Def Leppard
Live @ Birmingham Genting Arena
December 12, 2015
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

With their musical blueprint of wanting to be a cross between AC/DC and Queen, Def Leppard have comfortably fused the genres of rock and pop together with their anthemic sound since they first formed in Sheffield in the late '70s. It was with the seminal and Diamond-certified, multi-million selling (Robert John "Mutt" Lange produced) albums, Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) however, that the group really nailed their distinctive style. Pushing them into elite company and cementing their crossover appeal / status as one of Britain's most successful exports, in turn, becoming a household name all over the globe.

Continuing to record long players and tour in the ensuing decades, while overcoming the tragic death of guitarist, Steve Clark in January '91, plus wisely operating outside of The Music Industry's cyclical nature of fashions and fads. The Leps have deservedly retained their loyal fanbase through sheer hard work and by adapting their sound. 1996's exceptional Slang was unlike anything they'd previously released, while 2002's X had a much more contemporary feel. But, giving people what they want and never forgetting their past is of equal importance, hence 1992's Adrenalize, 1999's Euphoria, 2008's Songs From The Sparkle Lounge and 2015's eponymous LP, which bear all of the hallmarks typically associated with classic Def Leppard.

Nowadays, they are bigger than they have been in years, thanks also in part to the increasingly popular and lucrative heritage act circuit, where they've performed a Las Vegas residency, VIVA! Hysteria in 2013, and this coming January, are even setting sail on a 5-day Caribbean cruise, Hysteria On The High Seas. The long-touted VIVA! Pyromania Las Vegas residency, finally looks as though it will be taking place at some point during 2016 as well.

But for original followers, new generations of fans and even parents who have brought their children along to the Birmingham Genting Arena show, it's a dream line-up for any rock fan, as support is fittingly provided by Black Star Riders and co-headliner Whitesnake.

At approximately 9.35pm, a large black curtain emblazoned with Def Leppard's famous logo falls to the floor and the five-piece take to the stage to deafening cheers, opening with the aptly-titled Let's Go from their brand new record. And from the off, all of the elements / intricacies that make up the band's signature sound hit you like a gale force. From Joe Elliott's unmistakable voice, to Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell's melodic twin guitar interplay / solos, to Rick Savage's beating heart bass, to Rick Allen's driving drums.

Then, there's the rock icon's trademark multi-layered harmonies, which when blended together with all of the other key ingredients, mirror the high production values of their perfectionistic studio recordings and even led to accusations of 'miming to tape' back in the day. Because live, they were, and still are, that damn great! Incidentally, this is the group's longest standing line-up, with 23-years on the clock.

With a dazzling light show, giant video screens beaming ever-changing visuals and a walkway into the crowd, the stage layout is thrilling and sees the frontline of Joe, Sav, Phil and Vivian moving around all night long, lapping-up the audience's approval and frequently sharing contented glances. It must also be said, that Joe Elliott – complete with his Union Jack scarf draped mic-stand – is a captivating frontman, who goes out of his way to speak to the crowd on numerous occasions during the set, which certainly helps immerse you in the whole experience with both an emotional and personal connection.

Lyrically, themes of relationships do surface, although the band have always been keen to point out that music comes first and that their songs aren't written to be read as poetry. Instead, using words that gel well with the sonics and sound right phonetically, often resulting in impressionistic lyrics and ideas. Def Leppard gigs are therefore similarly designed for escapism and maximum enjoyment!

The 16 song set list is comprised of tracks from throughout The Leps career, with belters, ballads, an acoustic tune, an instrumental and even a David Essex cover, Rock On, thrown in for good measure. But it's the big hitters / smash hit singles from the group's extensive songbook, such as Animal, Love Bites, Armageddon It, Rocket, When Love And Hate Collide, Hysteria, Let's Get Rocked, Pour Some Sugar On Me and an encore of Rock Of Ages and Photograph, which the loudest singalongs of the evening are reserved for.

With a combination of energy, excitement and jaw-dropping musicianship, tonight, Def Leppard R.O.C.K.E.D our world!

A very special thanks to Valeria @ Duff Press, for all of her time and help.

"Hysteria when you're near"