With a genuine smile to greet the sold-out arena’s guests, Def Leppard’s lead vocalist Joe Elliot addressed the band’s fans with sincerity by proudly stating, “It’s 2017 and our fortieth anniversary this year. It’s been thirty-seven years since we first set foot in America. Thanks for this opportunity to play our music for you.” Elliot continued with more gratitude and grace, during the first break in the band’s greatest hits-filled set on the opening night of the tour.
Def Leppard did not deliver any shocking surprises during the 17-song set April 8th at SNHU Arena in Manchster, NH. They stuck to a well-rehearsed and solid set that included all of their major hits, three songs from their most recent self-titled album and a killer cover from singer/songwriter David Essex.
For ninety plus minute, Joe Elliot (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Rick Savage (bass) and Rick Allen (drums) commanded the audience’s attention by throwing down one hit after another. The house lights were cut and the introduction to the riff-heavy “Let’s Go” from their latest, self-titled album, swirled around the arena asking “Do you really wanna do this now?” several times before the curtain was plunged from the front of the stage allowing the audience to see the band for the first time. After Leppard tore through “Let’s Go”, they clawed back to the Hysteria era with “Animal” and then further back to a deep track from their ’81 release High ‘N’ Dry for “Let It Go”. For the life-long fan, this was a real treat.
Lepp offered up another one from their new album, “Dangerous” with a sound that clings to the vintage-Leppard sound. Then the lights dimmed, the video screens went black and twelve blue lights bathed the stage as Elliot proclaimed, “This one goes back to 1983.” The monster hit “Foolin’” from their record-breaking Pyromania, followed. Phil Collen made his presence known with a blazing solo and background vocals to match. Leppard took their foot of the gas a bit to add the ballad, “Love Bites” with a hypnotic digital backdrop that presented with what appeared to be the lyrics to the song being transcribed onto antique paper as if it were a love letter. At times, it was hard not to watch the colossal video monitors and to remember to watch the band. Taking a quick breath, Elliot looked to his right and interjected, “Holy shit. Look who’s here. He puts the fast in Belfast. All the way from Ireland, can you make a lot of noise please for Vivian Campbell?” With a humble grin, Campbell struck the opening riff to the rocker “Armageddon It” in which he gets to share some of the spotlight with his flashy take on the clever solo once played by the late Steve Clark.
Alone on stage, as previously mentioned, Joe Elliot took a walk down to the end of the catwalk and addressed the crowd at this point, thanking them for their allegiance but also to share a heartfelt story about meeting a young man who was oddly very interested in Elliot’s parents’ LP collection. He continued that they had bonded over their love for rock and roll and after continuing to build their friendship they agreed to form a band together to see what would happen. Elliot let his fans know that this friend, who became and is still his best friend today, is Rick Savage. To which, Elliot left the stage and Savage took a few seconds to have the stage to himself to noodle a slinky bass riff or two before initiating the funky bassline to the ’73 David Essex #1 hit, “Rock On”. The rest of the band joined and proceeded to rile the crowd to an almost fever pitch. Leppard’s version of “Rock On” was slick, heavy and exciting. With Elliot donning a white Captain’s jacket and a black top hat, he and the band made the song their own.
The equally funky “Man Enough”, with a bassline and beat reminiscent of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” kept the groove going before the video screens lit up with the image of hundreds of television screens and the addition of the radio-control crackle intro to “Rocket”, continuing Leppard’s nod to their influence stemming from 70’s glam rock icons with mention of characters like Ziggy, Bennie and the Jets, Jean Jeanie and a certain Killer Queen. Def Leppard was dialed in and clearly enjoying themselves on stage as Campbell and Collen orchestrated their guitar licks, in order to introduce the iconic heavy metal power ballad, “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” which bled into “Switch 625”, an instrumental that follows “Heartbreak” on the studio album High ‘N’ Dry.
Campbell and Collen have made this combination a much anticipated and enjoyable part of the past few Leppard tours, which had also served as a tribute to Steve Clark who passed away in 1991. Drummer, Rick Allen, helped wrap up “Switch” with a dramatic drum fill. The crowd ate up every last note and crack of Allen’s drumstick. Allen graciously flashed a huge grin and peace sign into his drum-mounted video camera for all to see on the big screen.
Leppard switched gears again to play another ballad, “Hysteria” which brought significant others together in the audience to embrace and to raise their cell phone flashlights above their heads, creating quite a spectacle. During the song, a virtual walk down memory lane was displayed with images of the band from their humble beginnings, their career highlights all the way up to today. Elliot paid homage to the late David Bowie at the end of the song by singing a line from the Thin White Duke’s classic, “Heroes”. The playful, attitude-filled “Let’s Get Rocked” and the hedonistic party anthem, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” wrapped up the initial set before slaying the crowd with a one, two punch of Pyromania’s megahits “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” for an encore.
Supporting Def Leppard, Poison hammed it up and played to the crowd with their hair band-hits that included “Talk Dirty to Me”, “Fallen Angel” and of course, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. Guitarist C.C. DeVille paraded and hopped around the stage, and could not have looked happier. Bret Michaels made the rounds to everyone in the front row to shake hands in between crooning. Bassist Bobby Doll and a healthy Rikki Rocket kept the train rollin’ with their solid rhythm section. Tesla opened the night with their brand of raw rock and roll as well. Telsa sounded great and their set was jam-packed with hits as well. “The Way It Is”, Little Suzi” and “Modern Day Cowboy” all rocked, getting the crowd fired up for a nostalgia-filled night of music.
Def Leppard may have played it safe with this collection of hits, but they gave their fans exactly what they wanted. With a few more deep cuts from the lesser recognized albums like Slang and On Through the Night, it would truly be a complete package for the Leppard fanatic. However, by adding California rockers Poison and Tesla to the bill, it’s certainly a spectacle to see and you will get your money’s worth.