Concert Review: Def Leppard Never Gets Old

Def Leppard at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR
Def Leppard performs at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR

Def Leppard returned to the Pacific Northwest on Friday for the fifth time in seven years this time filling the smaller and more intimate Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR in support of their latest album Def Leppard out nearly a year ago.

The setlist didn’t change much from past tours – of course you’re there for all those yummy arena rock anthems and the radio staples – but the classy Brits sneaked in three off the new album and added (for some reason) a cover song in a solid 17 song set that lasted just more than 90 minutes.

Def Leppard got started with the first tract off the new album “Let’s Go” which completely falls in line with the band’s stockpile of songs. It sounds like Def Leppard and feels like Def Leppard. It’s got a familiar hook (Sugar anybody?) and was that both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell playing the guitar solo, together? It rocked and so did the next one – “Animal.” (Never gets old.)

Singer Joe Elliott really shined on this one, the song now almost 30 years old, off their smash record Hysteria. The band continued with “Let It Go,” don’t get it confused with the first one, because it sounds nothing like it and is 34 years older. It’s an oft overlooked gem from 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry and the boys shredded through it adding a menacing jam to close it out that reduced the album version to rubble.

Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen
Def Leppard Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen

The big single off their latest record came next -”Dangerous” – and yes it gets airtime. Well, on Sirius radio, at least. Campbell got the go ahead on this one and proved why Def Leppard chose him nearly 25 years ago to replace the late Steve Clark. The 80’s smash “Foolin’” followed and then the female centric “Love Bites.”

“Armageddon It” (never gets old) continued the eventual six scoop dip into 1987’s Hysteria with Campbell in the driver’s seat. Not sure if the band dropped an octave or two, but something proved peculiar about the live treatment on this one as it sounded really fresh and a bit different. Don’t worry, it kept the album version intact. Just goes to show how well the 12 times platinum album stands up over time.

Def Leppard covered the David Essex song “Rock On” from their 2006 covers album Yeah! OK, so technically, sort of, they played a Def Leppard song but with all the gems on their new album it sure would have been nice to hear another one. It’s not a bad song, in fact they gave it justice, it’s just not their song and with such a deep catalog available, even without offering another new tune, let’s consider the covers album recess but don’t include it on the touring setlist.

They followed with the new “Man Enough,” see they could have done back-to-back off Def Leppard, like, oh perhaps the fantastic balled “We Belong”? Really just about any song off the new album. Anyway. It was great at least to get three songs and you’d think the band would showcase more off their first studio album in seven years and 11th overall. But enough of that.

Guitarist Vivian Campbell
Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Because “Rocket” (never gets old) came next which started an eight song run of their most popular fare with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (really never gets old) closing out the first set and the band returning with “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” (never… you get the picture) for the encore.

Def Leppard has seemingly been touring non-stop for the last few years. This show felt like a second leg of sorts from last year’s show with Tesla opening and REO Speedwagon taking over for Styx. The band recycled some of the imagery and big screen backdrop used on songs like the cursive writing to “Love Bites,” the old style TV screens on “Hysteria” and the trip down memory lane for “Photograph.” They indeed do a great job with the video production element which often upstages their playing! On “Rock of Ages” a camera mounted on Collen’s fretboard showcased a mesmerizing view of the guitarist playing.

It’s been 36 years since Def Leppard stepped foot on American soil and while all the members are well into their 50s they seem no worse for the wear and show little signs of slowing down. The new album confirms the band still has the creative juices flowing and they don’t appear content to rest on their laurels and just repackage a Greatest Hits show every year. Of course, their collection of greatest hits alone outpaces some bands entire collection of songs (at least listenable ones anyway) and they probably could get away with doing so. In many respects though, it’s felt that way, especially as openers for KISS a few years back but a mush deserved rest to come and Def Leppard should be back.

REO Speedwagon at Matthew Knight Arena

Like Styx, REO Speedwagon does seem content on touring, till the end, their greatest hits. They put on a solid performance but if you’ve seen them once in the last five years or so that’s pretty much what you’re going to get, every time.

It’s more of a nostalgic trip as the band hasn’t released a new album in nearly 10 years and the newest song featured – their smash hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” from 1984. REO Speedwagon is just about a full time touring act nowadays and they could probably play the songs in their sleep by now. Singer Kevin Cronin has done a great job adapting his vocals to a range he can reach and all those 80s hits still hit you as hard as they did more than 30 years ago.

REO Speedwagon played a 10 song set for about an hour which opened with “Don’t Let Him Go” and included the underrated “Time for Me to Fly” and “Roll With the Changes” and of course “Keep On Living You” a song born from a simple three-chord piano riff Cronin said got stuck in his head one early morning so he got up at 4 a.m. to write it down. And their lives haven’t been the same since.

Def Leppard Setlist – Eugene, OR (Matthew Knight Arena)

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Dangerous
  5. Foolin’
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Man Enough
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringing on the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph

Written By: AndrewT

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