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Saturday, 3rd September 2011

Phoenix, AZ - Media Reviews

Def Leppard, September 3, 2011 Phoenix, Arizona By Ted Hansen

Joe Elliott, Def Leppard’s lead singer/frontman declared that the night was a record for them. Record in that they had never played in 111 degree heat before (officially, the temperature was only 109 for the day and by show time probably only in the mid 90's). However, there was another unofficial record set at the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion in Phoenix on Saturday night. Most fist pumps into the air. Sorry Motley Crue fans, but the Def Leppard audience had you beat this night in throwing their clenched fists skyward in unison to the thumping of Rick Allen's bass drum all night long.

For over an hour and a half, Def Leppard treated their faithful to a barrage of hits beginning with their latest one, "Undefeated" from this summer's Mirror Ball release, to start the show. Note to classic rock bands wanting to try out new material. Open with the new songs because the audience is ready to embrace anything when you first hit the stage. Of course it does help if your new songs are as catchy as your older material which "Undefeated" is. After dispensing with the new material, the question of the night was asked "do you wanna get rocked" and the crowd responded in the affirmative with the fist pumping beginning in earnest during "Let's Get Rocked." While the band sang their surprisingly good live, multilayered harmonies, the video screen backing the stage showed split screen shots of Def Leppard's animated video of the song along with close ups of the band.

By the third song, "Animal," the first of the six songs played during the evening to come from the group's 1987 multi-platinum album Hysteria, the tone of the evening was set. Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell would trade off blistering guitar work, bass player Rick Savage would appear at various points on or above the stage while holding the songs together with his bass, Rick Allen would amaze with his one armed drumming ability and Joe Elliott's solid vocals would be backed by sometimes prompted, many times not, audience sing-along participation.

If I could change the night, and I'm sure the Def Leppard powers that be will jump quickly on my suggestions, I would change two things. One, I'd like longer overhead shots of Rick Allen. Although thankfully there was an overhead camera which allowed the video screens to tease the audience with brief shots from above of Allen playing his drums, I never had a chance to fully comprehend what he was doing. Maybe that's by design, but I'd like to know more about Allen's secret to amazing drumming. Two, I realize the cover version of David Essex' "Rock On" from Yeah!, Def Leppard's tribute album to the bands they grew up with, made a nice transition from Rick Savage's bass solo, but as covers go, I think their version of Sweet's "Action" from Retro Active is more fun.

What I'd keep though, with apologies to Joe Elliott whose singing is still strong, is the instrumental work by the band. The extended version of "Rocket" and the frenzy of "Switch 625," allowed the group to showcase the craftsmanship of Collen, Campbell, Savage and Allen. The pacing of the show was also good, allowing a little break about midway with acoustic versions of "Two Steps Behind," and "Bringin’ On the Heartbreak," that allowed those who weren't involved in the sing-alongs on those songs, to catch their breath.

The only time Elliott seemed vocally a bit off was during "Photograph," most likely because the video screen behind him, which showed a variety photos from the band's early years, captured Elliott with a mullet. Or perhaps it could have been that by then my eardrums were shot, paying the price of the loud, but clear sound system.

Fittingly the band ended with the encore "Rock of Ages," the lyrics these days having even more meaning as they did when the band first recorded the song in 1983. "Rock of ages. Still rollin', rock' n' rollin.' We got the power, got the glory. Just say you need it and if you need it, say yeah!" Ok, so I'll say "Yeah," because I need it and Def Leppard is still rollin', rock n' rollin'. Besides, as Elliott promised, "there will be a next time." But give me awhile to recover. My shoulder hurts from fist pumping.

By Phoenix Examiner 2011.

Def Leppard and Heart brought a night of nostalgia to Phoenix By Michael Senft

Two bands on the summer nostalgia circuit that haven't replaced their original singers with soundalike YouTube sensations, Def Leppard and Heart, returned to the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion Saturday, Sept. 3, for an evening of bombastic rock and roll.

Here's how the two stacked up:


Heart: Ann Wilson still has the tremendous set of pipes that brought Heart to prominence in the '70s with songs like "Magic Man" and "Crazy On You."

Def Leppard: Joe Elliott has definitely lost a few steps since Lep's mid-'80s heyday. But bassist Rick Savage and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell provided plenty of backup harmonies to give Elliott a boost. And with the audience singing the choruses on tracks like "Bringing on the Heartbreak" it didn't really matter.

Point to Heart.


Heart: The Wilson sisters hit most of the high points of their catalog, from the hard-rocking "Barracuda" and the funky "Straight On" to their comeback smash "What About Love?" "Never" was conspicuously absent, and thankfully so was "All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You."

Def Leppard: The boys from Sheffield, England scored a whopping six hits off their 1986 album "Hysteria" and they played all of them at the show, from "Animal" to the rap-influenced "Pour Some Sugar on Me".

Point to Def Leppard.

Cover Tunes

Heart: The Wilson sisters have been engaging in Led Zeppelin worship pretty much since their debut album came out in 1976. And that was on display in Phoenix as the band took the stage to Zep's "In the Light", opened with a blistering "Rock and Roll" and kicked off the encore with a duo version of "Battle of Evermore." They also paid tribute to the Who with "Love Reign O'er Me" complete with a Telecaster-armed Nancy Wilson imitating Pete Townshend's propeller power chords.

Def Leppard: Their 2006 album "Yeah!" was a collection of '70s rock covers as a nod to their influences. But with such fine tunes as "20th Century Boy", "Waterloo Sunset" and "Stay with Me" to choose from, why did they pick David Essex's bloodless "Rock On" to perform in Phoenix? At least Lep's version was better than Michael Damian's even more anemic '80s hit version.

Point to Heart.


Heart: The Wilson sisters were performing as an unplugged duo the Lovemongers in the '90s. Indeed, that was where they worked up their faithful rendition of "Battle of Evermore." The power ballad "Alone" was stripped down as well although it still maintained its big-hair bombast.

Def Leppard: A two-song acoustic set featured "Two Steps Behind", a song from the "Last Action Hero" soundtrack that was tailor-made for the '90s unplugged craze. But their early radio breakthrough, "Bringing on the Heartbreak" also worked well, with Elliott leading the crowd in a singalong on the chorus.


New songs

Heart: The Wilson sisters played one new track, "WTF", from last year's comeback album "Red Velvet Car." While the song fit nicely with Heart's hard rock oeuvre, it was a bit cluttered live.

Def Leppard: Opening a show with a new song is a gutsy move, but it also kind of makes sense - you don't give the audience a chance to get up and go to the beer line. Def Leppard featured "Undefeated," a new studio track from recent live album "Mirrorball." The song was an excellent summation of their career, showcasing how they've overcome tremendous adversity to continue to play to packed houses.

Point to Def Leppard.


Heart: The Wilson sisters are the only continuous members, but the current crop of backing musicians have been playing with them for the better part of the 21st Century.

Def Leppard: Campbell joined the band in 1992 following the death of original guitarist Steve Clark, and Collen joined the band in 1982, but the rest of the guys has been together since the late '70s. Elliott even noted that Def Leppard first played in Phoenix in 1980, opening for Ted Nugent and the Scorpions.

Point to Def Leppard.


Heart: Drummer Ben Smith did a fine job, even smashing a gong during the finale of "Love Reign O'er Me."

Def Leppard: Rick Allen is missing an arm. Sorry, you can't compete with that sort of gamesmanship. And the sheer joy that showed on his face as he performed made him all the more endearing.

Point to Def Leppard.

Power Ballads

Heart: Not one, but two mid-'80s power ballads were featured during the show - "Alone" and the abominable smash "These Dreams."

Def Leppard: Just one, but it was the equally unpleasant "Love Bites."

No points - yeah, Def Leppard didn't offend as much, but one power ballad is one too many power ballads.

Give it to Def Leppard on points, but Heart had a bit more passion to their performance. Ultimately it was a fine, professional show all around - heavy on the hits and with few low points for the fans - which is exactly what we've come to expect from the summer nostalgia circuit.

By Arizona Republic 2011.


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