Having listened to 80s rock bands such as Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and of course Def Leppard since I was still in the womb, I have been looking forward to Def Leppard: The Hysteria Tour ever since tickets went on sale way back in January – and for this gig I even took my mum with me.
In the support slot for the tour were American classic rockers Cheap Trick. The band came armed with the perfect tracks to open and close their set in the form of “Hello There” featuring lyrics of “Hello there, ladies and gents, Are you ready to rock?” and “Goodnight Now” later in the evening with the line “That’s the end of the show, now it’s time to go” clearly signalling the last song of their set. During the first song, it was clear that the band were trying to impress with their eccentric poses and encouraging the crowd to cheer. However I think choosing to enter the stage to the PA system announcing that you were about to see “The best rock n’ roll band ever!” may have been a bit of a stretch, especially when they weren’t even headlining tonight’s show.
While lead vocalist Robin Zander’s outfit, a rather unique matching shirt and trousers set featuring photo montages, almost stole the show it was upstaged by eight tracks cherry-picked from the band’s early career, and a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. The standout track for me was “I Want You To Want Me”, a song made famous to my generation by the Letters to Cleo cover featured in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. During the final song, guitarist Rick Nielsen played a stunning 5-neck guitar at the end of the walkway extending from the stage into the crowd. An amazing sight I wish I had been allowed to take a photo of.
As soon as the Cheap Trick performance was over, the three huge screens that had been above them descended to hide the stage and a 30-minute countdown began. When the countdown hit zero it was showtime with vocalist Joe Elliott and the rest of Def Leppard making their way on stage. When the tour was announced at the start of the year, it was also publicised that the band would be playing their 1987 album Hysteria in full. The album was one of the longest ever issued on a single vinyl record and would be the majority of the band’s set this evening. Sticking with the original order of the album for tonight’s set, the evening started with “Women” and “Rocket” in quick succession. I unfortunately missed the majority of “Animal” and “Love Bites” while I quickly packed my camera away and found my seat for the rest of the evening, although I was later informed by my mum that the lights and staging for these two tracks were way better than during the first two songs, nothing like rubbing salt in the wounds!
Continuing the album track order, the massive “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was the fifth of the evening. Despite its early appearance in the set, the crowd were definitely warmed up by this point and were more than ready to sing along and get their arms waving. Elliot then took the chance to chat to the crowd about the album they were performing, asking them who was even alive when it was released. From the sound of the response, the majority of the audience owned an original vinyl copy of the album, although there were a considerable number of youngsters like myself who probably downloaded a copy. The energy in the venue continued as arguably the album’s second biggest hit “Armageddon It” followed Elliot’s interaction.
That was side one of the album complete. However, before side two began there was a moment to remember Stephen Maynard Clark, the band’s original guitarist who passed away in 1991. Side two of the album includes some of the lesser known tracks such as “Gods of War”, “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” and “Run Riot”. Throughout all three of these tracks, there did appear to be less of a reaction from the crowd although the faultless performance from the band ensured there was still a big cheer and applause at the end of each.
Normal service was resumed for the rest of the main set, with the song “Hysteria” re-engaging the crowd for the final three songs. With a “Liverpool, we give you Hysteria 2018!” from Elliot and a mighty applause from the crowd, the arena went dark.
After a few moments the lights kicked back into life and the band reappeared for a five-track encore. This began with a thank you to the fans for voting Def Leppard into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which had been announced earlier in the week. They then played the track “Promises”, an exclusive just for the Liverpool show. From one track that they don’t play live very often, to one that gets played most nights, it was time for the crowd to get their lighters and phones in the air for “When Love and Hate Collide”, during which there was an impressive solo from guitarist Phil Collen.
“Let’s Get Rocked” had the audience singing along from beginning to the end with some impressive crowd participation for the chorus. Elliot then mentioned the fact that the band has now been together for 41 years and like everyone, have “been through some shit”, referring directly to the loss of guitarist Steve and the accident which saw drummer Rick Allen lose his left arm in 1985. He then gave Allen the pleasure of introducing the penultimate song “Rock Of Ages”. The final song could have only been “Photograph”, and the crowd again sang along to every word.
It is often said that bands including Def Leppard have reached their expiry date and should call it a day, however what was witnessed tonight showed that there is plenty of life left in these guys. While their newer material might not be as popular as albums such as Hysteria, Def Leppard are still more than able to wow the crowd and perform their classic material. Taking fans back to the 80s, to a time when mullets were fashionable and there wasn’t a mobile phone in sight at a gig… unlike tonight where it seems some of the audience had filmed the entire performance!
Photos by Jack Barker Photography