REVIEW: Def Leppard – Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (1992)

Part Fourteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – A Concert For Life – Tribute to Freddie Mercury (Wembley Stadium, 20 April 1992)

Metallica had come and blown the crowd of 72,000 away.  Extreme impressed the skeptics with a Queen medley.   Live broadcast to 50 countries, there was no pressure at all on Def Leppard!  The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was only the biggest show of 1992.  And they had a new member to show off.

The band had given their new guitarist an easy warm up at a club gig at home in Ireland.  But his first high profile show would be the biggest imaginable.  Without an introduction, out walked former Sweet Savage / Dio / Whitesnake / Riverdogs / Shadow King guitarist Vivian Campbell!

What a choice!  There he was with his new band, completely confident and nailing “Animal”.  In his Union Jack jeans, Joe Elliott bounced on the massive stage, working the crowd without missing a note.  After a brief pause, he then asked the throbbing mass of people, “Do you wanna get rocked?”

It was the first major live outing of a brand new Def Leppard hit.  Hamming for the camera, Vivian ably handles the backing vocals, adding more depth to the live Leppard sound.  The late Steve Clark didn’t sing as many backing vocals, and Viv was a natural.  The crowd ate it up, fists in the air and digging the new tune.  One of the coolest moments is the solo, in which Phil Collen’s picking hand turns into a blur.

One more tune.  And then an even bigger moment:  Brian May himself joined Def Leppard for a cover of Queen’s “Now I’m Here”!  (This track was later included on the 2 CD Adrenalize deluxe edition.)  Of course we all awaited the guitar solo.  Viv went first (introduced by Joe for the first time), and Phil took the second solo.  They really made ’em wait for Brian May!  It was, of course, not May’s first time with Def Leppard.

Even bigger things were in store for the Wembley Crowd as day turned to night.  Queen emerged, playing a long set of classics with a series of incredible guest singers.  And Joe got to open their set, with Slash on guest guitar.  With one of his very favourite bands, Joe got to sing “Tie Your Mother Down”.  And nailed it.

The big question for Leppard fans was “who could possibly replace Steve Clark?”  In Vivian Campbell, they selected a guy who could play with both feel and shred, as well as write songs and sing.  The personalities worked.  The ironic thing is, post-Dio, Vivian had been seen as something of a “hired gun” guitar player.  Would he last in Def Leppard?  In his early interviews, he insisted that he was always looking for a band situation that he could stay in for life.  It turns out that Def Leppard was that band.

Club gig aside, the Freddie Mercury tribute concert was Vivian’s real trial by fire.  It was obvious the band had made the right choice.  Nobody could truly “replace” Steve Clark as the band’s in-house riffmaster.  Vivian helped Leppard evolve into the 1990s.  On with the tour!  Leppard might not have been the biggest rock band in the world anymore, but they rocked 72,000 people, plus millions more at home worldwide.  Not too shabby.

5/5 stars

MuchMusic broadcast the whole show, and then did a repeat performance of the entire thing at night.  It was then that I set my VCR and taped the entire broadcast, with Erica Ehm’s interviews with various bands, including Def Leppard.  Wembley were treated to Queen videos on massive screens in between bands, and those videos are also part of the broadcast.  MuchMusic’s feed was superior to MTV.  I was in Frankenmuth, Michigan mere days later at the end of final exams, watching MTV.  Our coverage was better.  The complete show has never been officially released in any format.

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize

Next:

15.  Retro-Active

20 comments

  1. Def Leppard were great at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, what a way to introduce Vivian as the band’s new guitarist! Rick Allen’s drum fills for “Now I’m Here” is still the coolest thing I’ve ever seen a drummer do!

    Liked by 1 person

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