From left, bassist Rick Savage, guitarist Phil Collen and drummer Rick Allen of Def Leppard perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Friday, June 22, 2012.
Live review: Def Leppard once again rocks Irvine
The movie musical Rock of Ages has been a bit of a disappointment at the box office since it opened earlier this month, earning under $20 million in its opening week, but the band behind the original ’80s hit of the same name played to another full house in Irvine Friday night (June 22, 2012).
Def Leppard checked in on the second date of its summertime Rock of Ages Tour at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to jump start the first weekend of summer, blasting out all of the quintet’s hits to the delight of a large crowd eager to party. While openers Lita Ford and Poison had performed to a decidedly greater number of empty seats earlier in the evening, the headlining U.K. hit-makers turned in an amped-up show that gave fans everything they came for.
The Sheffield band has one of rock’s most compelling biographies, including the death of original guitarist Steve Clark in 1991 and drummer Rick Allen’s inspired ability to overcome the loss of his left arm following a tragic car crash seven years earlier, carrying on using a specially designed electronic drum kit that has become an integral part of the band’s sound ever since.
Having sold more than 100 million albums in 35 years together, Def Leppard keeps shows focused on its wealth of smash singles. The group continues to ensure that fans never wait more than a few minutes before another one arrives.
Those radio favorites — “Hysteria,” “Foolin’,” “Rocket,” “Love Bites” and many more — typically pack huge choruses spotlighting lead singer Joe Elliott (seen on the right) and the backing voices of his band mates, blended with a fat rhythm and virtuoso guitar work courtesy of Phil Collen (longtime O.C. resident) and Vivian Campbell. It was that formula that fueled the party for the audience on Friday, who sang along when directed, pumped their arms in the air and lifted their beers toward the night sky whenever Def Lep launched into another staple.
By the time the band got through its opening cut, “Undefeated,” and delved into its second song ,”Rocket,” the crowd had already engaged their own thrusters and thousands were hollering out lyrics at full throttle.
Some of the more stirring moments in the show, however, came when the band veered off that course. Known for songs celebrating relationships and rock ‘n’ roll, Def Leppard surprised with an emotional performance of its anti-war rocker “Gods of War,” complete with dark images of warplanes and religious symbolism projected on multiple large rear-projection screens. The group also indulged an acoustic mini-set on a ramp that stretched into the crowd, highlighted by a melodic singalong of the tender “Two Steps Behind.”
The end of the night provided rocking versions of the band’s best material, including the power ballad “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” (with blazing guitar work from Campbell), a heavy metal attack on “Photograph” and, finally, a one-two punch of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and the night-ending “Rock of Ages.”
Bret Michaels-led outfit Poison pleased plenty of people positioned around me, but ultimately offered up an hour-long set of nondescript glam metal.
A version of the band’s biggest hit, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” came amid a set otherwise padded with bland rockers like “Look What the Cat Dragged In” and “Ride the Wind,” as well as pedal-to-the-metal covers (“Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “We’re an American Band”) that failed to capture any of the magic of the originals.
The highlight of the band’s set was the anthem “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” which admittedly connected with a crowd who felt the same way about this triple-bill.
Lita Ford kicked off the long evening with a solid 30-minute set of hard-rocking tunes. Lead guitarist of the all-female group the Runaways back in the ’70s, she showcased fine chops, and though always a better guitarist than lead vocalist, Ford nonetheless connected with fresh originals such as “Living Like a Runaway” and “Branded” (bolstered by dueling lead solos) as well as an Ozzy Osbourne-free version of her biggest hit, 1989′s “Close My Eyes Forever.”