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Saturday, 12th October 2005

Irvine, CA - Media Reviews

'80s rockers still a force By George A. Paul

Def Leppard and Bryan Adams rock Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in the final 2005 show at the venue.

During the '90s, when grunge and punk ruled the rock radio roost, many people considered Def Leppard a nonentity. Yet the longstanding pop-metal band continued to receive moderate airplay, tour extensively and expand its fan base.

Now a younger generation has evidently rediscovered the British group's insanely catchy tunes. Last spring, a new Def Leppard career retrospective, "Rock of Ages: the Definitive Collection," debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart and is approaching platinum sales. Meanwhile, the classic single "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was recently certified as a gold digital download.

This co-headlining tour with Bryan Adams - which started in June and ended Saturday in Irvine - might have seemed an odd fit, but the pair actually have a few things in common. Both arena rockers are marking the 25th anniversary of their debut albums, got their first taste of success in 1983, once shared a producer in "Mutt" Lange, and have had big hit ballads. On a chilly night at the packed Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Def Leppard immediately heated things up with the Sweet's "Action" (from rarities disc "Retroactive"). And singer Joe Elliott prowled the stage as guitarist Phil Collen let it rip on the first of several amazing displays of prowess with shredding foil Vivian Campbell. Each solo was rapturously received by the boisterous crowd.

"This venue means a lot to us," Elliott said about Orange County's continued support. "The first time we played here was with Billy Squier in '83. There were always more people here for us than anywhere else. We even filmed part of the 'Two Steps Behind' video here."

The 16-song, 90-minute set, bolstered by dazzling visual and lighting effects, leaned heavily on rockers, particularly from 1987's hugely successful "Hysteria." Elliott's husky voice sounded road weary at times, but his unbridled enthusiasm and bandmates' three-part harmonies more than made up for it.

Standouts included "Foolin'," the call-and-response roar during "Armageddon It," an eerie take on David Essex's "Rock On" and a poppy version of Badfinger's "No Matter What" (both due on next year's covers album), the tribal-beat-driven "Rocket" (ably held down by one-armed drummer Rick Allen), "Photograph" and a monstrous encore, "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." Still a force to be reckoned with, Def Leppard closed Verizon's 2005 season on a high note.

Adams initially had to deal with an indifferent, mostly seated audience, but quickly won it over. Although he also has a new career overview in stores, the 80-minute performance was skewed toward 1984's chart-topping "Reckless."

Clad in requisite blue jeans and T-shirt and in fine raspy vocal form, the age-defying Canadian opened with "Room Service," the percolating title track to his recent studio effort. "Open Road," another new one, was driven by haunting keyboards that recalled set closer "Run to You."

Lead guitarist Keith Scott (at Adams' side since the early days) proved masterful, especially on the bluesy "18 'Til I Die," rollicking "Can't Stop This Thing We Started," rarely played "Hearts On Fire" and joyous, feedback-laden "Summer of '69."

Onstage, there was a strong sense of camaraderie between Scott, veteran Adams drummer Mickey Curry and their boss. When Scott took over the Tina Turner role on a sizzling "It's Only Love," he and Adams jokingly tried to outdo each other. Some of the ballads and mid-tempo numbers were iffy ("Heaven," "Somebody," "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," but overall, Adams delivered an engaging performance.

By OCRegister 2005.


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