When I was first starting to get into music, a little later than most, I discovered a song called “Rocket.” This served to by my first introduction to Def Leppard, who quickly became my first favorite band. I quickly obtained all of their albums up to that point. There was something about their big arena rock sound that just grabbed me. Sadly, I never got to see them live during their glory years. Now, nearly twenty years later my opportunity has arrived. Def Leppard was teaming up with, as unlikely a pairing as I have seen in recent years, Bryan Adams to go on a tour of minor league baseball stadiums, much like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson did last year. I bought my ticket as soon as I could, my date was set to finally see them live.
I arrived at the stadium around 3:45 for the scheduled 6:30 start. I wanted to make sure that I was able to get a parking space in the lot, I did not want to deal with shuttle buses. There was already good sized crowd forming. I made my way to the merch trailer to see what they had to offer, I ended up with a Def Leppard “Rock of Ages 2005″ tour shirt. I took that back to the car, so I didn’t have to worry about carrying it for the entire afternoon. I then returned and got in line to await entry into the stadium.
The line grew rather rapidly, quickly filling in the open area of the parking lot. The lot was declared full around 5:00. While waiting in line I chatted with some fellow fans who were visiting the area from Florida, I ended up hanging with them for the majority of the show, which was cool as I was there by myself. The gates opened around 5:30 and the line slowly filed in. First stop concessions, got some food to keep me going then headed onto the field and down towards the stage. I settled in approximately 5 rows back from the guard rail and waited for the show to begin.
6:30 came and the warm up act hit the stage. Randy Coleman took to the stage with an acoustic guitar and one of his band members whose name I didn’t catch. Unfortunately for Randy, the crowd was not terribly into the music, they wanted Adams and Leppard now. Being that way, there were numerous boos and such directed at the stage. To Randy’s credit, his performance was actually quite good. He played 4 or 5 songs over a 20 minute period, including the song “Hey God” from the excellent film Crash. I thought his performance was good, I would like to hear what he sounds like with a full band. By the end of the set he had won over some of the crowd, but the rest was itching for the headliners. I hope he comes back to the area so that I can witness a full set with his full band, just so long he doesn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to the US again, that was a little goofy.
By 7:00 the crowd was getting a bit happier as Bryan Adams took to the stage. Now, I have never been much of a fan of his music, but he has been a talented purveyor of rock music for over 2 decades. The only song that I can really say that I know is “Everything I Do” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But I will admit for the 90 minutes that he was onstage, he owned the crowd. He played a mix of old classics and more recent stuff, including the first single from his latest album, Room Service, there was also “Summer of 69,” “Kids Wanna Rock,” and “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started.” His voice sounded great ripping through all of the songs, from the rockers to the ballads. At one point he even brought a fan up from the crowd to sing a song with him, it was a great moment, showing Adams is a class act. To close out his set, he came back out to the stage by himself to give us a solo acoustic song, calmed the crowd down a bit to save their energy for what was still to come. The most notable thing had to be lead guitarist Keith Scott, his playing was phenomenal, a fan even threw a bouquet of flowers up onstage with a letter, which Bryan read, turned out they were for Keith! While I doubt the admittedly excellent performance will not turn me into a fan, I would definitely go to another concert. High energy and fun music always helps towards having a good time.
Now came the long wait, from about 8:30 until shortly after 9:00, while the stage was changed for Def Leppard. The drum kits were switched, a hanging screen was revealed behind the stage, some cameras were set up. Most of the time was spent by the crowd jockeying for position and moving ever closer to the barricade. At one point a fight broke out to my right which was broken up by police. That was the only sign of any real violence I witnessed, for the most part the crowd seemed to be well behaved. By the time 9 rolled around, the crowd was getting a bit antsy for Def Leppard to hit the stage.
At approximately 9:07, the canned music stopped and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” started to get the crowd all riled up. Then they took to the stage, the crowd erupted and the band broke into the opening track “Action.” The crowd was immediately into it. After the opening song, the question was asked “Do you wanna get rocked?” This revealed the screen behind Rick Allen’s drum kit and the show was officially on. The entire stadium wanted to get rocked! It is not often that I am at a show where I can sing along with the majority of the songs played, much less with the rest of the crowd doing the same thing! This was only second outdoor concert, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. They ripped through all of their old standbys, plus adding in a cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” I remember losing it when “Rocket” began, it is hard to forget the first song you hear when you discover a band. At the end Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell traded leads, they sounded amazing. Their performance of “Rock On” was an incredible sight as well.
Joe Elliot possesses a great voice, he doesn’t quite have the range that he used to, but he still sounds great. This is the first I have really heard just how well Vivian Campbell fits in with the band, although I wish I had gotten to see the band during the Steve Clark era. Phil Collen was on target as well, playing to the crowd and just putting on a wonderful display. Rick Savage, while not the most proficient of bass players, more than holds up the back end of the band’s sound. Then there is Rick Allen, playing his own brand of drums, helping to bring out that trademark arena sized sound.
The last half hour or so just reeled off the hits. “Rocket,” “Photograph,” ” Animal,” and “Rock of Ages” rounding out the set proper before they said their thank yous and left the stage. The crowd just cheered louder at the empty stage. They returned shortly thereafter to give us two more songs, closing with “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” before saying the last of the good bye’s, leaving the sweaty exhausted crowd to make their way out of the stadium.
You know, I wondered just how much of a draw they would be, since they are not exactly an act on top of the world right now. I honestly thought that if I got to see them that it would be in a small club, like I have seen so many other bands from the 80′s in recent years. After witnessing this spectacle, I don’t think it would have worked so well. Def Leppard have this huge sound that couldn’t be contained in a small venue, it is made to fill up stadiums and arenas. In addition to the huge sound, which sounded absolutely perfect on this night, there is also the light and stage show. The entire band prowled the stage making full use of the space they had. Multi colored lights, rotating to follow them, bathing them and us in brightness only to be extinguished bathing the stage in the black anticipation of what was going to come out next.
On top of their fantastic stage presence and top notch lighting, I would be remiss in my reporting if I failed to speak on the screen. This was easily the most impressive element of their stage. It mixed live footage of them onstage mixed with footage of their old videos, custom animations and whatever else they wanted. It was a great visual addition to the stage that I have not encountered before. There were a pair of cameras used to supply the footage.
Def Leppard was born to roam the big stage, everything about their music is huge, and this concert reinforced that for me. I had co-workers who kind of snickered when I told them who I was going to see, but they just don’t know! This is possibly one of the best concerts I have been to this year. I hated to see it end, as there were so many more songs I would have liked to have heard.
If you have the opportunity to catch this tour, do it, you will not regret it.
Def Leppard’s Set list:
2. Let’s Get Rocked
7. No Matter What
8. Love Bites
9. Armageddon It
10. Rock On
14. Rock Of Ages
1. Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
2. Pour Some Sugar On Me
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