Part Eleven of the Def Leppard Review Series
When I was a kid, in love with music and watching every video on television, there was only one concert I wanted to see. Grade 10, going on grade 11, the only show I craved was Def Leppard. Their innovative stage in the round, in the center of the arena, seemed like the ultimate package. But I was just too young and had no one to go with, so I never made it. Fortunately, Def Leppard released a home video to satisfy those of us who could not be there. I rented the tape from Steve’s TV and made a copy. It was the best I could do on my allowance. To make up for it, I bought it three times since on different formats (VHS, DVD, CD).
I popped the tape into the VCR with anticipation. A sped-up collage of the stage assembly flashed before my eyes, to the sound of “Rocket”. A massive undertaking, but this was just pre-amble. The show was about to begin!
It was just as I had heard about in the highschool halls. The stage was draped on all four sides by massive Hysteria curtains.
“I know what you’re thinking,” says Clint Eastwood over the sound system. “‘Did he fire six shots, or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth you know in all is excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.” A laser show begins dancing on the curtains. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk (punk punk punk)?”
Guitars replace the echo of Eastwood’s voice.
“I said welcome to my show!” screams Joe Elliot, teasing us before the curtains finally crash down and “Stagefright” kicks off the proceedings! Even in my armchair, there’s still goosebumps.
Def Leppard rip through “Stagefright”, completely in control, on fire as hot as their early days. Each member throws shapes on stage while Rick Allen keeps the whole thing moving, on drums in the middle. Leppard’s stage is not flat, with catwalks and staircases for the band to run and jump all over, which they do. Overhead cameras capture everything, from every angle. Nobody but Allen is confined to one space, as the band leap from place to place in the name of entertainment.
Continuing with the Pyromania, “Rock! Rock!” keeps the pace going at full speed. It brings a tear to the eye, seeing Steve Clark do his trademark whirlwind moves on stage, accented by his red scarf and made only more perfect in the round setting. A reminder that this was it — the last high point of the Clark era. Fortunately captured on camera and tape.
The first new song, and break in tempo, is “Women”. This is the famous version released as a single B-side with the “We got everything we need!” intro. You know it, you love it, it’s legendary: the live version of “Women”. Rick Savage mans the keyboard station for the time being while the lights get dimmer. Lots of echo on this one to duplicate the album ambience. “Too Late For Love” — a damn fine version — brings a ballady vibe, which they then lean into fully on an early appearance of “Hysteria”. The live version of “Hysteria” is lengthier with an extended bass intro. It feels like Def Leppard are a band with four frontmen, with the amount of shape-throwing going on here! And, for a moment, Joe Elliott on rhythm guitar! A funny little 80s axe with no headstock it is, locking down the riff while Steve and Phil embark on a glorious dual-guitar harmony solo.
Steve Clark gets a mini-solo to open “Gods Of War”, a Leppard epic that really shines in the live setting. We always thought it should have been the 8th Hysteria single. Rick Savage on acoustic guitar during the outro. The lights blast at the end, simulation “the bomb” and the band exist the stage as the lights go black. It’s a perfect transition to the gunshot sound effects that open “Die Hard the Hunter”. Lighters up! Off goes Phil’s shirt. This track is a return to the tempo of the opening duo, all three being from Pyromania.
Indeed, it is time to address the setlist. You may have noticed all the tracks are from Pyromania and Hysteria thus far. There is nothing from On Through the Night, and only one from High N’ Dry: “Bringing On the Heartbreak”. “This is one of our earlier songs, that we’re going to play a brand new way for ya,” says Joe. It seems they were trying to focus on the big albums that people had heard on MTV rather than their heavier metallic roots on this tour. Phil Collen gets a nice acoustic intro to show off his skills, along with Steve on doubleneck. This new semi-acoustic version of “Heartbreak” was so the band wouldn’t get sick of the song; it’s interesting anyway.
“Foolin'” ushers in a long stream of big, big hits. Steve’s still rockin’ the doubleneck. Then “Armageddon It” is nice and fresh. Much of this footage will be familiar to fans of the music video. “Animal” is tight, and received with a rapturous applause. Lots of girls in the front row dancing to this one.
There’s a touching moment in the “Pour Some Sugar On Me” intro when Joe says that the return of Rick Allen “the Thundergod” on drums was the biggest “up” that the band ever had. They then make easy work of the hit single. Phil takes a solo rip on the fretboard before “Rock of Ages”, and then of course the obligatory long audience singalong section. (“You can do better than that!”) The encore “Photograph” closes the show, and a great song to do it with. Shirts are no longer required where Joe and Steve are concerned.
This video was expertly directed by Wayne Isham. It is simply one of the best shot and edited live concerts available on DVD. It’s also – sadly – a document of the last stand for this lineup of the band. They had hit the top. Unfortunately you can never stay.
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
- Soundtrack From the Video Historia (Record Store Tales)
12. The Wait for Adrenalize (Record Store Tales)