Part Forty of the Def Leppard Review Series
Original review: Mirror Ball (2011)
It took Def Leppard until 2011 to release finally their first standalone live album that you could go out and buy on a CD. Chronologically speaking, we have already reviewed seven Leppard live “albums” from earlier sources. Mirror Ball is still technically considered their “first” live album. And they really leaned into doing live albums since then, as you’ll see going forward. Most of the content of this series will be live in nature post-Mirror Ball.
One cool thing about Mirror Ball is that there is no long lead-in. It starts immediately with the opening to “Rock! Rock!” with no fade-in. Cut to the chase, get on with the rock. It’s Screamin’ Joe Elliott in fine form right from the start. Brilliant, hard version going top speed. Leppard shift gears into “Rocket” from there, certainly a sudden change in direction. This is a short 4 1/2 minute version compared to the longer jam on the “C’Mon C’Mon” single. As second track on a live album, it’s probably a good thing it’s not a 10 minute workout.
Just as on Hysteria, “Animal” follows “Rocket”. Joe’s voice is more gentle here, and the song offers some different guitar touches that are fresh and interesting. Next, it’s the aforementioned “C’Mon C’Mon”, the first new track presented from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. You’d think it would be a live highlight, but it’s just a tune. Onto the next. Unfortunately the next is “Make Love Like a Man” which really…how is this still in the set?” Not a good version either. Fortunately, the trajectory is reversed with the Pyromania classic “Too Late For Love”. Always underappreciated, this apocalyptic burner has it all. Cool, atmospheric slow opening, wicked guitar parts, and Screamin’ Joe! Not screaming as much, but just enough. Keeping with the Pyromania, a decent version of “Foolin'” follows. Decent but not quiet incendiary.
The much maligned “Nine Lives” from Sparkle Lounge clicks live only when we get past that silly twangy intro. With that out of the way, it’s just rock and roll. Better than the album counterpart. At this point, we’ve come a long way without a ballad. “Love Bites” is the first, and it’s a good version, even if it feels a touch understated. Unfortunately, the cover tune “Rock On” from the Yeah! album closes this disc, and I wish Def Leppard never played it again.
Disc two opens with the acoustic ballad “Two Steps Behind” which the audience goes nuts for. There are a lot of versions of this song out there in the Leppard oeuvre, so here’s another one! From there, it’s a surprising acoustic version of “Bringing on the Heartbreak”, an unexpected variant. It would be nice if there weren’t choruses where the audience sings, but it’s live. Whatcha gonna do. That’s part of the experience that doesn’t translate well to album. Eventually it goes electric, and right into “Switch 625” which is automatically an album highlight.
A brilliant “Hysteria” is another album highlight. It’s a hard song for this band to mess up. They never do. Always powerful, as ballads go. A guitar-packed “Armageddon It” follows, and it’s a solid string of nothing but hits. “Photograph”, “Sugar”, “Rock of Ages”, and “Let’s Get Rocked” continue the golden oldies. Even “Let’s Get Rocked” cooks, which it doesn’t always. Really cool guitar stuff happening here.
That’s the end of the main set, as there is a fade and an audio change. It’s weird to get the Sweet cover “Action” at this stage of the game, but it does rock. And that goes into “Bad Actress”, a really fast smoker from Sparkle Lounge that was a true return to form for the band. These songs sound like an opening from another concert, but that’s it for the live stuff. Onto the new!
This album features three new studio cuts, with one bonus track in Japan. The first of these is the tepid “Undefeated”. Yes it rocks, and yes it has some groove…but that “Cha!” vocal hook? I dunno. I just don’t know. The Rick Savage ballad “Kings of the World” has a Queen-like sound. We know Sav likes Queen. This piano ballad is quite nice if a bit long. The Queen-like qualities and bombast are its strengths. In Japan, you also get the “different version” which is shorter and stripped down. Not as impactful though. The final new song, “It’s All About Believin'” has an upbeat staccato opening but then turns into a stock rocker. Nothing special or particularly memorable.
Mirror Ball is somewhat disappointing as the “first” Def Leppard live album. A few tracks sputter, and several could have been axed. Worth buying, as there’s enough good here, but it might not get frequent spins in your deck.
- 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
- In The Round In Your Face DVD
- “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
- Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
- Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
- Video Archive
- “Slang” CD single
- I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
- Rarities 2
- Rarities 3
- Rarities 4
- Cybernauts – Live
- Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
- Best Of (UK)
- Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
- Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
- Yeah…Nah! (Record Store Tales)
- Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
- “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
- Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
- Yeah! II
- Yeah! Live
41. iTunes re-recordings
42. Viva Hysteria