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Saturday, 19th August 2000

Springfield, IL - Media Reviews

Def Leppard Proves It Can Still Rock By Matthew Dietrich

Hard rock band Def Leppard's songs are made for two things: getting played on the radio and being shouted by big crowds in stadiums.

Music snobs may sneer at that formula, but it helped the band pioneer a memorable brand of melodic heavy metal that inspired dozens of imitators in the 1980s.

Playing to a boisterous crowd of 7,778 on Saturday at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand, the five-piece English group showed that it remains the master of the style of music it developed. Tight, enthusiastic and bursting with energy throughout the 100-minute show, Def Leppard also showed no signs of losing that mastery anytime soon.

Like last year's Grandstand show, which drew more than 10,000 fans, Saturday's concert was a throwback to the '80s, when rock concerts were about having fun and rock stars weren't ashamed of their stardom. The band played in front of a wall of Marshall stacks. A giant gong stood behind drummer Rick Allen's set. Guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell raced about the stage as singer Joe Elliott worked the crowd into a euphoric froth. It was loud and it was a blast.

The set list varied quite a bit from last year's, as the band squeezed in most of its best known radio hits and added some that were more obscure but still known to virtually everyone in the crowd.

Elliott, in a knee-length tiger stripe jacket over black leather pants and black T-shirt, clearly loves the role of rock 'n' roll front man. Hoisting his microphone stand, prowling the edge of the stage, engaging the back rows of the Grandstand with grand gestures, Elliott showed his own mastery of the mechanics of manipulating stadium crowds.

The band's tight cover of "Action," a hit in 1976 for Sweet (or "the Sweet," as the Brits would say), was a fitting allusion to one of Def Leppard's forebears in the radio-friendly hard rock business. Big hits like "Foolin'," from 1983, and "Hysteria," from 1987, seemed even bigger with much of the large crowd singing along.

The 1999 single "Promises," which re-established Def Leppard as a force on rock radio, fits perfectly next to the older songs.

Elliott strapped on an acoustic guitar, as did Campbell and Collen, for a quiet version of "Two Steps Behind." They kept the mood subdued as Elliott turned "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," a slab of solid, pounding metal in its original form in 1984, into a soft lament. Elliott turned the song's chorus - which is sung as an accusation on record - into a plea during the acoustic version. Then the stage fell dark and, after a second or two, the band blasted into the song at full throttle.

The hits followed in rapid succession. Campbell ripped immediately into the opening guitar phrase of 1983's "Photograph." The band thundered through the pounding "Rocket."

The crowd turned "Pour Some Sugar on Me" into a mass shout-along. And so it went.

By show's end, Collen and Campbell were shirtless, showing the crowd that they haven't sacrificed good physical conditioning for the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

The band chose its power ballad "Love Bites" to start its encore set, then blasted through the powerhouse boogie of "Let's Get Rocked." Like Def Leppard's music as a whole, there's really no point in a lot of analysis of Saturday's show. Take it at face value and enjoy. It rocked.

By The State Journal-Register 2000.

By The State Journal-Register

The English rock group Def Leppard, which played to a thunderously enthusiastic crowd of 10,117 people at the Grandstand last year, wanted to rebook for the 2000 fair immediately, Ford said.

"They indicated to us that night that they wanted to come back, and they spoke to us again the next day before they left town,". Ford said.

By The State Journal-Register 2000.


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