This is a massive collection. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse for being a day later getting our review up! That was just down to being busy as flipping usual… Def Leppard’s London To Vegas release came out yesterday (29th May) and consists of packages up to 2 DVDs or BLU-RAYs and 4 CDs in the one lovely box. Or vinyl, if you want to enjoy the artwork.
Spread across the various media are two full gigs and, for the visual discs, a bunch of extras. The first gig is, no surprise, a Las Vegas one and it features a greatest hits setlist. The other is from the O2 in London and is the band playing the classic Hysteria album in full (as well as some other stuff) as they play the venue for the first time. The title is London to Vegas, so I’ll hit that show first…
Now Hysteria was one of the first albums that really got me into rock music, alongside their other diamond-certified 10x platinum (!) album Pyromania. While some complained about the overproduction, young teenage me just loved the huge sound and catchy anthems. I actually played my tape copy of Hysteria (purchased second hand from another boy at school) to the point where it snapped. To date I have also only seen the band live once, and that was a few years ago in Glasgow… which was a disappointment. Partly, in all fairness, down to Joe Elliott performing with a bad dose of ‘flu.
It’s watching a performance like the one on this DVD that makes me wish I’d not gone to that show and caught them another time instead… especially playing the Hysteria all the way through! The tracks which fill the first half or so of the ninety minute show are in album order, and Joe’s voice is definitely on form. – as, indeed, are the rest of the band. Vivian Campbell is the only member on stage who wasn’t present all those years ago when the album was recorded, but has now been part of Def Leppard for half of his lifetime since joining after the sad passing of Steve Clark in 1991.
The album’s great and the songs still hold up today, but there are definite points which work better live than others. Watching the audience, and trying to listen to them, during “Rocket” is one example. There are great spots for cheers and singing along, but the keyboard/atmosphere break about halfway through just seems to fall flat. A minute later, though, and hearing the entire Arena singing “Rocket, ye-eah!” and you know the the band haven’t lost them.
I’ve been to the venue once, and that was to see Sabaton who came out all guns blazing (literally) with the special effects. Def Leppard have kept things simple with a classy light show and some good use of a video screen. It’s what a band of their styling needs and it works. It’s glitzy and spangly but not over the top. Besides, when you’ve got Phil Collen walking around topless and oiled up, why bother with flame-pots? And I say this as a straight man. How does that guy stay in such great shape? He’s almost exactly 16 years older than me and it’s annoying. Stop it, Phil (no, don’t)!
It does take fully five songs and 25 minutes into the show before Joe addresses the audience directly, and he actually sounds a bit croaky by the time he gets round to it. The frogs have gone by the time “Armageddon It” kicks in, though, and the remainder of the show similarly rocks, Joe managing damn well with the high-pitched lyrics in “Run Riot”… though perhaps by the next tour they may need to drop it all half an octave for him. Hey, if Jon Bon Jovi has to do it there’s no shame in it!
After Hysteria we get another handful of tracks from “before and after”, to whit: “Wasted”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Let’s Get Rocked”, “Rock of Ages” and quite enjoyably predictably “Photograph”.
Def Leppard Hits Vegas – Live at Planet Hollywood is a much longer show, clocking in at a shade under two and a half hours. Wow. Obviously there’s a crossover with some of the tracks on the previous disc, with a large handful coming from Hysteria as well as the final three songs from the O2 show. In fairness, “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” are stock show closers for them and have been for years.
It’s a huge collection from a huge catalogue of classics, kicking off with “Die Hard The Hunter”, which surprised me. In fact, the opening of the gig on the DVD doesn’t have the feel of a huge band erupting on stage, it’s almost like we’re partway through the set. This doesn’t last once the track passes its acoustic intro and we’re back into familiar rock show tropes, and all is once again right with the world.
Past this point, it’s rock show by numbers for the band and the audience, but the setlist is superb. It really does span Leppard’s catalogue without leaving a dusty corner untouched.
So the question is, why get these? Two more live shows from a band who release live DVDs more often than they seem to tour? Well, the answer is the same as asking yourself why you’d go and see the same band live more than once. Each show is different, even if they’re playing many of the same songs. Both DVDs (or Blu-Rays or CDs or…) are well recorded soundwise, and the image is good for the visual versions. I do feel that the editing on the Hysteria one is a little quickfire, hopping from shot to shot faster than my old eyes can handle, but that’s one person’s opinion. It’s still great to have on the telly while you’re kicking back with a (non-arena priced) beer.
London To Vegas is out now