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Wednesday, 29th April 2015

Winnipeg, MB - Media Reviews

Def Leppard provides '80s rock throwback for 10,000 Winnipeg fans By Alan Small

Grad party season was in full swing at the MTS Centre on Thursday - if you graduated from high school in 1983. Or 1987.

The soundtrack to those heady days filled with hope and dreams and rock and roll included Def Leppard anthems like Rock Rock (Till You Drop) and Animal.

And the British rockers didn’t disappoint the nostalgia-seeking crowd on Wednesday night. They kicked off their downtown arena show with those two anthems and a setlist that was thick and heavy with songs from their two biggest albums, Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987).

Not only did 10,000 or so fans fill even the upper reaches of the MTS Centre Thursday night for the famous heavy metal party band, but even Mayor Brian Bowman got in on the act earlier in the day.

He name-checked several Def Leppard songs in a speech to council on Wednesday morning, deftly, and in some cases not so deftly, admitting his love of 1980s rock and setting Twitter ablaze in the process.

It wasn't a key to the city, like Gene Simmons of Kiss received amid much civic consternation in 2011, but the mayoral shoutout must have sold a ticket or two.

The stage included a catwalk that extended into the audience. Drummer Rick Allen, who lost his arm in a car crash in 1985 but was as loud as anyone on Wednesday night, was perched on a five-step pedestal between the usual stacks of amps at the back of the stage.

The sound technician must have cranked up the vocals after the first couple of songs, which were drowned out by all the drums. That helped give singer Joe Elliott a fighting chance to be heard above the usual metal concert din, and it made 1983's Foolin', the fourth song of the set, stand out.

The blond-haired Elliott looked like one of his fans, wearing a jean jacket as he took the stage. Halfway through though he switched to a white leather jacket and picked up an acoustic guitar for a singalong with the crowd called Two Steps Behind. The band may have rocked and partied hard for over three decades, but Elliott reached high notes in songs like Bringin' on the Heartbreak, with ease. That clear singing helped make Def Leppard a success on the charts while other metal bands of the '80s, and continues to separate it from the rest of the power-pop pack on today's concert circuit.

Photograph, another hit from Pyromania, was part of the encore along with another anthem, Rock of Ages. As for a photograph of the concert, you better be satisfied with the blurry, underexposed shots taken with fans' smartphones. Def Leppard allowed no photographers or video personnel from the media to take pictures of the performance.

For those grads from the '80s, Def Leppard's appearance in Winnipeg provided a musical escape from their 40- and 50-something baggage of mortgages, children's soccer practices and the indignities of age. For the next generation, Def Leppard's songs like 1987's Armageddon It or Pour Some Sugar on Me which the group played just before the encore, are just their parents' music - to be scoffed at when no one's looking.

One Bad Son, a four-piece group from Saskatoon, kicked off the proceedings with 45 minutes of metal, including a shout-filled rendition of the Talking Heads' Psycho Killer.

By Winnipeg Free Press 2015.

Rock of Ageless: Def Leppard hit the spot at MTS By Darryl Sterdan

Some bands are resilient. Def Leppard are freakin’ indestructible.

Death and dismemberment, disease and disaster, drugs and even dance music; Def Lep have defeated them all. Some 35 years after their first album — and seven since their last one — they’re still rocking. Still rolling. Still touring. And, as they proved Wednesday night at MTS Centre, still thrilling everyone from your mom to our mayor. (For those who missed it, that last one is no gag: Hizzoner Brian Bowman sang Def Leppard’s praises at that day’s city council meeting by working eight song titles into a speech, before admitting he didn’t have a ticket to the show. Being the swell guy I am, I got on Twitter to offer him my extra seat, but he declined, saying he was buying his own. He obviously got a great one; he tweeted out a picture of himself backstage with the band. Guess it’s good to be the mayor. But I digress … )

The secret to Def Leppard’s longevity? Their unstoppable and unerring ability to crank out their pop-metal hits and power-ballad classics with mega-bang for the buck. Look no further than this week’s show, which drew a respectable 9,000 mostly middle-aged fans to the Phone Booth despite being the band’s umpteenth visit to town. From start to finish, Sheffield’s sons did not disappoint, staging an old-school arenapalooza circa 1985: Big stage (with runway and giant drum riser). Big light show. Big sound. Big video screens. Big hair.

And most important: Big hits, starting rightly enough with Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop). After priming the crowd with a cacophonous crescendo of noise, a massive curtain and some rousing intro music from The Who, the band kicked off their tight 95-minute set with that leadoff track from 1983’s breakthrough Pyromania. It was, of course, far from the only hit coming down the pike — FM-rock classics like Animal, Let It Go and Foolin’ followed in rapid succession.

But it wasn’t just about the set list; it was about the delivery. Though they were regurgitating these songs for the bazillionth time, the band worked them (and us) like it was the first. Or at least the 101st. Most prominent in that regard, of course, was singer Joe Elliott, who rattled the rafters with his undiminished vocals while he posed and gestured with his scarf-wrapped mic stand. Sure, the 55-year-old frontman doesn’t bolt around the stage the way he used to. But as long as he can still hit those high notes, does anybody really care?

Then there’s buff guitarist Phil Collen, who appeared shirtless and slicked-up as usual (and who can blame him? If I had abs and pecs like his, I would walk around half-naked all the time). When he wasn’t spitting out all those Morse-code licks from the band’s back catalogue, he was trading solos with fellow fretboard firebrand (and Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor) Vivian Campbell.

And if you’re gonna talk survivors, well, you can’t forget about drummer Rick Allen, who lost his left arm after a New Year’s Eve car crash in 1984. Two decades later, you wouldn’t know the difference. Seated behind his custom electronic kit at the top of a five-step riser, he does more with one arm (and two feet) than most drummers do with a full set of limbs. Also to his credit, he also drives the beat hard and fast, keeping both the band’s momentum and energy level high.

Finally, bassist Rick Allen may have the easy job, but he still held up his end of the show, roaming the stage with his Union Jack axe and propping his foot on the monitor like a rock star is supposed to. Naturally, the crowd was on their side from the opening notes, with the folks on the floor instantly on their feet and singing along.

When you’ve got all that going for you, you don’t need to blow a lot of time and money on production. Def Lep had just enough going on to keep things interesting without going overboard. Mostly they let the arena-sized light and video show do the heavy lifting. The giant screen behind them displayed war footage during Paper Sun, doomsday-countdown graphics for Armageddon It and other appropriate fare. The screens beside the stage gave folks in the nosebleeds some closeups of the action. Instead of a backline of amps, they had more video screens onstage displaying pictures of amps, which was clever. Beyond that, however, they didn’t bother with a lot of gewgaws and doodads and effects. Nobody flew. Nothing blew up.

Instead, they kept the songs and musicians at the forefront. Elliott walked Collen and Campbell out to the end of the 25-foot runway to introduce them for brief spotlight bits. Savage ventured forward for a short bass solo at another point. Allen cut loose for a couple of minutes with a burst of fancy footwork and stickhandling. Even Elliott got a bit of star time, sauntering out with an acoustic guitar to strum the ballad Two Steps Behind. That was one of several quieter moments during the back half of the set, which sacrificed a bit of the forward momentum for side trips into covertown (with a dynamic version of David Essex’s Rock On), instrumentalville (with High ’n’ Dry’s Switch 625) and tributeland (former guitarist Steve Clark, who fatally ODed in 1991, wrote Switch 625 and figured prominently in the memory-lane graphics screened during Hysteria).

But before things derailed, the band put got back on track and up to speed for the home stretch, banging out energized versions of Let’s Get Rocked and Pour Some Sugar On Me — then wrapping the night with a double-strength encore of Rock of Ages and Photograph. The latter seemed slightly ironic — the band wouldn’t admit photographers to the show, so the pic with this review is from a previous tour. But trust me: They look pretty much the same.

Like I said: Freakin’ indestructible.

By Winnipeg Sun 2015.


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