Part Forty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series
When Def Leppard rocked Vegas, they rocked it with far more than just a faithful live reproduction of the Hysteria album. They also “opened” for themselves as “Ded Flatbird”, and treated the diehards to a set of 15 deep cuts and lesser hits. For many, this is in fact the superior part of the show. Indeed, Leppard really pulled some surprises out of the bag, finally satisfying a number of fans who perennially complained, “Why don’t they play ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’?” With a wink and a smile, they did. They performed two completely different sets as Ded Flatbird, on March 29 and March 30 2013.
Beginning with the March 29 set, the unlisted intro is a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which is not present on the CD, only the DVD. Then it’s onto the first shocker of the night, and probably the biggest: non-album B-side “Good Morning Freedom”, from the single “Hello America“. Straight-ahead riff rock. It sounds surprisingly at home with the current version of Leppard. Phil rips a solo and Rick Allen can’t wipe the smile off his face. For the occasion of opening for himself, Phil Collen wears a shirt. (Appropriate for an “opening act”, the backdrop is a simple union jack flag, hiding the big screens that would come out for the main set.)
As soon as “Good Morning Freedom” has struck its final chord, and standing in front of a stack of EVH amps, Phil rips into the delicious “Wasted” single. This song from the first album is the one fans have been begging for, for years. Joe’s voice is lower and rougher, and perhaps even more effective. The song is still lethal! That riff could be the most devastating one in their entire catalogue.
From Pyromania, “Stagefright” is another welcome inclusion. Joe struggles with the challenging screamin’ vocals but he does the job. He doesn’t cheat the notes. This is the Leppard that fans have been wanting to see live all this time. Then another shock: from High ‘n’ Dry it’s “Mirror Mirror”! Joe introduces Ded Flatbird as the best Def Leppard cover band in the world, and he must be right. The tackle this, one of early Leppard’s sharpest and most melodically riffy songs, with ease.
Joe claims his name is “Booty Ruben” as they kick into the Sweet cover “Action”. There are several official live versions out there. This is one of ’em. Not a song necessary for anyone to need another live version of, but once again Rick Allen can’t seem to stop smiling. Back to the oldies, it’s another surprise with the early single “Rock Brigade”. Perhaps by adopting the alternate identity of Booty Ruben (who swears Joe Elliott is a nice guy!), Joe is able to sing these old lyrics from a lifetime ago without feeling too silly. He sounds awesome on the On Through the Night material. Their music hadn’t got really screamy yet and Joe rocks it with ease.
Another surprise comes next, albeit a more recent one. From their last album, Mirror Ball, is the rarely played “Undefeated”. Though not one of their most outstanding songs, even the generic “Undefeated” deserves to be heard live at least once. This is to date the only live version you can buy. “Promises” from Euphoria is the last song of this set, and it sounds really great live with rich backing vocals.
The March 30 Ded Flatbird set brings us another set of delight. After “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, they go right into “On Through the Night” from High ‘n’ Dry. A bit “Achilles Last Stand”, isn’t it? Screamin’ Joe manages well.
The surprising “Slang” from 1996 introduces modern beats. It sounds good live, if a bit under-energetic. Sounds like it’s just a little shy of full concert electricity. But that’s OK. If energy is what you need, then Leppard come at you with both barrels for the remainder of the set: it’s all of side one of High ‘n’ Dry, in sequence. “That ain’t good enough?” asks Joe/Booty. No, no, it’s plenty good, this is what we have been asking for all this time!
“Let It Go” powers the show forward. Amazing how close they nail it considering the Def Leppard of today has two different guitar players than the band of 1981. Yet “Let It Go” is the triumph you want it to be. “Another Hit and Run” is pure smoke. Full speed ahead, Screamin’ Joe givin’ it all he’s got, and Viv and Phil ripping the solos while Rick and Rick keep blasting it forward. “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” brings the tempo down but the temperature up. What a riff, and what a fist pumper.
The closing pair of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” are a thrilling way to end this set. Like a true guitar duo, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen walk together to the ramp protruding from the front of the stage, and play “Switch 625” united. It’s beautiful. Not to be left out, Ricks Allen and Savage then get a bass/drum outro together.
The DVD has a few more extras to discuss. There’s a brief and somewhat pointless photo gallery, to the tune of “Animal” live. None of the photos are on screen long enough to really study. A better bonus is the “Acoustic Medley”, which is on the DVD but not on CD, except in Japan where it was included as the bonus track. We’ll discuss this awesome bonus next time.
Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom. The band were fearless, playing material that they have shied away from for years. Two CDs, one DVD, and a total of 30 tracks. Leppard worked hard to get these songs into shape live, and Joe in particular had a lot of challenging material to sing. They pulled it off, with flying colours, proving that Def Leppard are just as good as they ever were.
- 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
- Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)