DEF LEPPARD – Mirrorball: Live & More (2011 Marquee Japan)
Def Leppard hyped this baby as their “first official live album”. First official live album? Maybe, but the astute collector had already been aware of a 1984 live album included with the deluxe 2 CD edition of Pyromania. For vintage 80’s Leppard thrills featuring Steve Clark, that’s the ultimate go-to live CD. More obscurely, after the Euphoria album, Def Leppard issued an entire live album’s worth (11 songs) of MP3 files for free, which are no longer around. You can read our review of that untitled release right here.
Regardless, this is the first stand-alone Leppard live album (double live, in fact) that you can walk into a store and buy. The domestic version comes with a bonus DVD, with behind-the-scenes stuff and music videos (“Nine Lives” and “C’mon C’mon” from the Sparkle Lounge album).
Upon inserting Mirrorball into the car drive and hitting “play”, the first thing I was impressed with was Joe Elliot’s voice. The singer is often the member who suffers most from the ageing process. Singers like Joe who basically screamed for the first few albums don’t always have the ability to do it convincingly anymore. The “old voice” is usually gone. However here it is, right in the opening of “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)”. It recurs many times over the course of the album.
All the hits are here, even the ones you’d rather forget like “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Make Love Like a Man”. The set leans heavily of course on Pyromania and Hysteria, with most of the singles being rolled out: “Rock Of Ages”, “Foolin'”, “Photograph”, “Animal”, “Hysteria”, “Love Bites”, “Sugar”, and “Armageddon”. Album classic “Too Late For Love” is also present, as is the perennial medley of “Bringing On The Heartbreak/Switch 625”. “Heartbreak” has a nice acoustic intro, different from the one that Leppard used to do back in the 80’s (see: Live in the Round in Your Face).
Then, you get a few boring tracks. Some of these, such as cover tunes, I have no idea why they still play them live. Do they not have enough old originals that fans are clamouring for? Did we really need covers on Leppard’s first official live album? No. But there’s “Rock On” anyway. I hate that song. And The Sweet’s “Action” is here, again, which I guess has almost become a Def Leppard song itself. For other dull content, the B-side-later-A-side “Two Steps Behind” also appears, a song which was never more than a throw-away to me.
As far as more recent material goes: Two songs from Adrenalize, none from Slang, none from Euphoria, none from X.
At least they included three songs from the latest album, Songs From the Sparkle Lounge: The awful, derivative heard-it-all-before “C’mon C’mon”, as well as a smokin’ version of “Bad Actress” and the single “Nine Lives” (without Tim McGraw!). Regardless of what’s included and what’s not (you can make your own wishlist of tunes!), Mirrorball does represent the Def Leppard live experience well. They are bang-on, every track. These five guys have really grown together as a band. It doesn’t sound like much fixing was done; indeed it doesn’t sound like much needed to be done. Four of them can sing well enough, so the trademark Leppard layers are well represented live.
Onto the new studio songs: None are very special, but at least two rock: “Undefeated” is the catchiest, even though it has derivative “Sugar”-like moments that don’t help. It has a thick Zepp-y chorus riff though, and that gives it some heft. “It’s All About Believin'” also rocks, but Sav’s “Kings Of The World” is too soft. Leppard need to stay away from the ballady-stuff. They’ve got more than enough now.
As is the norm, those lucky Japanese fans got a bonus track. It is the descriptively titled “different version” of “Kings of the World”. What’s different? It doesn’t appear to be a demo, but it is a shorter version, piano-based with most of the instrumentation stripped off and an acoustic guitar solo. My preference is to the more bombastic and Queen-like album mix.
For a first official one, Mirrorball is a pretty good live album. It could have been a lot better. It should have been better, considering. However they did do better, when they released the next live package, Viva Hysteria! That one scratches virtually every musical itch you have. And don’t forget, you can pick up that aforementioned deluxe edition of Pyromania for a youthful, smokin’ set.