Aug. 12, Verizon Wireless Music Center
4 stars (or fist pumps)
There’s not much to say about Def Leppard that hasn’t already been said.
They're unquestionably one of the most popular rock bands of all time, with their popularity hitting its highest point in the '80s, a time when artists of their ilk pulled out all the stops to make concerts truly ostentatious.
Such was the case Friday at Verizon Wireless Music Center. There was no pyro, but plenty of lights, displays, fog machines, a catwalk and drum riser. It looked just like a hair metal music video you can now only see on YouTube and VH-1 Classic.
The members of Def Leppard looked like they’d used a hot tub time machine. All of them except drummer Rick Allen and guitarist Vivian Campbell are 50 or older. Yet they still proudly rock the leather and spandex. Guitarist Phil Collen is still performing shirtless but also still has the abs to justify it.
They played every single from their definitive 1987 release Hysteria, with extended vamps on “Love Bites” and “Rocket.” Aside from the mini acoustic set of “Two Steps Behind” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” the night was all about arena rock and the English band’s melodic and heavily polished sound.
No surprise, the near-capacity audience reveled in it. I hadn’t seen a crowd that into a concert in a while. No doubt there’s a strong nostalgic factor to a show like this. And that was the only problem with it. Most acts would give anything to have a body of work like Def Leppard’s. But how much longer can they rely on songs that came out almost 15 years ago? Aside from the tracks “Undefeated” and “Switch 625,” both of which are on Def Leppard’s first live album Mirrorball released this year, everything performed here, while all classic rock radio staples, come from a long-ago era. All their albums from the ’90s and ’00s were ignored.
It was essentially the same story with openers Heart. Of course they can’t play a show without seminal hard rock numbers “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.” But aside from the fervent stomp of “WTF” from their 2010 record Red Velvet Car, the rest of their set was comprised of classic rock covers and originals issued in 1987 or earlier. Inexplicably, that included an acoustic version of one of their best power ballads, “Alone.” If not for the fact that Ann Wilson, at 61, can still fill an arena with her voice, I’d say quit resting on laurels and focus more on the new.