Oxford 1980

REVIEW: Def Leppard – When the Walls Came Tumbling Down (The Early Years Disc 3)

Part Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – When the Walls Came Tumbling Down – New Theatre, Oxford 1980 (The Early Years Disc 3) (2019)

Of Leppard’s many live releases, When the Walls Came Tumbling Down is the most ferocious.  The early Leppard including Steve Clark and Pete Willis was a different kind of predator.  This particular setlist, captured after the release of the debut album On Through the Night, is extremely valuable to fans.  The band performed all 11 albums tracks, a clutch of early singles, and unreleased material.

“When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” is played first, full speed ahead.  Joe playfully changes one of the choruses to “When Oxford Came Tumbling Down”, and without pause they barrel right into the adrenalized “It Could Be You”.  There are no touch-ups or fixes done to these recordings.

The single “Rock Brigade” has a different flavour, more focused on the melody, with the foot less on the gas pedal.  Joe Elliot demonstrates confidence.  Rick Allen is a monster on the drums and Rick Savage is audibly holding it down.  Keeping to a similar tempo, “Satellite” swaggers all over the stage with determination, and Pete Willis absolutely slaughters on the solo.

There’s only a brief respite.  “Medicine Man” is an unreleased song that was later reworked into “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop)” from Pyromania.  The quiet opening only lasts a moment before that now-familiar riff kicks in.  There’s no question that “Medicine Man” benefited from its later evolution, but many elements of the song were already, joyfully, in place.

“Answer to the Master” is rolled out with that snakey riff, and Joe is extra-engaging.  A trend is now apparent:  virtually all these songs are better than they are on album.  Another unreleased gem called “When the Rain Falls” might be more familiar under its later name, “Let It Go” from High N’ Dry.   Some elements including the riff survived to the final track, but what a serious riff that is!  When Leppard had both Willis and Clark in the band, they were a riff factory.

Back to On Through the Night, “Sorrow is a Woman” is more lively than it is on LP.  Same with the non-album single “Good Morning Freedom”.  From the drums to vocals to sheer energy, it’s better than its studio counterpart, with an intense solo to burn.

“It Don’t Matter” has a cool groove, and more drive than it does on album.  This version is evidence that Joe already had ample frontman abilities.  This takes us to “Overture”, the Leppard epic with the soft opening and big arrangement.  This is where Leppard’s two lead guitarists get to show off in dramatic fashion.

The last unreleased song is “Lady Strange” from High N’ Dry, which is in more complete shape than the other two.  As it is on album, it’s one of Leppard’s most impressive songs so far.  Riff, verse and chorus are combined in perfect form.  Only minor tweaking would be needed before it was album ready.

The final batch of album songs for the night are laid out.  “Getcha Rocks Off” is a blast.  “Hello America” is looser than album.  And “Wasted”?  Total blitzkreig.  Unstoppable and unbelievable.  Finally the very last track, “Ride Into the Sun” is the timeless beloved B-side, originally from the Def Leppard EP making it three for three EP tracks.  It’s over before you know it, two and a half minutes are gone and that’s all folks!

Even though it is completely lacking in hit singles, it might not be going out on a stretch to say that When the Walls Came Tumbling Down is a strong contender for Best Live Def Leppard album.

4.75/5 stars

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  • The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased