There is a moment when a truly great rock band turns a corner. It is a telling and poignant moment that proves almost above any other, that this band has transcended the era into which they were born and stood the test of time. This moment is scarcely talked about, but once reached there is no going back. There are no hall of fame awards or milestone trophies handed out for reaching it, yet only a select few are able to do so. To turn this corner is to cement yourself in history, alongside the greats like The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac.
It’s the moment when your entire, jam packed arena, would prefer to SIT DOWN.
Selling out an arena the size of Rod Laver is no mean feat. Doing it after decades in the game is even more impressive. The head bopping, foot tapping, chair loving crowd may not be the mosh pit, crowd surfing, tit flashing mob they used to be, but they are a representation of a lifelong career. This crowd has been with you from the beginning, and grown old with you. Your music has been the soundtrack to their lives, your impact so strong that they are STILL HERE. When you think about it, it’s really kind of great. The only downside? It doesn’t make for easy work on stage, and last night in Melbourne Def Leppard struggled with this more than most.
It was a night of stark contrasts. Being caught somewhere between appreciating the long term loyalty of their crowd, and just wanting us to STAND THE FUCK UP was a struggle representative of the bands mentality overall. Torn between not wanting to become a tribute band to their former selves and the nostalgia conjured by still getting to smash out their hits for an adoring crowd, the contradictions were rife.
Frontman Joe Elliot one minute thanking us for putting up with having to hear their “new stuff” and the next belting out Hysteria underneath a screen full of footage from their biggest and best shows (and haircuts) from times gone by. Featured support act Live fell victim to a similar battle. While it’s never going to be a bad thing to hear 90s rock tracks like I Alone and Lightning Crashes live in the flesh, without Ed they’ve become more of a tribute band to themselves than the act we really want to see. Sure a band is so much more than their frontman, but with such an enigmatic character to connect us to those memories we really are just watching a different bald guy give us his best Ed impression.
It’s true no one was there for their new stuff, and while tracks like Dangerous were tight and cool and well delivered, their new album is just more of the same old Def Leppard. It’s not bad, but when it does end up sounding like a lesser version of their hits of old, whats the point? Whether it’s what the band want or not, we were there for for the bangers we know. It takes more than screaming demands to rev up a Melbourne crowd, and while the seated ticket holders filling the stadium may have disappointed the 5 men on the stage a little, the band certainly did not disappoint us.
Crashing on to the stage with an opener of Let’s Go and Animal, Def Leppard left nothing behind. Joe joined by an shirtless, oiled up Phil Collen, the ever smiling Vivian Campbell, afro rocking Rick Savage and The Thunder God himself, one-armed drummer Rick Allen, lighting up Rod Laver and delivering exactly what we were there for.
Other highlights were, as expected, the heartbreakingly beautiful Love Bites allowing Joe to reach soaring heights under a scripture of lyrics on the big screen, Phil wailing on the guitar in all his oily glory and Joe’s acoustic solo performance of Two Steps Behind was a sweet break from the in your face glam rock. No surprises that Pour Some Sugar On Me was the track that raised the roof, followed by an awesome encore of Rock Of Ages, Photograph and Kings Of The World.
The boys may have found it hard work, now that they have turned this corner, but if so when the whole package is considered they really were the only ones disappointed. From where I was sitting, these legendary rockstars absolutely nailed it, and it was privilege to tap my foot in one of their seats.
Watch: Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me