This review is for Scott, your Heavy Metal OverloRd.
We at LeBrain HQ have always loved being able to shed some light on music that is so rare, that you just can’t find out much of anything about online anymore. It seems one of most obscure categories of rare music are official downloads from long ago that were never physically released, and long since taken down. 15 years isn’t a long time ago, but did you know that in 2000-2001, Def Leppard gradually put up 11 live tracks to download from their official site? This was long before they had any sort of live album out whatsoever.
These official live recordings were selected by the band, and were released over a period of several months. They were not available for long. They were taken down by the time Leppard changed their site over to promote the X album in 2002. Taken together, I assembled them in order of release into a a full length live album by Def Leppard — unofficial, yet official just the same!
The first song released was the old acoustic standby “Two Steps Behind” (San Antonio, Texas, 2000). Joe begins by announcing that they were recording the show, and that this particular night was also the “official opening evening, at it were, of our brand new website, www dot defleppard dot com. And that’s the reason we’re recording it, because we’re gonna put it on the web. Worldwide, you guys are going worldwide!” That certainly explains things! The recording itself is quite excellent, rich and clear. You also know there are no overdubs, because chords are missed and the songs goes on. To me this is the ideal form of live recordings: official, but with a loose “who cares” attitude in regards to fixing mistakes later on.
An older classic, “Women” (Salem, Oregon, 2000) has similar sonic qualities. It’s also quite bass heavy which is a nice change of pace for this band. There had already been a B-side live version of “Women” out there for a while, recorded in 1987 for the video In the Round – In Your Face. This version however has the currently lineup with Vivian Campbell, and a Joe Elliot who hits all the screams at the end. This would have to be my go-to live version when I want to hear one.
The first then-new Def Leppard song to get the live release treatment was “Demolition Man” from Euphoria. This one, from Denver, Colorado in 1999, sounds faster than the album version. On an album of mostly so-so songs, “Demolition Man” at least had some velocity to it, unremarkable as it is. It’s over and out quickly enough.
“When Love & Hate Collide” (Tokyo, 1999) is the second ballad released in the collection. Although you could get an acoustic version on the bonus disc (Acoustic in Singapore) to Slang in 1996, this was the first full-on electric live release. This version has some heft to it, and once again I would say this is the go-to version to listen to.
Def Leppard have been playing The Sweet’s “Action” for so long now, that you may as well consider it a built-in part of their set. This was the first live version made available (London, 1999). Like “Demolition Man”, it seems faster and much heavier live. Joe’s voice is sounding pretty ragged at the end — as it should be after a performance like that!
The hit song “Animal” from Hysteria was not readily available in live form, at least on an audio format. They did it unplugged for Acoustic in Singapore, and there were a couple VHS videos out there too, but nothing on vinyl or CD. This more recent version (Nashville, Tennessee, 2000) is as reliable as any other. It’s clear that even though the Euphoria album was shaky, the tour behind it was anything but.
Def Leppard started putting the instrumental scorcher “Switch 625” live again on the Slang tour. It was welded onto “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” for a High ‘N’ Dry medley, just like it was on album. This Montreal recording from 1996 is incredible. Even the ballad has some serious crunch and scream to it. Would you like some feedback? Here you go, turn it way up. Campbell nails the solos on “Heartbreak”, but it is “Switch 625” that is the pièce de résistance. Just listen to Rick Allen, but don’t leave your jaw on the floor! At the end, Joe says “Ladies and gentlemen, the best drummer in the world, Mr. Rick Allen!” Then, a moment later you can hear Joe say, “He is,” to affirm the man’s awesomeness. These two were released as one solid 8 minute 12 second track. Then, from the same 1996 show in Montreal is another special track. Is it “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”?
“Mama take this gin from me,
I can’t drink it anymore,
Where’s the sink, I gotta pee,
Looks like I’m checking into Betty Ford…”
In another moment of “I’m really glad they didn’t cut that,” Joe needed to fill a minute while Phil Collen went to pee! They left it in. Joe then turns the microphone over to Phillipe for his song “Miss You in a Heartbeat”, performed acoustically. Phil does the lead vocal and also the acoustic guitar solo, while it is quite possible that Joe himself went to pee.
“Rock! Rock! Till You Drop” is the only song from Pyromania to be released as part of this series. By the opening tapes, it sounds like it was the first song of the set in Cardiff, Wales in 1999. As such, Joe’s got a lot of screaming to do, but he does a good job. What an opener that must have been! You have to give these five guys credit for putting a lot of energy into their live performances. There is a lot of singing, soloing, and riffing to do, and they don’t make it easy for themselves!
The final two songs of the set were recent Euphoria songs, from the Tokyo show in 1999 once again. The ballad “Goodbye” is just boring as hell. You gotta get out there and promote the new album and single, but this was never a good album or single. It was a weak attempt to write another “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”. Thankfully they saved the best Euphoria song for last, which was “Paper Sun”. I like when Def Leppard get into that “Gods of War” / “White Lightning” space, and that is what they did with “Paper Sun”. (It also has shades of “Women”.) Unfortunately these last two recordings, being new songs and all, feel a little more stiff. The band weren’t as familiar with them obviously, but I think you can hear it. Still, what are the chances of Leppard ever playing “Paper Sun” live again? Slim to none, I’d say. So who’s complaining? Not this guy.
Since this time, Leppard have put out plenty of official live product. There’s the excellent double live Viva! Hysteria, with loads of rarities. There’s Mirrorball, a double album representing a standard modern Def Leppard concert set. There was even a bonus live disc added to the deluxe version of Pyromania. None of those releases have “Demolition Man”, “Goodbye”, “Paper Sun”, “Miss You in a Heartbeat”, or “When Love & Hate Collide”. That makes this collection pretty special, to this day.
We at LeBrain HQ want to hear from you if you know any more about these tracks. Any information gleaned such as actual recording or release dates will be happily added to this review. (Comments regarding trades will be deleted.)