Concert Reviews

Def Leppard / Cheap Trick (first review) Hot
Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 26, 2018    
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Def Leppard / Cheap Trick - FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield (UK) - 14 December 2018

I have to admit to being a little disappointed when it was announced that Cheap Trick would be the support act for Def Leppard on their 2018 UK tour. I had hoped they would have chosen Tesla (bringing back memories of the first 'Hysteria' tour back in 1987) or Night Ranger, who would have gone down a storm this evening. That said, I ended up enjoying Cheap Trick far more than I had initially expected.

Opening with 'Hello There', the sound was loud but clear, like the mix. The arena was already approximately eighty per cent full, and it was obvious the crowd wanted to enjoy the band from Rockford, Illinois; however, many seemed to know only a few of their songs. They seemed to hit a winner with the Fats Domino cover 'Ain't That A Shame', but the set appeared to take a nose-dive with the rendition of Velvet Underground's 'I'm Waiting For The Man', with bassist Tom Petersson taking lead vocals. A run of Trick classics helped bring them back on track though: 'I Want You To Want Me', the superb 'Dream Police', where lead singer Robin Zander exchanged his white top hat for a white peaked cap; and the seminal 'Surrender'. Surely they should have included the classic AOR ballad 'The Flame', which is arguably their most popular song in the U.K. Rick Nielsen donned his famous multi-neck guitar as they concluded their forty-five minute set with the very apt 'Goodnight Now'. They left the stage to polite applause, which I'm sure would have been rapturous had it been the aforementioned Tesla or Night Ranger.

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A countdown clock then started for the beginning of the main event. A very clever idea, which not only built up the anticipation, but it also meant that there wasn't the usual mad rush to get into the venue and take seats as the band hit the stage.

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The atmosphere was electric, as you would imagine for a hometown show. As the spectacular light show started, and the intro track to the beginning of 'Hysteria' blasted out, we all knew that this was going to be a little bit special. Now, the guys in the band are used to playing in front of large crowds, often bigger than the Sheffield Arena; however, you could tell from their expressions that they were beaming with pride at performing to a sold-out home crowd. This was one show where I did not need to take notes with regards to the setlist; the main set being a run through, from start to finish, of their seminal 1987 album 'Hysteria'. Most of the big bands have the one classic album, but Leppard produced two back-to-back - 'Hysteria' following 'Pyromania', an album that had the temerity to go toe-to-toe with Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' back in the early to mid-eighties.

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The light show and video backdrops elevated 'Rocket' into the stratosphere. The noise levels increased with 'Animal', and the multi-coloured video backdrops were simply stunning. The mobile phones lit up the arena for the wonderful 'Love Bites'. When I first heard that Leppard were going to play 'Hysteria' in its entirety, I thought that they may have changed the running order and finished with 'Pour Some Sugar On Me'; however, they stayed with the original track sequencing. The purists might turn their nose up at this, but no Leppard show is complete without a bit of '...Sugar...'. 'Armageddon It', for me, was always the better party song from the album, and tonight was no exception; it also highlighted the superb harmony vocals within the band, which certainly assisted Joe Elliot throughout. His vocals, although far from polished, were the best I'd heard for years, which made the show even more enjoyable than normal.

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I love to see bands really enjoying themselves on stage, and not simply going through the motions. Elliot could not help himself, announcing to the crowd that Def Leppard were going to be inducted into the 'Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame' at the first attempt and with the highest number of votes ever for a nominated artist. He simply could not hide his pride of this achievement.

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Rick Allen smiled throughout; I've said it before, the fact that you don't watch the one-armed drummer throughout is testament to his immense ability. It was great to see Vivian Campbell in such good health after his recent illness (has anyone ever seen him and Monty Don in the same room? Just asking...).

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Rick Savage still possesses the best hair in the band, and despite all their success, poor old Phil Collen still cannot afford a shirt! He certainly made a statement with his tartan trousers and ripped six-pack though. He obviously didn't feel the cold from what has to be the coldest gig I've ever been to in thirty-six years of concert going.

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Leppard rarely do political songs, but 'Gods Of War' is the main exception. This evening, they started it with the late, great Stephen Maynard Clarke intro, which sure did bring a lump to the back of my throat. I remember them playing this on the first night of the 'Hysteria' tour back in 1987 and losing it half way through; when they returned to Sheffield City Hall a month later, they had nailed it. Thirty-one years later, it was played to perfection. 'Don't Shoot Shotgun' and 'Run Riot' brought back memories of Donington '86, the first time I heard anything from the opus-to-be. My personal favourite song, from one of the greatest albums of all-time, is the title-track, and this evening it was played to a backdrop of images showing Def Leppard throughout the years; simply sensational!

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The final two songs, 'Excitable' and 'Love And Affection', have rarely been played live over the years. I was very impressed how the latter came across in the live environment. The band left the stage to rapturous applause, returning a few minutes later for a sublime five-song encore. Elliot took the time to address the crowd, thanking us for the support over the years. He also thanked the parents of the band, including Steve Clarke's mum, who was in attendance (the crowd blew the proverbial roof off), and he once again mentioned the RRHOF, saying that everyone associated with the band would be in attendance; a real touch of class (other bands take note). The only song in the set that had been changing throughout the tour was the first encore song. I was praying it would not be the dreadful 'Make Love Like A Man', so I was like a kid on Christmas morning when Elliot announced, "Here's a song written by Steve Clarke in 1980'. Cue .... 'Wasted'.

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The encore had something for everyone; the die-hards, the romantics ('When Love And Hate Collide'), and live favourite 'Let's Get Rocked', which possibly got the loudest reception of the evening. For me personally, the show could not have finished in a much better way; two songs that have been favourites of mine since I was a spotty teenager, 'Rock Of Ages' and 'Photograph' brought the stunning performance to a perfect conclusion. The band took a deserved five minute standing ovation.

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"Don't forget about us, and we won't forget about you." We certainly won't. Is it too much to hope for 'Pyromania' to be played in full...

Review and photos by Mark Donnelly

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