Concert Review: Def Leppard Gets Loud Just Outside Portland

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Def Leppard is not burning out or fading away anytime soon.

The British rockers cranked up the volume to a massive crowd on Thursday just up the road from Portland, OR at the Amphitheater Northwest in Ridgefield, WA playing a mostly-hits setlist for 90 minutes leaving little doubt these guys were ready to rock.

With the sometimes face tingling vibration emitting from the speakers, the audience often matched the intensity of Def Leppard’s performance with their own singing back in unison to the chorus on most of the songs that demanded it. Letting up only handful of times, even when Def Leppard played their slowed paced fare, none of the life was ever sucked from the crowd through the 17 song evening.

Def Leppard opened with “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” then the popular “Animal” and “Let It Go” before finally blazing out the massive 80’s hit “Foolin’”. A fantastic and welcome addition to the setlist was “Paper Sun” off 1999’s Euphoria which hasn’t been played live since that tour. The war imagery played behind the band added to the song’s heavy lyrics about the 1998 Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland.

The emotion got pulled a different direction with couples slow dancing to “Love Bites” then everyone got into it for “Armageddon It.” The cover “Rock On” fits with Def Leppard’s music and included a cool bass opening by Rick Savage, but is totally unnecessary for a band with 10 albums and #11 due October 30. How about a sneak preview especially considering singer Joe Elliott announced a single was just released to radio?

Joe Elliott
Joe Elliott sings “Two Steps Behind”

Recent tours featured the band performing a stripped down version of the ballad “Two Steps Behind” another female favorite, but they went a step further and left Elliott alone in front of the mic with  an acoustic guitar. It worked.

The band came back in force with the stellar “Rocket” and the complimenting duo of guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell playing together trading off on solos. The band slowed it down again with “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and just like on High N Dry, and sometimes what you hear on radio, they blended it right into the instrumental “Switch 625.” The guys should do more of those. Hair nation aside, they’re a hard rock band through and through and “Switch” is as solid as it gets.

The show closed with “Hysteria,” “Let’s Get Rocked” and of course their anthem “Pour Some Sugar on Me” which never disappoints. They encored with “Rock of Ages” and the trip down memory lane with “Photograph.”

Campbell and Collen
Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

All told, it was a flawless show full of arena rock anthems and boundless energy. Campbell, looking dapper all evening, showed no ill effects from the Hodgkin’s lymphoma he’s been battling which returned again this year after seemingly past successful treatments. The shirtless Collen shredded through his solos with flair and the two compliment each other rather nobly, each getting his turn under the lights. Elliott’s vocals were solid and might not harken back to the high notes of the 80s but it’s been that way for years now and he’s found a decent range that fits right in. Drummer Rick Allen never ceases to amaze.

Def Leppard got short-changed a bit their last time through town as the opener for KISS so hearing a longer setlist plus the inclusion of “Paper Sun” made if feel less like the band wringing out what they could from past tours. However, much of the backing video for songs most notably on “Photograph” and “Love Bites” was the same.

To pull off what was little more of a “Best of” show is a testament to not only their longevity, approaching 40 years, but even just the outright number and variety of radio staples. They’ve got hard charging rock and then melodic ballads that bring out the women in droves. But what seems to happen with all veteran acts especially with today’s music industry is a failure to get a fan base for new material. So it won’t be a surprise if Def Leppard encounters the same fate with next month’s self-titled album. Therefore, it makes good sense to play one tract off it even if hard core fans haven’t had a chance to digest it, just as a way to ratchet up the excitement.

But if 15,000 flock to hear 30 year old songs and what’s heard daily on radio then returning next summer with a new album in tow and some fresh and exciting songs, then it shan’t be too much of a problem to get those same fans and perhaps a few new ones to head back out in droves.

Styx opened and though their setlist was pretty much the same as they’ve toured for years they certainly took advantage of the big stage. Styx always puts on a solid performance but seemed to put just a little more effort showing how good they are. They opened with “The Grand Illusion” and played half off their iconic The Grand Illusion album.

Though the current lineup has been together now for nearly 15 years, longer than the classic line-up (i.e.  Dennis DeYoung) stayed intact, the band often plays sold out shows at smaller venues, most notably casinos, but headlining large sheds or an arena tour is probably at this point a thing of the past. Styx played a nine song set for an hour, including an encore. Tesla opened the evening with a 40 minute set.

Def Leppard Portland (Northwest Ampitheater) Setlist:

  1. Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Foolin’
  5. Paper Sun
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Two Steps Behind
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringing On the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 626
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph



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