Concert Review: Def Leppard and Poison Have A Good Time in Portland

Bono take note:

This is how you entertain and put on a rock concert.

Def Leppard played to a jam packed, sold out crowd at the Moda Center on Saturday in Portland, OR along with a strong supporting act by fellow 1980s stalwarts Poison and thoroughly showed why 40 years later people still flock to these arena rock anthems played flawlessly by guys in their 50s.

Let’s go a different route on the review as I usually write these with my “reporter’s hat” on, meaning if it’s good for this blog it’s good for a newspaper (that’s my personal expectation anyway and always hoped for accomplishment). All training aside, I’m going full-on blogger (credit to my wife who suggested I try something different). Forgive the use of “I” and the more casual tone. Perhaps I’ll find that’s what people prefer and today serves as a changing of the guard, so to speak.

Besides, I just wrote a review for Def Leppard last fall and they served the same setlist while replacing REO Speedwagon with Poison and keeping Tesla as the starters. I didn’t even take my notebook to write things down and had no plans to give Def Leppard due credit. But alas, a good show is a good show and deserves positive commentary. My apologies, I failed to arrive on time for Tesla and sat down about five minutes before the lights dimmed for Poison.

Singer and guitarist Bret Michaels was on fire from the start, simply a ball full of energy and seriously happy to be on stage. Poison opened with “Look What the Cat Dragged In” then “Ride the Wind,” the popular “Talk Dirty To Me” and dedicated “Something to Believe In” to the United States military. This was the only mention of anything political for the evening as Michaels repeated he did not want to get political but simply wanted to dedicate the song to the men and woman of our armed forces who allow us to party. And that he did.

Bret Michaels and Poison in Portland
Poison on stage in Portland at the Moda Center

That was it. Nothing else mattered. Just rock, a good time and playing hard. I was afraid he might be veering off to say something, not sure which way he leans, or who he’s pissed off at, and yes had it interrupted the show a bit or was just plain dumb, no matter what he said, I would have mentioned it here.

Instead, we got three glorious hours of music by talented musicians who wanted to play their wares for an enthusiastic crowd from the floor to the rafters. Seriously, I haven’t seen the Moda Center this packed since seeing Rush on their 40th Anniversary Tour (which by the way you can see me in the opening sequence of Time Stand Still, filmed at the Portland show, holding signs – finally made Rush immortality!) Love how Def Leppard can still pack an arena. They’ve even got a new album, not new so much anymore, but it rocks!

Back to Poison. Clearly, they draw a strong presence because the usual smattering of empty seats for the opening acts were filled for these guys. Michaels commanded the stage like a headlining act and drummer Rikki Rocket put on a drum solo that even Neil Peart could be proud of. Did you know he’s a stage 4 cancer survivor?

Poison wrapped their set with “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” (of course) and ended with a rousing “Nothin’ But Good Time” which got everyone off the seats and ready for more. Opening acts typically serve as a “warm up” to the headliner which in all my years of attending concerts I’ve never quite experienced until now. Indeed, Poison got the crowd wild and ready for Def Leppard, who took the stage just a mere 20 minutes after Poison’s 11 song, hour long set.

Thank you Def Leppard for choosing the Moda Center over that (insert mattress company here) amphitheater across the Columbia River located no where near Portland and a pain in the butt to get to. In fact, when the show was announced so many months ago I emailed the band, or whoever actually receives the “contact” email from their website and thanked them for choosing a venue actually in Portland and, most importantly, the more intimate arena setting. I have no idea when the last time these guys actually played in the city but it’s been a while. A long while.

They opened with a new song “Let’s Go” from their 2015 self titled album and of course played all their popular radio staples and two more from their latest. Oh heck, check out my review of their show in Eugene, OR to see the setlist. It’s the same. Like I said, Def Leppard never gets old and I’d pay the cost of admission just to see “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

Singer Joe Elliott sounded really good. In fact, one of the best vocals I’ve heard from him though he did get drowned out at times with Rick Savage’s bass guitar and a sometimes over exuberant Rick Allen bass drum. Actually, that’s the only hiccup on the night for both Poison and Def Leppard as the vocals were often over-matched by the rest of the band, most notably the bass guitar and drums.

Def Leppard played a 17 song set lasting about an hour and 40 minutes and encored with “Rock of Ages” (Allen providing that hallmark opening), and what now feels just as popular as “Sugar,” the audience kicked it into high gear for the final song, “Photograph” featuring the usual slide show of photos from year’s past of the band. Yes, I’ve seen them now several times in the past few tours and a fresher stage show is due but if that’s the only complaint then please keep coming back.

It’s the band’s 40th anniversary this year so, so much for a 40th anniversary tour. Elliott said it snuck up on them and it’s also the 30th anniversary of their smash Hysteria. which is finally now available on vinyl, well at least easily accessible on vinyl (available Aug. 4).

Def Leppard leads a host of bands still charging forward like it was 1977 as discussed in an Associated Press article, though it left out our friends from Sheffield, England. In a somewhat rare moment of discussion between songs, Elliott talked about meeting Savage for the first time as a teenager and by the end of the night, the two decided on starting a band together.

Forty years later and they still haven’t burned out or faded away.

By the way, we’ve probably entered a new reality when attending concerts. The police were readily present and closed off a main street, complete with police car serving as a barricade, that passes by the Moda Center.

Def Leppard Setlist – Portland, OR (Moda Center)

  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



6 thoughts on “Concert Review: Def Leppard and Poison Have A Good Time in Portland

  1. Nice job on the review! I’m traveling from Dallas to Vegas to see them June 17th. In a recent radio interview, Phil Collen said they are doing a World Tour in 2018 and throwing out the entire current stage production and starting over. So…. you should see something new the next time they come around. 🙂

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