Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Having a Broadway play named after one of your signature songs is a compliment, but seeing it turned into a bloated studio film featuring some of the biggest names in Hollywood is a whole different story. But that's what Def Leppard's legacy has somehow turned into: a nostalgia act for the people who want to relive the grandeur of '80s arena rock and British pop metal.
Nearly 25 years after their nadir, the band continues to draw thousands of people who can't let go of the good 'ole days to amphitheaters across the globe. What that says about their music or their fans is up to you, but for the nearly 16,000 people who were at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater last night, reliving the '80s still remained a blast, and not just a blast from the past either.
The show offered glitz, glamor, an expansive stage setup and four of the five original band members (original guitarist Steve Clark died in 1991). There was a cool video projection, which has become the hallmark of a Def Leppard show and as a fan, what more could you ask for? The band played a career-spanning, 100-minute set that featured strip club favorites like “Photograph,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Hysteria” amongst the many songs in their hit-laden catalog.
Only the second date of their Rock Of Ages tour, the band sounded crisp and on-point. Joe Elliott remains a likeable frontman who still commands attention from the ladies (the first bra hit the stage after the second song, that has to be some kind of record) and whose voice sounds as strong as it did before. The band's chemistry is still dynamic and they know how to keep the crowd engaged in their show. Banter was kept to a minimum, which enabled fans to lose themselves in the music.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the show was how incredible drummer Rick Allen is. Nearly 30 years after he lost his left arm in a car accident, he continues to amaze with his drumming ability. The man was able to carry the show like a champ and it's crazy to think if he had both arms, how different his legacy would be. He could easily be considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, especially since his dynamic style carried the bloated guitars that ooze excess and overshadowed the only redeemable aspect of the band's sound.
How the band remains big despite having not been musically relevant for over 20 years is a testament to the power of their two Diamond-selling albums (for those of you scoring at home, that means over 10 million sold) and the strength of their hits. That's why Rock Of Ages serves as a slice of revisionist history regarding how great the '80s were.
Maybe the Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei characters in The Wrestler had it right during the most telling scene of the movie. In the bar scene where they're dancing to Ratt's “Round and Round,” the two discussed the merits of why the '80s rocked. Def Lep was one of the best around Tomei's character said, to which Rourke's Randy “The Ram” Robinson responded, “Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.”
If that's your point of view, then fine–it's likely concurrent with an overwhelming majority of Def Leppard's fans. They're likely to agree with The Ram's sentiment that there's nothing wrong with listening to good time rock. And that's what they did last night. Whether it's right or wrong is irrelevant if fans are going to pack venues, fork over $40 for a t-shirt and screaming for their heroes like time never passed.
Critical Bias: The hits have aged well, but it's impossible to fathom that the '80s are back.
The Crowd: Lots of drunk chicks with implants, mixed with a lot of leather, jean jackets and quite a few mullets, which is pretty much the entire spectrum of '80s rock fans.
Random Notebook Dump: Someone sitting by me thought that the title for “Photograph” was “Phonograph.” Yeesh.
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Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.