Auckland, New Zealand - Media Reviews
While Monday night's audience at Auckland's Spark Arena didn't quite get hysterical hysteria when Def Leppard was near, they had a rollicking time in their mullet-wigs.
Some had reached far back into their wardrobes for the occasion. A man named Greg donned his only slightly too tight 'On Through The Night' Leppard tour t-shirt from a 1980 show in the US that he attended "to see the bloody Scorpions, if you can believe it, haha haha".
Back then the fledgling Def Leppard was a support act for krautrock kings The Scorpions, who happened to be opening for them in Auckland tonight. Greg couldn't believe his luck in seeing them together again, in reverse.
"It's too much, what a laugh," he reiterated. Unfortunately he couldn't remember much of the American gig because he "must have been on something pretty strong, eh".
Greg's daughter, aged 24, was with him tonight "because dad didn't have anyone else to go with". She said she was having fun.
That was probably because Def Leppard is fun - decades have not dimmed the band's melodramatic bombast. When lead singer Joe Elliott earnestly belts out his hair metal hits from the late eighties, so too does the audience.
"Love BITES! Love BLEEEEDS!," we scream, bleakly but with gusto.
"It's bringing me to my KNEEEEES!!!!"
Our noses wrinkle in unison at 'knees' because how can they not when we're pouring our collective experiences of unrequited love into one yowled syllable.
Pour Some Sugar on Me gets us similarly united: "Do you take sugar? One lump or twoooo?" we ask at a bellow.
During Hysteria - title track of the '87 album being played in its entirety tonight - footage of Def Leppard in their heyday flashes across the big screen. They were beautiful with their manes of tousled hair and peachy complexions, lean in their ripped singlets and stonewashed jeans, doing rock'n'roll stuff like wearing sunglasses in bubble baths.
Needless to say they don't look like that now. There is no question Def Leppard is a nostalgia act, as my gig buddy says.
She's mildly distressed because Spark Arena's floor is blanketed with seating - which is not always the case - and she wants to mosh with the blue mohawked punks up the front in their patched leather jackets. Even they have seats, however.
"It must be because they were expecting old people," she laments.
If she's right, management weren't wrong. It is an older audience on the whole - old enough at least to have been old enough to have bought Hysteria when it came out.
There's a lot of heavy eye liner, dyed black hair, and band t-shirts (Def Leppard or not) amongst them. As a friend also at the gig texted: "I bet you could hear a pin drop in West Auckland right now". He's allowed to say that as he's a Westie himself and knows bogans.
These days Def Leppard's lead singer Joe Elliott wears a velvet jacket with gold trimmings over his now-rounded belly, leather trousers and glittering shoes. Lead guitarist Phil Collen wears his sweaty and somewhat thickened torso bare with a pair of tartan bondage pants more Avril Lavigne or Johnny Rotten than Leppard in their prime. Rick Allen the one-armed drummer's shoulder stump is draped in a rhinestone jacket that looks like it may have survived the eighties.
They still sound powerful and prance the stage with vigour.
Elliott stops singing and prancing at one point to express his fondness for his band mates.
"A lot of things happen in 31 years, but one thing that's solid is this band," he hollers.
He's not wrong either. Hysteria came out when the Berlin Wall stood strong, David Lange was New Zealand's Prime Minister, and I hadn't been born.
And the band could, in fact, sell itself based on its ability to overcome adversity. More than just eponymously championing disabled jungle cats, its current line-up have beaten and/or live with recurring bouts of cancer, facial paralysis, alcoholism, colour blindness and - most notoriously - the severing of Rick Allen's limb.
That happened in 1985 and his arm was lopped off in a car crash then surgically reattached, only to be re-amputated a few months later due to infection. Allan had joined Def Leppard as a two-armed drummer at 15, in 1978, and has been with them on every album.
After the band had played their Hysteria set, thanked the Scorpions effusively, and performed a few older numbers as an encore, we the audience vacated the venue. While the gig-proper lacked a mosh pit, one of sorts then formed at the merchandise counter. People thronged for Def Leppard t-shirts and pulled them over existing clothing.
One man in his new black t-shirt asked his friend if he'd heard an old joke, 'what's got nine arms and sucks?'.
The friend hadn't.
So the man explained: "it's not a mutant octopus, it's Def Leppard!"
But the friend disagreed - "they were actually so cool tonight," he protested.
The pair headed off into the night singing 'you got the peaches, I got the cream', along with many others.
By Stuff Entertainment 2018.
They say you always remember your firstand tonight it was a first for me, to see both Scorpions and Def Leppard live in concert and first hearing the live 1978 album Tokyo Tapes and Hysteria respectively. It's been a long time coming but watching both acts performing what was a staple of my playlist growing up, was something beyond words. A small (ok, it was quite the fanboy moment really), part of me is amused by the fact that my first taste of this tour was talking to Vivian Campbell earlier in the year - something 13 year old me wouldnever have believed.
Since October 2017 Scorpions frontman Klaus Meine has been dealing with severe laryngitis, which has been the cause for several show cancellations this year, including both Sydney and Melbourne dates on this tour. So it was with trepidation and hopethat we were awaiting their appearance at tonight’s final show here in Auckland, and as the lights dimmed and the show kicked off all fears were put aside and the show was on!
I found Scorpion's set to be a slow starter, graduallygrowing into a groove as Klaus almost literally "found his voice" and settled in for the night. As I took my seat after shooting, the band was loosening up, kicking into Speedy's Coming. They followed up with We Built This House from 2015's Return to Forever album. Klaus called out that no one's probably heard it and they'll be back to things people can sing soon. Weird.
Winds of Change up now - one of the more popular songs, and certainly the one "normal people" seem to know and associate with the band. Camera phones light the auditorium as the crowd sway back and forth, and fragments of feelings, emotions, and memories of 1991 come flooding back to me - simpler times, fewer worries, good friends…but where was I? Back to the music...
The mix is interesting tonight, lows and highs seem good but the middle section seems a bit off, occasionally the bass is kicking into overdrive and seems to swallow the guitars, Klaus' singing is tempered and restrained while still belting it out song aftersong, which given the circumstances, is strong.
Tease me, Please me is a catchy rocker from 1990's Crazy World album, with solid grooves and riffs that always got me singing along, gives way for (new, ex-Motorhead) MikkeyDee's drum solo - loud and fast; deep tom rolls come off the skins like many 80's era drum solos. The crowd goes wild but Marco Minnneman Mickey is not. The solo itself doesn't work for me, but it's tight and the sound mix is starting to feel good.
Klaus' voice is holding up well, but his thick accent prevails through his singing which, while giving the band their distinctive sound,seems to falter slightly when hitting the top ranges, but that's the joy of live music, it's raw.
Rock You Llike a Hurricane closes the set with gusto and drive as Klaus throws out his drum sticks. I’m amused to spot one young girl in front dropped the stick, as another fan catches the eye of security and points it out - and after looking around for trouble, a security guard picks up the stick and throws it to first fan - a small thing to one person, but potentially life changing to another.
And now it's Leppard time. I make my way through the massive packed stadium back to our shooting location and wait as a clock counts down...
5, 4, 3, 2…. Time stops as I double check my gear….. 1.
It's like someone just hit play on a time machine - we're straight into Women, Rocket, and Animal - I'm thrown back 30 years, its high school…. it's a blur - navigating through hands in the air, cellphones raised high, streaming out to Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, steering around fellow photographers while still soaking in the songs and atmosphere.
Disappointingly, I missed catching Love Bites and Pour Some Sugar On Me when I have to leave the pit as photographer and rush to return to my seat as reviewer to catch the end of Armageddon It - the mix is sounding great now. Huge props to sound and lighting engineers who do just as much to make a show an experience to remember as the bands themselves.
As we slide into "side 2" of Hysteria, the projection wall displays a memorial to guitarist Steve Clark along with a short video solo. Gods Of War was never a song that grabbed me, nice but nothing that really stood out on the album and it feels likethe crowd is finding themselves in a somewhat lull moment that continued through Don't Shoot Shotgun. Run Riot seems to pick up people's spirits. First I see one fist in the air, then another, then a group, but never quite hitting the frenzy of earlier songs. That doesn’t deter the smiles and excited looks on people's faces which tell me more about the experience and evening as a whole. Tonight is about rock and roll without pretentiousness.
Closing out the show with the final three tracks Hysteria, Excitable, and Love and Affection I can't help but feel the show, much like the album, sort of winds itself down. They're not bad songs (far from it) but to me, they just don't take me anywhere...
The encore! Now we’re talking. Making Love Like a Man from 1992's Adrenalize instantly kicks back in with the energy. When Love And Hate Collide gets all the phone lights out as every great power ballad deserves, it's an 80s throwback all over and I'm loving it.
Let's Get Rocked does just that and the crowd seemsto have as much of a second wind as the band themselves - big choruses, harmonies, and riffs that put Def Leppard in a league of their own and keep them there as Rock Of Ages takes things way back to old school and to me, this was the most enjoyable song of the show. Not only for the music, but more the look on the elderly gentleman next to me who broke into song and smiles showing that rock is for all ages indeed.
By Libel 2018.
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