[Concert Review] Def Leppard / Edinburgh / 2003

Def LeppardVenue: Playhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
Artist: Def Leppard
Date: 18/10/2003

Set List: 1 Disintegrate (Intro); 2 Action; 3 Rock Rock (Till You Drop); 4 Make Love Like a Man; 5 Foolin’; 6 Too Late For Love; 7 Hysteria; 8 When Love & Hate Collide; 9 Slang; 10 Four Letter Word; 11 Two Steps Behind (acoustic); 12 Now; 13 Women; 14 Rocket (extended); 15 Armageddon It; 16 Photograph; 17 Animal; 18 Pour Some Sugar On Me;19 Rock of Ages; (encore) 20 Love Bites; 21 Let’s Get Rocked

There are plenty of bands who are effectively discarded by their fan base long before their sell by date has elapsed. One of those bands arguably is Def Leppard.

The 25-year veterans have long left behind the glory days of “Hysteria” – an album that sold millions around the world, provided a number 1 US single, 6 top 20 UK singles and a two-year world tour.

Although they have released five albums and a greatest hits since, Joe Elliott and his band have been restricted to decreasingly smaller venues and minor hits. So on 18th October 2003, they kicked off the second leg of their UK tour in support of their latest album, “X”, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was a sign of the times that in their first visit to Edinburgh in 15 years, the band failed to sell out the 3,000-capacity of the beautifully designed Edinburgh Playhouse. But those who did come were ready to rock, and while some hadn’t seen the band in some time, I had seen them perform in Dublin 8 months earlier, so knew what to expect. The stage was set up in a fairly standard fashion with a huge white “X” on the back wall, changing colour and pattern during the songs.

Coming off an extensive American tour, the band had shifted their set-list around a little from the first leg of the “X” tour. They kicked off with ‘Action’, a cut from their 1993 rarities album, “Retro Active”, and went straight into the early-80s metal anthem ‘Rock Rock (Till You Drop)’. Ludicrous? Of course. Entertaining? Without a doubt.

They made a brief stop off in the 90s with the catchy ‘Make Love Like a Man’ before returning once again to their early days. Versions of the moderate ‘Foolin’ and much better ‘Too Late for Love’ had even this sedate crowd moving around a little bit. The fans knew the early stuff, but it was time for a modern classic.

‘Hysteria’ was the breakthrough and the fans went crazy as Phil Collen, Rick Savage and Vivian Campbell pumped out the unforgettable rhythm of one of their biggest hits. ‘Out of touch, outta reach yeeeahhh’, Joe sung with the 3,000 choir members that had signed up for one night only. Keeping the anthemic vibe going, they launched straight into their biggest UK hit, ‘When Love and Hate Collide’ before increasing the tempo ten-fold with the alternative rocker, ‘Slang’.

After a visit to their latest release for the so-so ‘Four Letter Word’, four-fifths of the band left the stage leaving Joe there to strum an acoustic, trying to get the audience to participate in a sing-along to a well-known local song. The band returned, acoustics in hand for an outstanding rendition of ‘Two Steps Behind’ (from “The Last Action Hero” soundtrack), getting the best out of the audience by suggesting that they should be able to out-sing the fans in Glasgow.

It was time for another track from “X”, this time the much better single ‘Now’ (a top 30 UK hit). At this point it occurred to you that we were more than half-way through the night, and only one track from their best-selling album, “Hysteria”, had been aired. That all changed with stunning renditions of the opening tracks from that album, ‘Women’ and ‘Rocket’. Stretching ‘Rocket’ out for more than ten minutes, the band entertained with a guitar-based duel between Phil and Viv, both taking turns at playing powerful solos on top of Rick Allen’s thumping bass drum. Joe even segued into a brief performance of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ before polishing off the closing minutes of ‘Rocket’.

The workmanlike ‘Armageddon It’ was a prelude to their early 80s US smash, ‘Photograph’, before once again returning to “Hysteria” for arguably their best song, ‘Animal’, and best known song, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. It was a great way to send the fans home happy…except it wasn’t…

We all got a breather when Joe took the mic to thank the fans for their support and to have a chuckle about Rick’s drum kit falling apart during the closing songs, needing some emergency maintenance from the backstage team. The crowd then got an opportunity to give an emotional ovation to a man who endured the very sad loss of his left arm in 1984, but returned to drum for the 80s biggest rock band. With the three guitarists returning after some brief recoup, Rick introduced (“gunter glieben glauchen globen”) ‘Rock of Ages’ from “Pyromania, one of the night’s best songs, and once again the band raised the roof with a polished version of a classic rocker.

You could easily predict the inevitable encore. ‘Love Bites’ sounded better than it had done in the studio over 15 years previous – emotional and soulful – while standard concert-closer ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ is a daft but likable rock number.

It wasn’t an outstanding performance – I thought they were better in Dublin earlier in the year – but it was extremely entertaining and they are still one of the better 80s bands on the circuit. Past their prime? Oh aren’t we all.


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