The next time Def Leppard holds a residency inside a small Las Vegas venue – don’t bother going.
Because you will not want to see them in any other type of setting – ever again.
The penultimate performance of the Def Leppard Hits Vegas: The Sin City Residency held on Friday at Zappos Theater in Las Vegas had everything.
All of it.
On the surface, the Hits Vegas markets as a double entendre. But they didn’t just play the hits like they mostly perform on their regular tours. Oh yes, they indeed played all the hits, ALL, but not just the hits. Def Leppard took a dive into their 40 year, 11 album catalogue and rolled out songs never played live and some not played in nearly 30 years. Of course, the dedicated fan would say the mind-blowing, two-hour, 10 minute, 24 song setlist the boys from Shefflield, England dished out to a mostly sold out 7,000 seat facility, simply added to an already long list of hits.
It doesn’t matter where you fall on the fan spectrum: It was epic.
You knew from the opening song this 11th show – of 12 residency dates which began August 14 – was special as “Die Hard the Hunter” began. When was the last time they played that song? (Hey I’m in Las Vegas – no time to research the specifics). The harmonic ear candy for “Animal” followed, then the how-was-this-forgotten “Excitable,” with that great guitar rhythm, both off the smash album Hysteria before they went back to Pyromania for “Foolin’.”
By now you’d think Def Leppard would string off an hour more of their radio staples and call it a night but they hit 1999’s Euphoria with “Promises” and the great “Paper Sun” which they haven’t played in years, then reached way back in time with four straight off 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry with “Let it Rock,” the heavy and hard “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)”, “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and the instrumental “Switch 625” which always follows “Heartbreak” and includes a small drum solo for drummer Rick Allen.
The 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees slowed the pace a bit with a four song acoustic set that brought the band off the main stage onto a smaller platform in the middle of the standing pit crowd. Singer Joe Elliott said this format was becoming his favorite part of the night as Def Leppard continued the rarities with “Let Me Be the One” off 2002’s X, “We Belong” off their eponymous album from 2015 (also their latest) which they had never performed live until the residency tour, “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” that got dusted off after 26 years and finally the female favorite “Two Steps Behind” which if you didn’t know was adapted into the now popular acoustic version after guitarist Phil Collen suggested it.
The only real hitch in the evening came when Def Leppard plugged back in with the weighty “Now” the second off X which fell a bit flat simply for coming on the heels of the acoustic setlist. It probably could have continued the stripped down format but would have fared better earlier in the evening or after “Rocket” which thoroughly ignited the energy level and the crowd returned to their feet.
The second half of the show stepped on the gas and brought all the classics including “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Hysteria,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” and a stellar “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (I swear they turned the volume up a notch or three) which finished the main set. Def Leppard encored with the Sweet cover “Action,” a fast and somewhat furious rock song they included on their Retro Active album, “Rock of Ages and “Photograph.”
The stage show was simply spectacular. Zappos Theater (inside Planet Hollywood) affords bands an arena sized set-up and Def Leppard used every inch of it with stacks of amplifiers, a massive backscreen and a dazzling light show. Lasers brought extra life to “Switch 625,” “Love Bites,” and “Rocket.” Def Leppard was polished and these veteran rockers pretty much have it covered when it comes to the best live act around.
Collen and guitarist Vivian Campbell played flawlessly, each grabbing the spotlight on individual solos throughout the evening, Elliott sounds no different than he has for years, Rick Savage thumps out bass lines and you could argue that Allen represents the heart and soul of the band.
Oh and hey guys, don’t sell that eponymous album short. Just one song off the “latest” album made the cut but any random selection of a few more would certainly fit the bill. How about “Last Dance” during the acoustic set? “Wings of an Angel” longs for the live treatment and “Dangerous” and “All Time High” would blend in nicely anywhere on the setlist.
Not complaining! Especially considering that my first thought when Collen and Campbell ripped into “Photograph” was that I didn’t want the show to end.
Def Leppard Setlist – Zappos Theater Las Vegas Residency – Sept. 6
1. Die Hard the Hunter
6. Paper Sun
7. Let It Rock
8. Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)
9. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
10. Switch 625
11. Let Me Be the One
12. We Belong
13. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
14. Two Steps Behind
17. Let’s Get Rocked
19. Love Bites
20. Armageddon It
21. Pour Some Sugar on Me
23. Rock of Ages