Def Leppard Bring Time Machine Filled With Hits To Crowd-Pleasing Concert
Midway through Def Leppard’s Wednesday night performance at Blossom Music Center, frontman Joe Elliott slyly glanced at his watch and told the Cleveland area audience “we’re going to take you back in our time machine, all the way to 1983.” (Heart also played an impressive opening set earlier in the evening.)
It was a good setup for the familiarly desolate opening chords of the 'Pyromania' classic ‘Foolin’,’ although perhaps a bit unnecessary. The 16 song setlist spent a good portion of the night in the wayback machine, very clearly focused on Def Leppard's multi-platinum years, with their two biggest albums, ‘Pyromania’ and ‘Hysteria,’ providing the bulk of the material for last night’s show.
The concert began as the strains of ‘For Those About To Rock’ by AC/DC fell away, with brief glimpses of the individual members of Def Leppard flashing on the screens above the darkened stage. Elliott and bassist Rick Savage soon led the rest of the band onstage as they ripped into ‘Undefeated’ from the band’s current ‘Mirror Ball’ double live CD, the lone bit of new material heard on the night.
Live, ‘Undefeated’ displayed a more muscular feel that’s missing from the studio version, especially with images of prominent champion athletes and teams, most notably Michael Jordan, projected behind the band. Guitarists Vivian Campbell and the perennially bare chested and impressively toned Phil Collen were all over the stage, giving the song the extra bit of kick that it needed to take things over the edge.
Collen and Campbell have really grown into a nice pairing, dueling impressively mid-show on a particularly fiery version of ‘Rocket.' They traded licks in a fretboard battle that neither side seemed willing to concede. As many times as they’ve probably replicated that moment night after night, it still put a fresh spin on an old classic.
Looking at the stage setup, it was hard to believe that it wasn’t still 1983, with a multi-level set of platform staging making Leppard skinsman Rick Allen look like the king of his own futuristic metal mountain.
The dead giveaway that things had progressed beyond the ‘80s came via the intense multimedia presentation, with video walls built into the staging, and even more massive displays behind the band, all constantly running high definition content throughout the show.
As we’ve covered in great detail, Joe Elliott has had a tough summer as a result of the death of his father. Since he’s returned from having to postpone several concerts, he’s spoken in detail about the positive energy that he’s getting from fans at recent shows.
That didn’t feel like lip service. Elliott sounded better vocally than we’ve heard him sound in a number of years. Although he can’t scale the mountain quite as highly as he used to, his performance was solid. The trademark Leppard backup harmonies bolstered his performance by staying nearly completely on the money, if you'll forgive us, all through the night.
Midway through the set, the Leppard guys came out to the front of the stage, armed with acoustic instruments to strip it all back to the quieter side of things with the much loved ‘Two Steps Behind.' This led into the first big singalong of the night on ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak,’ which naturally evolved into its more familiar electric version about halfway through.
While there are some fans who might wish for more variety in the setlist (Editor's note: hi, @archive625!), there’s no denying that from an energy standpoint, Def Leppard is leaving it all on the stage - an opinion confirmed just by watching bassist Rick Savage play a bass solo before their cover of ‘Rock On’ while literally dripping with sweat.
Over the course of 90 minutes, there might not have been any real unexpected surprises in the setlist, but the crowd reaction throughout the night illustrated that the Leppard guys know a thing or two about putting on a show and really delivering the goods. It’s safe to say that everybody went home happy.