The More Things Change...
A Field Report from an Evolved Lep-Fan
SaskPlace: Saskatoon, SK
On September 12, 2003, I had the pleasure of attending a Def Leppard concert in Saskatoon, SK. But this pleasure was somewhat unexpected. Part of this story goes beyond the concert, so indulge me a little.
You see, once upon a time I was a stupid little girl who was upset by the death of her idol, Steve Clark. In those days, I went to a concert every six weeks, but declined to see Def Leppard when they last came around in 1992. This is, Def Leppard, who have proven they can survive any calamity, and I had the audacity to hold it against them.
Despite my strange and unfair animosity, I spent my teen years known as The Leppard Chick, something I evidently haven't lived down. I ran into people at the concert I'd gone to high school with, and who, ironically, I never expected to see at a Def Leppard show. They all commented that they *knew* I'd be there, no matter what I'd once said.
So I guess you can say an older and arguably wiser Lep-Chick attended their concert this last Friday night, still went expecting a show from a band in decline. Due to age, declining record sales and the inability to find an audience for their recent albums, this band isn't known as one of the great holdovers from the big arena rock days of the 1980s.
That said, I was treated to the best concert of my life, bar none. The band was in fine form as they took SaskPlace on a headbanging trek down memory lane, playing such songs as Let It Go, Action (a remake of the Sweet classic), Bringin' On The Heartbreak, Switch 625, and Hysteria. Hysteria would be the appropriate term to describe the reception received by the band, for it seemed not to be 2003, but 1988 once again as the crowd went ballistic. I have never cheered so loud, nor had the noise of a crowd affect my equilibrium that I was nearly literally knocked off my feet.
The band seemed to feed on the frenzy of the crowd, who even the band could not quiet on command. This was a crowd who'd waited more than a decade for the show, and they displayed their love of this long-absent band in rare fashion.
This performance wasn't limited to older hits, but included newer tunes like Long Long Way To Go, Four Letter Word, and Now, off of their latest studio effort "X", or Ten. As Joe Elliott eloquently said, "It's X... actually it's ten; whatever the fuck you want to call it."
Now on to more specific impressions...
Joe Elliott, lead singer, was in *fine* voice. His harmonizing with Phil Collen's guitar was nothing short of amazing, and his vocal strength never waned once all evening.
Phil Collen, one half of the current guitar team, was absolutely scorching. Personally, I think he looked only slightly short of orgasm when given the chance to let loose on his axe. He's a remarkable guitarist who never put a single note wrong. This guy is in *remarkable* shape, and he has scarcely aged a day since the 1992 Concert for Life at Wembley Stadium.
Rick Allen, the comeback king was remarkable. When the band says he came back and didn't skip a beat, I believe it. He is an amazing and courageous musician who came back from almost unspeakable odds to not only play drums again, but to mount an acoustic drum kit. He proved his abilities are still equal to the best in the world.
The bass is really generally not an instrument people pay much attention to. But strapped to the amazingly lithe Rick Savage, you stand up and take notice. Appealing appearance aside, he is an able bassist who notably played his instrument with one hand while reaching out to the crowd in the front row, and also was dead on during every bass heavy bit of music.
I left the band's newest addition, Vivian Campbell, for last. Frankly, I went into the concert expecting a ho-hum performance from the Belfast native. However, he blew me away. Anyone who doubts his ability as an emotive guitarist need only listen to his outro to Love Bites, which carries a listener away on the strength of the performance.
Bringin' On The Heartbreak - Excellent song, and Vivian did an excellent rendition of the solo. This makes for one of the best unspoken tributes possible, and showcases Vivian's ability to play a lead part.
Two Steps Behind - played in tribute to the late Johnny Cash, who passed away the same week as the show. This was not the best received ballad of the evening, eclipsed by Hysteria, Love Bites, and the recent (and oft-ignored single) Long Long Way To Go.
Slang - This is a song that doesn't really fit anywhere else with Def Leppard, but they way they play it live is something to behold. There's something enjoyably caveman-like about the chorus when it's nothing but monotone vocal and pounding drum. Not my favourite song on the album of the same title, the live performance is most enjoyable.
Switch 625 - An instrumental guitar-heavy piece originally composed by the late great Steve Clark, Collen and Campbell scorched the stage sharing lead guitar duties. At contrast to the other bandmembers, the interaction of these two fine axemen was almost strictly limited to musical interaction.
In all honesty, no studio recording or even live recording can capture the truly arresting experience of watching this great band perform live. It was a great privilege to see them in concert, and given the opportunity, I will see them perform live again.
For Your Own Encore...
Other than catching Def Leppard in concert, you can best get a sample of their live performance by listening/watching one of the following recordings:
In The Round, In Your Face (Live concert, filmed 1988)
Freddy Mercury Concert For Life (Live concert, short performance by Def Leppard in 1992)
Vault: Live at Don Valley Stadium (2nd CD of Vault limited edition 2CD set)
Disclaimer: All contents are personal observations, and no profit or lucre is expected, solicited, advocated or paid by anyone, including those being observed. This is all just for fun. Any comments, please e-mail the author or WOOKIEEhut directly. Flames will be ignored. This report may not be posted anywhere without the author's knowledge, consent, and permission.