and fans who’ve seen this tour will appreciate the acknowledgement. “Hysteria” began to play, and the stage lit up with photographs of they history of Def Leppard. Shots from our favorite music videos (of course “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Love Bites”) entangled with candids and off-stage moments off all the band, especially the late Steve Clark. This homage to their career and the inclusion of Steve was nothing less than truly moving, and for a moment I lost my breath and just had to cry.
Def Leppard clearly isn’t going anywhere. They are still rockin’ it and don’t intend to stop anytime soon. Thank God for that. As a dedicated fan I will not miss a remotely local show for as long as my body allows. As a writer and photographer, my creative heartbeat spikes as I can only imagine what these boys will bring us in the future. If you can walk away with anything from my droning, I hope it’s this: go see Def Leppard. NOW. It’s money well spent, and I’d even splurge for the good seats. Secondly, the images shared in this article were taken with my non-Samsung cell phone.
For now, Gunter Glieben Glauten Globen…
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