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Tuesday, 6th May 2008

London/Islington, England - Media Reviews

Def Leppard Islington Academy, London By Ian Gittins

Tonight is very much billed as An Event. Def Leppard, the arena-packing British heavy-metal veterans who have sold more than 65m albums in the course of their three-decade career, are playing a one-off show in an 800-capacity north London club. The evening is trumpeted as being the band's most intimate gig for 25 years.

The excited faces of the diehards at the front, who have queued for most of the day, show how much it means to them - but tonight is a strange exercise, not least because Leppard's music is written and styled for vast aircraft hangars. Their testosterone-driven rock is bereft of nuance or subtlety. As singer Joe Elliott throws flamboyant shapes in this tiny venue, his eyes fixed somewhere beyond the middle distance, he merely looks bizarre.

They are downsizing for one night only to promote Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, their first album of new material since 2002. But Def Leppard are far too long in the tooth to start varying their habits now: this is a record that sounds as though it could have been made at any time since 1980. New tracks such as Nine Lives and Hallucinate are formulaic, bombastic rock anthems, all lumpish power-chords and heavy-handed, chugging riffs.

It is strange to reflect that Def Leppard began in thrall to 1970s glam-rockers such as Mott the Hoople and Sweet, whose 1975 hit Action they cover tonight, because their own workmanlike rock lacks any of those bands' mystery or alchemy. This was a night that a handful of hyperventilating hard-rock fans will never forget. But for the rest of us, in truth, it was a dreary grind.

By The Guardian 2008.

Setlist: Def Leppard Islington Academy By Emma Edmondson

WHEN people have bought millions of your albums, you've survived years of boozy Spinal Tap-style excess and sold out enough arena tours to fill a small country there's no denying your rock credentials.

And seriously - Def Leppard have nothing to prove. The venue is so small you can smell each drop of sweat dripping from the five-piece's pores, but the rock icons - albeit with a group age of 200-plus years - still acrobat on stage like it's 1987. Singer Joe Elliot pumps his mike stand like a lever in between hitting notes so high they make Prince seem almost baritone. And his band mates show that being of rock walrus age doesn't mean you have to sit back and rely on back catalogues. With the new album destined for dizzy chart heights, along with a live show that hasn't lost an ounce of chutzpah 30 years into their career, it seems they'll be bringing in the bacon over the summer. A triumphant return from Sheffield's most cherished hard rockers.

By The Daily Star 2008.

CAUGHT LIVE!: DEF LEPPARD at London Islington Academy By Jody Thompson

Long regarded as only loved by spotty male teens, Eighties heavy metal has enjoyed a rehabilitation of late. The recent crop of emo and nu-metal bands often cite the genre as influential. Add to that the fact taste-making DJs now play soft rock without irony at nightclubs. So it no longer seems so ridiculous that Sheffield legends Def Leppard, with 65million record sales already behind them, are on the cusp of a renaissance.

The five-piece celebrated more than three decades in the business and release of new album Songs From The Sparkle Lounge with this, the smallest gig they've played in 25 years. The Ronseal of AOR metal bands, they delivered exactly what you'd expect - daft lyrics, long hair, leather trews, widdly guitar and ear-drum-bruisingly heavy drums. And naturally, they'd all taken their tops off by the third song, displaying surprisingly toned torsos for men of a certain age. But what Def Leppard also have in spades though are proper tunes, soaring harmonies and singalong choruses, even as displayed in thumping new tracks like Bad Actress and Hallucinate.

Of course, the crowd of competition-winning fans were also desperate to hear the hits and the Leppard delivered these too with perfect renditions of head-banging classics like Animal, Armageddon, Pour Some Sugar On Me and the sublimely ridiculous, double-entendre laden Let's Get Rocked.

Famously one-armed drummer Rick Allen pounded along barefoot among burning incense, bassist Rick Savage rocked out while looking like Stan Boardman in a blond wig and frontman Joe Elliot seemed genuinely humbled by the elated reaction from the metal-sign wielding, packed-out crowd. This was a band at the top of their game, still thoroughly enjoying themselves. Surprisingly glam at times and often redolent of AC/DC, Def Leppard played the kind of fun stadium rock you want to hear played loud on your FM radio as you drive across the American desert. Or even just round the Sheffield inner-city ring road.

By The Sunday Mirror 2008.

Def Leppard - London Islington Academy By Paul Elliott

With the new Def Leppard album Songs From The Sparkle Lounge heading for the Top 10 in the UK, tonight's one-off club gig has a celebratory air. Never mind that singer Joe Elliott is suffering from a nasty chest infection, passed on to him by guitarist Phil Collen ("Virally, not orally", he carefully explains beforehand). He's relishing the intimacy of the occasion. "We don't do this kind of thing very often," Elliott tells the 400-strong audience. "I can see the whites of your eyes!"

The last time Leppard played a club gig in Britain was in 1995 when they performed an acoustic set at Sheffield's Wapentake bar. But tonight there are no acoustic guitars and no ballads; tonight it's a full-on rock 'n' roll show.

They play four new songs; Bad Actress, Hallucinate, C'mon C'mon and the single Nine Lives, the latter pair classics in the making. They play the hits: Photograph, Animal, Rocket, Armageddon It, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Let's Get Rocked and, best of all, the gloriously gonzoid Rock Of Ages. And finally - as requested by Classic Rock - they encore with a couple of real connoisseurs' choices: Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes), from 1981, and Wasted, a NWOBHM-era powerhouse from 1980.

"That was fun!" Joe wheezes as Leppard leave the stage. Next stop: your local enormo-dome.

By Classic Rock 2008.

View: standing, balcony, stage-left By Tim Jones

Previewing songs for an invited audience from their latest Songs From The Sparkle Lounge set, the Sheffield quintet bounded on stage at 9pm and proceeded to dazzle for the next 75 minutes. Kicking off with new cut Hypnotised, the singalongs began, and film cameras captured the crowd. Action lived up to its name, with Phil Collen to the fore, and other old faves included the air-punching Armageddon It, clap along Rocket and ecstatic Animal. Newer fare, such as Hallucinate, merged in seamlessly with AOR classic Photograph, the exuberant Pour Some Sugar On Me and closing Let's Get Rocked. A couple of encores included Rock Of Ages and the 1980 throwback of Wasted. The evening certainly wasn't it.

By Record Collector 2008.

Def Leppard By Andy Nathan

As well as being a privilege, it was an oddity to see Def Leppard play a club show before 800 or so fans at the Islington Academy, given that in the 1980's they became perhaps the ultimate in arena rock bands.

In the week their new 'Songs from the Sparkle Lounge' album appeared, this was billed as an intimate show, but any suggestions they might be playing an acoustic set or otherwise taking it easy were dispelled by an opening salvo of Let it Go form High'n'Dry and their cover of the Sweet's Action.

By getreadytorock! 2008.

Do We Wanna Get Rocked? Yes please, Gents By Paul Brannigan

There's been a lot of head scratching in broadsheet newspapers and other mainstream media in recent weeks pondering why 'classic' rock bands like Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard are still selling out stadiums and arenas worldwide over 20 years on from their most commercially successful albums. There's no real mystery here: class is permanent. It's never been 'cool' to like Def Leppard - when they were selling 18 million copies of Hysteria worldwide in '87/'88 the eyes of the rock world were on Guns N'Roses. When Adrenalize topped the UK and US charts in 1992, everyone was talking about Nirvana and the death of hair metal. And yet here we are in 2008, post-grunge, post nu-metal (and post-emo?) and the band have a new album in the UK Top 10 and US Top 5. Who's laughing now?.

Tonight is a launch show for that album, Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, with a free bar for the media upstairs and just a few hundred hardcore fans downstairs in a venue with a capacity less than one tenth of the 10,000 who'll be checking out the quintet next month. And tonight Def Leppard are fantastic. If this was only about nostalgia and '80s uber anthems - Animal, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Photograph, Rocket - it'd still be great, but the best thing about tonight is how strong Leppard's new songs are. Bad Actress - "not about Lindsay Lohan...though it could be..." quips frontman Joe Elliott - Hallucinate and the excellent C'mon C'mon sound like stadium slayers already, all immaculately stacked melodies and buffed riffs...and they're not even the best songs on the new album. Songs From The Sparkle Lounge won't make Def Leppard 'cool' either, but the mile-wide smiles on the faces of both band and audience at the end of this special 75-minute show suggests that this isn't really gonna matter much to anyone at all.

By Kerrang! 2008.

Sugar rush for rockers By David Smyth

One of London's least glamorous venues became the Sparkle Lounge for one night only, as its drab shopping centre entrance was given a glittery new carpet in honour of Def Leppard's new album.

Last week's Songs From The Sparkle Lounge is unlikely to match the 10 and 20 million-plus sales of the Sheffield rockers' fist-pumping classics Pyromania and Hysteria. Yet they have rarely been more popular as a live draw. They play Wembley Arena with Whitesnake on 26 June.

The tiny crowd gathered for this fireworks-free preview had to endure a few too many plugs for the new release, and the realisation that the row of moist middle-aged chests displayed on stage aren't so appealing when you're not 100 yards away. But it was fascinating to see the miracle of one-armed drummer Rick Allen up close, and the band seemed energised by the chance to perform within touching distance of one another.

New song Bad Actress had the most fire, a racing screamer that singer Joe Elliott insisted was "not about Lindsay Lohan". Nine Lives strayed further from the heavy metal template, a chugging country rocker that could have been a hit for Shania Twain.

Elliott was not naive enough to believe that these tracks could take the place of Def Leppard’s greatest moments. "I've been to a Rolling Stones gig and I just want Brown Sugar, too." Their own saccharine delight, Pour Some Sugar On Me, was duly wheeled out, as well as other shoutalong favourites including Animal, Armageddon It and Let's Get Rocked.

These hits could not be better suited for thrilling vast crowds. Pleasant though the Sparkle Lounge is, soon they'll be back in their rightful place.

By London Evening Standard 2008.

Wednesday 7th May By Dave Ling

Despite my state of exhuastion, there was no danger of nodding off at last night's Def Leppard gig. It's been a while since Leppard had played such an intimate hall as the Islington Academy, and with the downstairs area full of cheering fans and the balcony stuffed with media representatives making the most of a free bar, a good night was had by just about everyone. Intended as a promotional bash for the just-released 'Songs From The Sparkle Lounge' album, the band featured four songs from their new baby, including my own favourite, 'Bad Actress' (which Joe Elliott grinned "isn't necessarily about Lindsay Lohan - but it might be"). Elliott was clearly still struggling with the illness that forced the cancellation of some US not too long ago, but the band seemed to be having fun despite the unusally crammed surroundings. Indeed, they even returned for an unscheduled second encore, reeling back the years to their first two albums with 'Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes)' and the timeless 'Wasted'. Here's what filled Leppard's 75 minutes onstage: 'Let It Go', 'Action', 'Bad Actress', 'Armageddon It', 'Rocket', 'Nine Lives', 'Hallucinate', 'Animal', 'Photograph', 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Let's Get Rocked', 'C'Mon C'Mon', 'Rock Of Ages', 'Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes)' and 'Wasted'. Not bad at all, huh?

By Dave Ling.co.uk 2008.


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