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day, 15th June 2011

West Palm Beach, FL - Media Reviews

Def Leppard and Heart bring sing-along 80s fun to Cruzan By Leslie Gray Streeter

There are concerts where audience members are discouraged from singing along, or standing up, or rocking out, or visibly displaying any music-related exuberance outside of clapping between songs.

Last night's tour opener for Def Leppard and Heart at Cruzan Amphitheatre was decidedly NOT one of those shows. Arms were raised, feet were stomped, heads were banged and air guitars were enthusiastically strummed. And it's not just that the audience went rogue – it was by command.

"It's like, for the next eight minutes, you're part of the band!" explained Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott, during a well-received acoustic set done on a wee stage extended into the crowd. Both his band and Heart, fronted as always by power sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, have the distinction of never having to have staged a reunion tour, because they never broke up, never stopped rocking.

There are some that will label such acts as guilty pleasures. Believe this…there was no guilt at this show. There was no one looking around their expensive beer sheepishly regretting being there. It was all a proud, loud celebration of the hair or the car you used to have, the things you used to do or the people you knew when "Never" or "Photograph" or "Barracuda" or "Pour Some Sugar On Me" came out. It's not high art, whatever that means. But it's solidly and enthusiastically played by people who've been mastering the craft of cultivating and keeping an audience, there on the edge of their seats. Or, more appropriately, on the soles of their feet.

Heart went first, with an initially awkward mix in the speakers, but a fiery vocal from Ann Wilson that started amazing and ended somewhere way up into superlatives that don’t exist. Her voice is effortless. Soaring. Strong. Gorgeous. Powerful. Cutting. Sublime. I have seen the Fergies and the Carries of the world attempt to copy what she does, and while they give it a good try, they don't have her electricity. From "Never" to the blistering "Crazy on You" and the insane "Barracuda," she proved why she possesses the best rock vocal instrument that isn't Robert Plant's. Yes. I'm stating that. Sister Nancy, known more for her guitar work than her singing, took the lead on the lovely, lovely acoustic hug of "These Dreams." Fantastic.

After a lengthy intermission, the boys of Def Leppard made their entrance. One of the things I've always loved about them, besides proudly not being able to resist a pun or goofy-fun metaphor ("Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar On Me"), is their embrace of a band history that could politely be described as sometimes troubles - among the flashing images behind them was a headline pondering whether they were the "unluckiest band" in the world. There's the accident in which drummer Rick Allen lost his arm, or the alcohol abuse-related death of guitarist Steve Clark. They don't run from it. They've come out the other side older, wiser, and in the case of guitarist Phil Collen, better-looking than ever. Elliott noted that although the eternally shirtless Collen "looks great," he was very ill (he could be seen coughing between licks and then continuing the rocking out.)

Highlights included the sing-along of "Foolin'"or, in its proper pronunciation, "F-f-foolin'!;" the aforementioned acoustic set of "Two Steps Behind" and "Bringin' On The Heartbreak," the glam rock name-checking "Rocket," and the giddily-yelled "Photograph," "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and the encore of "Rock Of Ages." It was just so much fun, with the hits you knew played the way you know them, but with as much enthusiasm as they got when they were written. Nothing to feel guilty about here!

By The Palm Beach Post 2011.


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