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Sunday, 30th August 2009

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

Def Leppard, Poison, Cheap Trick rock the night away in Irvine By Ben Wener

Our classic rock (and OC Varsity) guru Steve Fryer headed out to ye olde Irvine Meadows over the weekend for a kickin' triple bill.

A good way to judge a concert is to ask oneself, "Would I buy a DVD of that show?"

The answer is "yes" when evaluating Def Leppard's performance Sunday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. That was their best show here in forever? Great job, guys.

But I could make that concert better when I put on the DVD. My stereo has this feature that can isolate the volume control on specific speakers - and, for this show, I would have turned up the center speaker, the main sound source for vocals, for Sunday night Def Lep singer Joe Elliott's voice was too often buried in the mix.

How frustrating that I can fix that on my Sony receiver I bought for $80 on Craigslist, but a mixing board with a zillion sliding switches couldn't remedy this issue. Elliott started a tad hoarse, but gave it a great effort through 17 songs (Def Leppard played 18 songs, but one was the instrumental "Switch 625"). The band was in top form, and the crowd responsive - so he had to go for it.

Def Leppard is in an interesting, and challenging, phase of its career.

Like many bands who have been around for close to three decades or more, putting out new records doesn't have the impact it did 20-30 years ago. No radio station these days is going to give more than a cursory play of a single or album cut from a new release by a veteran band. Even self-described "free form" radio is going to air "Photograph" or any other long-ago Def Leppard hit before digging out a cut from last year's Songs from the Sparkle Lounge or the group's superb covers disc of 2006, Yeah! The best way for these Brits to stay in the game is to keep on the road and play shows that satisfy. That's a strategy that worked Sunday night. The people who went to this show will be return customers - and might even buy the latest CD.

Def Leppard cranked up the energy from the start, opening with "Rock! Rock! Till You Drop" then going right into "Rocket" and "Animal," the latter two just as they are on the mega-selling Hysteria album of 1987 (22 years ago - already?!?).

The famed duel-guitar attack of Viv Campbell and Orange County resident Phil Collen (seen back-to-back with Elliott at the top of the post) has never sounded better. Elliott sounded great at some points, a bit ragged on a couple of others. But that's good rock 'n' roll, folks.

And drummer Rick Allen continues to amaze. We don't need to use the "one-armed" modifier any more; he's just really good, period. From merely keeping the beat moving when he first came back, post-accident in '87, to the graceful fills he mixes in today, Allen's progression has been something to see.

Def Leppard has played at Verizon perhaps as much or more than any other band, and this performance, delivered with a lot of commitment and energy, was its best - even without that small sound-mix adjustment that would have added some polish.

Poison was the middle attraction on this three-band bill, and the sound when the quartet first hit the stage was also muddy, yet fixed quickly enough. They won the audience over right away with a 1-2 opening combo of hits, "Look What the Cat Dragged In" and "Talk Dirty to Me."

Singer Bret Michaels (right) was in his uniform - sleeveless Poison shirt, jeans, cowboy hat. His voice was a bit rough, too, but he didn't back off. The crowd went nuts for guitarist C.C. DeVille's solos, super-speedy and tricky but not very soulful.

Cheap Trick opened and was fun as always. Fans in the front rows one day are going to have to sign liability waivers to protect guitarist Rick Nielsen from getting sued for knocking an eye out with his pick-flicking. The band opened with a great take on "Way of the World" and never let up during its 40-minute quickie set.

Nielsen had the line of the night, however, when talking about the band's latest record, accurately titled The Latest. "It's the No. 1 selling album in the world," Nielsen said. And a woman behind me says, "Really? Wow " - before Nielsen's perfectly-timed rejoinder, ..."in 8-track!"

Yes, you can get it on 8-track. For $30. Do songs fade out and then fade in, when the tape goes from track 1 to track 2, just like the old days?

By Orange County Register 2009.


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