Review: Adrian Hextall / Photos (C) Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
December 18th 2018
What started off a residency in Las Vegas for several shows then turned into a headline slot at Hellfest before morphing into a full blown tour that saw Def Leppard perform their classic album Hysteria in full has finally come to an end.
A second date in London on December 18th, coming about due to the fact that the band’s first show at The O2 sold out in record time, culminated at the famous Wembley Arena.
It’s the venue that all bands want to play, all bands wanting to utter those famous words “Hello Wembley”. As timeless and part of the rock and roll history in the UK as the Hammersmith Odeon, playing a show is a right of passage for bands and even when they’ve managed a show there, the excitement and buzz never seems to fade.
Def Leppard are one of only 5 artists to release two albums in the US each with sales in excess of 10m copies. The others…. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Van Halen. So we’re talking quality here, no mistake and one of those albums, ‘Hysteria’, celebrating 30 years of success was set to be performed in its entirety. Die hard fans will of course be wanting the same treatment with Pyromania but Leppard, ever the savvy businessmen recognise that it’s Pyromania’s successor that really set the world alight and appealed to the masses.
Those masses that did in fact turn out in droves for this tour playing to over 125,000 in the UK. Not bad for a little known band out of Sheffield!
2018 also marks the first time Def Leppard have played and sold out the Royal Albert Hall (part of the Teenage Cancer Trust shows) and next year will see the ceremony to induct them formally into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame following their first nomination and winning the fan vote as well.
Lauded by Joe Elliott as one of the greats that he grew up listening to, Cheap Trick had toured previously with Leppard when the latter were on the YEAH! tour several years ago. Another band with more hits than we realised we knew, they generated a good singalong on tracks like Surrender and I Want you To Want Me. 50 minutes of music with a set list to die for, they too got in on the end of tour ‘Christmas event’ by inviting Michael Monroe up on stage with them for a rousing rendition of Run Rudolph Run. If that wasn’t enough, Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera also joined them and stayed for another cover, namely The ‘In’ Crowd.
The guest slots were great, the variety a neat touch keeping the show very rock n’ roll and festive feeling, even if Robin Zander was dressed like the motorbike rider from the Village People.
Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
I Want You to Want Me
Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry cover) (with Phil Manzanera) (& Michael Monroe on harmonica)
The ‘In’ Crowd (Dobie Gray cover) (with Phil Manzanera)
As the stage changeover commenced a countdown timer teased the crowd and as it reached zero the words Def Leppard appeared on the video screens along with the ‘London’ legend.
What then followed was a perfect rendition of Hysteria from start to finish in track order. The giant video screen helping out the band with suitable imagery for tracks like Gods of War and when appropriate, archive shots of the late, great, Steve Clark.
Steve’s replacement, Vivian Campbell has been with the band for over 25 years and is still (amusingly) referred to by Joe as ‘the new boy’. It’s a term of endearment though and one that still draws a smile from Vivian who now must feel like the Peter Pan of the band.
As he was at the O2 a couple of weeks earlier, Joe Elliott was decked out in a military style jacket, this time it was red velvet with stitched piping. He owned the stage. The T-shaped affair that helped us take half decent shots of him from the sound desk as he reached the end of it put him into the middle of an adoring audience singing word for word every one of the 12 tracks on the album.
For the die-hard fans, the rarely played non-single tracks are the things we wanted to hear. The trio of ‘Don’t Shoot Shotgun’, ‘Gods of War’ and ‘Run Riot’ proved to be a real highlight.
During the encore at The O2, the crowd were treated to ‘Wasted’ rarely heard from the band’s debut album. A real treat for me as a fan, wishing that the band could perhaps revisit those early tracks for a re-recording session to breathe some new life into them again.
At Wembley we got ‘Promises one of the best of the modern Leppard (modern being almost 20 years ago) tracks and one that saw them working with 6th Leppard Mutt Lange when they recorded the track on Euphoria. A definite bonus and a great reason to make the effort to attend both shows.
Def Leppard are the perfect showmen. Their music sits as well now as it did in 1987 when Hysteria was released and with their induction into RRHoF it seems like the industry is finally recognising the contribution one of the UK’s greatest exports has made to rock music. Long may it continue.
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Gods of War
Don’t Shoot Shotgun
Love and Affection
When Love and Hate Collide
Let’s Get Rocked
Rock of Ages