Part Forty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series
In the long history of Def Leppard, one of the greatest things they did was go to Vegas and play all of Hysteria live in sequence. Joe Elliott worked hard on getting his voice in shape to sing those old songs from 25 years before. Hysteria was an album where every track was meant to be a potential single. It’s really the most logical of any record, short of a concept album, to play live in sequence.
This review focuses on Disc 1, the Hysteria set. The next review will cover Disc 2 and the “Ded Flatbird” set of rare tracks.
You already know Hysteria (or at least you better since we have reviewed it here three separate times). You know every song is great (with the possible exception of “Excitable”) and you know how important this album was, and still is. In the opening DVD intro, Joe stresses the importance of writing great songs.* Hopefully you know every one by heart and can hear the differences. Viva la difference!
Shirtless Phil Collen opens on a rising platform, playing the opening signature to “Women”. The DVD looks fantastic, sharp and with great angles. Rick Allen’s Hysteria kick drum lights up when he hits it. And check out Joe’s cool Hysteria-striped mic stand. The recording is also excellent with lots of separation between the guitars. Dig Rick Allen’s union jack headphones, and check out Joe nailing that first scream before the solo.
“Rocket” has some impressive backing vocals. The backdrop changes to a wall of TV sets, like the old music video. The guitars slightly deviate from the album blueprint but only just. Onto “Animal”, a reliable toe-tapper. The pace changes with the first ballad “Love Bites” but it’s a natural place to slow it down. Phil takes some different roads with his guitar parts, adding some new flavours. The camera lets us see all of Rick Savage’s pedal work too, normally hidden by the stage monitors. Vivian Campbell does a wonderful job of the classic Steve Clark guitar solo.
“Sugar” goes next, always a bit goofy live (if not in the studio). It’s still an undeniable anthem and the smiles in the audience tell the story. The backing vocals can be dicey but they are solid as a rock here, with Viv and Shirtless Phil doing the heavy lifting. Viv takes the spotlight for the “Armageddon It” intro and we’re already halfway through. There are times in the solo when the Irish axeman just bursts into grins at the Vegas experience.
At this point the lights go out, and old video footage from In the Round: In Your Face goes up on the screens. It’s a Steve Clark moment, as “Gods of War” was one of his signature songs. Steve’s unique intro plays before the band comes back live. It’s almost seamless, as if Clark was there for a brief moment. Joe Elliott really delivers on this song.
“Don’t Shoot Shotgun” is surprisingly fun, with live vocals instead of the layered and sequenced album counterparts. Now that we’re on side two of Hysteria, Viv has shed his jacket and changed his colour palette from blue to red. It must be said, the Irishman does an impeccable job of paying tribute to Steve Clark’s solos.
On the demanding “Run Riot”, Joe does the best he can with his voice at his age, but this is the first point of the show where it’s really noticeable. Though he’s hitting the notes, the depth of grit and power can’t be matched. And that’s fine. That’s not a criticism, just an observation for the purposes of this review.
“Hysteria” is the centerpiece. Majestic; magical, mysteria! This version is as good as any other live version. They always do it well. But “Excitable” might the surprise. Is it better live, stripped of the samples and loopiness? It may well be. It’s certainly harder. Screamin’ Joe absolutely nails every high on this one.
Hard to believe we’re already there, but it’s the Hysteria album closer, “Love and Affection”. Always one of those deep cuts that should have been a commercial single, “Love and Affection” rules. Vocally, it too is very demanding and so the album version cannot quite be matched. Close, though! Very close.
Joe Elliott does not get enough credit. As a singer, a songwriter, and just awesome human. He does not get enough credit.
Encore? Of course! “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”; two essential songs from Pyromania. They need to be there. So there they are. For deeper cuts, we’ll have to wait until Disc 2, the “Ded Flatbird” set (which is Def Leppard opening for themselves with a set of rarities). As for the Viva! Hysteria portion of the package, it’s a completely satisfying disc.
As an unlisted extra, the end credits are to the tune of the 2013 re-recording of “Hysteria”. A physical release, albeit DVD and not CD.
* Some of this footage is recycled from the Visualize DVD, including Steve Clark interview material.
- 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
- Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
- iTunes Re-recordings
43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and DVD extras)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)