Thursday, January 2, 2003 @ 3:01 PM
Def Leppard Gets Fans Rocked a
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REVIEW BY: Michael J. Busch
It’s a Saturday in mid December and you would figure that the most that would be going on is a little Christmas shopping or tree decorating for the holidays. This is the San Francisco Bay Area and of course that isn’t the case. I fell into a dilemma that was of choices, not of caroling or putting Christmas lights on the house, but events that I wanted to attend on a windy and stormy Bay Area day. You had Peter Gabriel in Oakland, Ozomatli at the Fillmore, Def Leppard at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and my company’s Christmas party at the Marriott Courtyard (yeah, I know that’s a lame last one).
Was there a choice? Not really considering I have never seen Def Leppard live before and have been an avid fan since the ‘80s. I mean this was the band that helped me get through high school with my sanity left in tact (to an extent). I have stayed true to Def Leppard through all of their popularity and obscurity from mainstream audiences to radio purgatory over the last two decades. Their most recent release in 2002, X, which marks Def Leppard’s return to form as a power pop/rock band is a great album that won’t get the airplay it deserves and won’t be featured on MTV’s TRL thus only allowing the die hard fans to enjoy it’s catchy rhythms.
My wife, Melissa, and I decided to try to fit in my company’s Christmas party prior to the Lep show. The concert started at 7:30PM with Def Leppard coming on at 8:30PM and the company party started at 7PM. We figured we would go to the party for a few drinks and then take a cab over to the concert to see the show start right on time, it became a lot more convoluted than the simple way I initially envisioned it. On Friday the day before the concert I entered a contest with 107.7 The Bone to see the Def Leppard sound check the day of the concert… As luck may have it, I won the ability to see the sound check. Melissa and I decided we would stay the night in San Francisco with the plan to go to the sound check at 3:30PM, then go to the hotel to change for the company party after and then back to the concert for a perfect Saturday of Rock & Roll and partying.
Of course things didn’t go as planned…
I didn’t have many expectations of the sound check, we showed up at 3:30PM and met Michael Solaris from 107.7 The Bone and he gave us two tickets, an X CD, and a Bone T-shirt, a pretty nice start. Apparently that wasn’t enough for some people that had won the sound check contest, there’s always that “guy” that wants and thinks he deserves more at these things. We will call this person “the guy,” you know “the guy” that ruins it for everyone else and makes something special kind of cheap. Waiting to get into the auditorium “the guy” asked about three times if they were going to have food inside, not that he didn’t have enough body fat to live off of for a few months. Michael from The Bone let us in the auditorium at about 4PM they had tables set up which we proceeded to sit down and wait. All the while we are waiting “the guy” is still asking about food then switches his limited attention span to something to drink. I now know what they mean by certain people being at the bottom of the food chain, they were referring to all “the guys” out there.
Def Leppard started their sound check at 5PM and played “Stagefright” and “Promises” then stopped for a few minutes to talk about the set list and I heard Joe Elliott saying that he wanted to keep “Long, Long, Way To Go” in the set. Then they proceeded to play two more songs, “Now” and “Let It Go.” There was about thirty of us and I have to say that it’s something special to hear a band sound that tight for rehearsal. We weren’t sure what was going to happen next but after waiting around a little while longer they brought us to meet a few guys from the band. At about 6:15PM, Joe Elliott and Rick Savage come out from the curtains in the side hall and we go up to meet them. I first met Joe and told him “Thanks for the music that has been important to me over the years,” he was nice and cordial, I then said the same to Rick Savage and he struck up a minute conversation with me because I had said they haven’t been to San Francisco in a long time and he proceeded to say how it has been a long, long time. Rick said the last time they played here was in the same building in 1981 opening for a band called Blackfoot. I was pissed because they were letting people take pictures and the camera we brought had it’s battery dead. Luckily a nice couple that we had met during the sound check, let us borrow their disposable camera and we were able to get a picture, Bob contacted us and is going to send us the picture. People like that offset the negative vibe like “the guy” distributes.
It was 6:40PM by the time we were done with the band. We were in a mad rush to get back to the Hilton change our clothes, got to the company party, and then head back to the concert. In hindsight we should of never went to my company party because of the pain in the ass it became. By the time we got to the company party it was 7:30PM and we needed to leave by 8:00PM but didn’t get out of there until 8:20PM. I had time for one beer and to say “Hello” then we grabbed a cab and made it to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium right as Def Leppard was starting.
Def Leppard tore into a rocking set over two hours long that spanned their entire career. Starting off with “Disintegrate” off the Euphoria album that is an instrumental was a great lead in to the rest of their set. They then broke into old school tunes like “Let It Go,” “Another Hit & Run,” “High & Dry,” “Bringing On The Heartbreak,” “Switch 625,” and “Stagefright.” These songs all worked well together because it showed they still had that harder edge from the early days and hadn’t abandoned it. It was a great build up to their evolved pop sound that began with the Pyromania album. The crowd was clambering to do a little singing, when the boys broke into “Foolin” you could hear the chorus and everyone loving slipping that “F” “F..F..F…FFFFFFoooooolin.” They kept the crowd’s enthusiasm with “Hysteria” and a few tunes from the X CD. The crowd responded remarkably well during their new tunes “You’re So Beautiful,” “Long, Long, Way To Go,” “Four Letter Word,” “Now” and “Promises” off their last album Euphoria.
The crowd got into a frenzy for the final hour with classics such as “Women,” an extended version of “Rocket” that had a lengthy guitar solo that exhibited the cool balance of rock and pop that Def Leppard has mastered. They did a guitar intro to “Photograph,” one of my all time favorite tunes. The crowd sang in synchronicity for the rest of the evening as they played “Animal,” “Armageddon It,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and “Rock Of Ages.” They came back for a three-song encore that included “Love Bites,” “Let’s Get Rocked,” and “Wasted.” It was great to hear “Wasted,” as they haven’t played a third song in the encore for most of this tour and it shows that they were appreciative of the fans enthusiasm that did show up. My only critique of this show would be that the songs they played for the encore other than “Wasted” weren’t really suited as encore type of songs, I rather rock out than hear “Love Bites.” I really wanted to hear “Too Late For Love,” which they didn’t perform on this evening either.
All in all, Def Leppard are true professionals, evident with the effort that they put into the time they took before the show to make sure the sound was right, the time they took to meet with their fans, and playing for over two hours with fans that really wanted to be there and weren’t just there to hear a band that is cool for the moment. The most common response I got from people when I told them I was going to this concert was… “Def Leppard, they’re still together and play?” Yes, they are still together and they are doing it better than ever for the fans that have taken time to follow these guys through the decades.
DEF LEPPARD ROCKS!