Live review

Def Leppard
Apollo, Manchester : 23.2.2003

A lot may have changed since Def Leppard's zenith as purveyors of multi-tracked radio rock for the masses, but even if you feel that they're washed-up and irrelevent, you've got to give them credit for sticking around. Def Leppard may not be the sound of the cutting edge, but there aren't many who do this sort of material better.
    If you want true musical anachronism, then look to tonight's support act The Darkness, whose slavish pastiche of 70s and 80s stadium rock draws equally from Queen, AC/DC and er . . . Bad News. Yes, it needs to be said: The Darkness rock. Singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins prances around the stage in full Jagger mode, clad in pink leather trousers, and eventually a striped leotard. The man's wavering falsetto is apalling, and yet totally in-keeping with the moment, and despite being played straight(ish), songs like Love On The Rocks With No Ice and Get Your Hands Off My Woman are outrageous. It would be easy to write them off as ironic chancers if the musicianship wasn't so strong and they weren't so damn entertaining. The Darkness also proved to me that the majority of Def Leppard fans have a sense of humour . . .

Which brings us neatly to tonight's headline band, whose latest album X has split the opinion of the counterculture staff. Withered sighing verses "Fantastic songs and production." Me? I haven't even heard it. Oops. Nostalgia and curiousity and are my motivations for being here tonight, and if Def Leppard can satisfy both, then they're onto a winner.
    Opener Let It Go suggests Leppard are at least going to attempt the nostalgia angle, and anthems like Action and Foolin' gamely compensate for the initially dodgy sound. Despite being a little portly these days, vocalist Joe Elliott still knows all the moves, and quickly drags us back to a time of big choruses and even bigger hair.
    New tracks such as You're So Beautiful, Four Letter Word and Now are cleverly mixed in with vintage crowd-pleasers including Hysteria and Slang.

Just as they seem to be faltering, Def Leppard bring out the big guns for the closing stretch. Check this out: Women, Rocket, Armageddon It, Photograph, Animal, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages. Bang, bang, bang - these songs are classics, and even the most cynical rock hack (er, that would be me then) would find it difficult to knock that little run.
    When Love And Hate Collide and Let's Get Rocked are trotted out for the encore just to remind us that Def Leppard have plenty more songs to draw on, and to remind us that they can still put on a quality show.
    Def Leppard last made sense to me cruising through California in an open-topped Mustang with Vault cranked up on the stereo. Tonight they make sense again.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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