There aren’t many bands that look like they’re enjoying themselves — and each other — as much as Def Leppard do, especially 40 years into a career. But Sheffield’s finest are obviously having a ball as they play to a packed house at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, three weeks into their North American tour with Poison and Tesla.
Opening with Let’s Go (from their 2015 self-titled album) is perhaps the band’s way of declaring that they aren’t merely a nostalgia act, and it feels as if the song was written just for this moment as Joe belts out the line, ‘welcome to the carnival, welcome to the party, welcome to the edge of your seat’. For the next hour and forty minutes, that’s exactly where they have their audience, who range from the die-hard fans to a younger audience who’ve clearly not been dragged in by their parents.
The set leans heavily on the golden years and the monster hits — and, let’s face it, they have a few to choose from. The seminal Hysteria album gave birth to seven of the beasts, and tonight they honour it with the title track, Animal, Rocket, Armageddon It, Woman, and the tune that blew them up in The US, Pour Some Sugar on Me. The latter proves to be as popular here as it was thirty years ago.
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The cover of David Essex’s Rock On (from 2006’s Yeah!) is well received, and one of the highlights is the epic instrumental Switch 625, which includes an incredible drum solo from Rick Allen. Normally such occasions are an excuse to head to the bar, but affection for Rick hasn’t waned over the years, and as he masterfully smashes his kit with Rick Savage duelling at his side it’s clear he’s still enjoying every moment. Another pivotal moment is Let It Go, from High ‘n’ Dry. It’s a reminder that once upon a time, before Pyromania and Hysteria, Leppard were a band more in the AC/DC vein, with louder guitars and fewer melodies.
Photograph lacks some of the energy that rest of the show possesses, and could have been the wrong song to close this no-frills show with, but it goes unnoticed by an audience who’ve clearly enjoyed every moment. And, let’s face it, Leppard are a band that don’t need the big pyro, lights and gimmicks. They’re a band who let the songs do the talking.
It’s no wonder Def Leppard are still selling out Arenas in 2017. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and they give their audience an escape from the norm. It’s straight-up entertainment, and that’s exactly what Nashville get.
Def Leppard were Made in Sheffield, but they’ve certainly stolen the hearts of America – and are still one of the greatest rock bands on the planet.