Hard to believe Def Leppard’s been rocking out for almost forty years, never splitting despite suffering catastrophic injuries, illnesses and deaths that would (understandably) sideline less-determined acts.
But the plucky five-piece from Sheffield, England is intact, having released its eleventh studio album (2015’s eponymous Def Leppard) before hitting the road with Kiss, Tesla and Styx to adrenalize arenas around the globe.
You’d never guess these Def dudes are now in their mid-fifties—at least not judging from the potent performances on Def Leppard: And There Will Be a Next Time—Live From Detroit. Recorded live in concert last July (2016) at DTE Energy Theatre (formerly Pine Knob) in Clarkston, Michigan, this DVD + 2CD set captures the kinetic quintet at the peak of its powers, even if 35 years removed from their debut album.
Still fronted by vocalist Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen (who’s traded his mullet for pectoral muscles), the time-tested ensemble greets the motor city faithful with new “Let’s Go” before peeling off familiar hits from High ‘n’ Dry (1981) and multi-platinum platters Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987).
“Welcome to the edge of your seat,” sings Elliott, whose mic stand is just one of several pieces of equipment decorated with Union Jack red-and-blue.
Stacks of simulated amplifiers flicker and sundry images (neon Las Vegas signage, old band photos, etc.) flash on an overhead screen as the Lep lads storm through “Animal,” “Let It Go” and “Dangerous.” Clad mostly in black (save Collen, whose fit physique justifies his perpetual shirtless-ness), the musicians roam the expanse of the stage with wireless guitars and knowing winks, serving up the riffs that won them fame in the ‘80s and set the standard for pop rock in the decade of big hair and spandex.
Collen cycles through several iterations of his custom Jackson guitars and Japanese Stratocasters, occasionally joining co-guitarist Vivian Campbell on the catwalk for a dynamic duel or sizzling tag-team solo. Meanwhile, Campbell—who’s been with the band since ’92—alternates between gold-top and silver sparkle Gibson Les Pauls, his arpeggios meshing with Collen’s chords on “Foolin’,” “Love Bites,” and “Armageddon It.”
Bassist Rick Savage spearheads the group’s cover of 1973 David Essex hit “Rock On,” thrilling fans with a brief solo while Elliott changes from black jacket to white (with top hat). Collen breaks out a paint-splatter guitar, locking in with longtime percussionist Rick Allen—who operates his kick-drum with bare feet—as dusk turns to dark at the rustic outdoors venue.
“Man Enough” is funky and pulsating. “Rocket” roars. Campbell doffs his coast before “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” and shreds with Collins (now playing a blue PC-1 guitar). Together, the gunslingers deliver slinky slides and snarling bends on urgent instrumental “Switch 625” and harmony-laden “Hysteria” as vintage clips of the band—including former members Pete Willis and Steve Clark, who died in 1991. Elliott wanders with mic in hand for leisurely anthem “Let’s Get Rocked” and invites spectators to sing along to cheeky rocker “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
Encore numbers “Rock Of Ages” and “Photograph” harken back to Def Leppard’s MTV glory days and wrap the hundred-minute marathon on a glorious high.
The screen resolution is crisp and the editing boasts engaging momentum. The concert is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo, DTS Surround, and Dolby Digital 5.0 Stereo. Bonus materials include official music videos for Def Leppard entries “Let’s Go,” “Dangerous,” “Man Enough,” and “We Belong.”
“The film is a celebration of a legacy still in the making,” writes Rolling Stone scribe David Fricke in the liner notes.
Elliott agrees, noting that the last full-length Leppard show released to home video was the VHS-only In the Round, In Your Face (2013’s Viva! Hysteria Las Vegas concert film was restricted to a short run in cinemas).
“When you have five alpha males in a band, you have to realize who the boss is, and we quickly established that the boss is the song,” says Elliott.
The songs are certainly the true stars here, with the Def Leppard music-makers each receiving equal time in front of the cameras and looking good.
And—as the DVD title suggests—there will most certainly be a next time when it comes to these New Wave of British Heavy Metal mavens. The Leppards have already announced a Summer 2017 North American Tour with Tesla and Poison.
The DVD / Blu-Ray + 2CD is available now at Amazon and other retailers.