Concert Review: Def Leppard/Poison, USANA 6/20

WEST VALLEY CITY — Joe Elliott is no Tom Cruise.

And the rock world is a much better place because of it.

Over the weekend, the movie Rock of Ages opened in theaters and critics are already calling it a flop. Wednesday night, Elliott and Def Leppard launched their summer Rock of Ages Tour across the U.S. at the USANA Amphitheatre. And if the rest of the tour is like Utah, the Leppards’ summer trek will be anything but a flop.

The iconic hard rock band from Sheffield, England delivered their typical blend of monster hits mixed with a few deep cuts, lightning fast guitar riffs, and all backed by an elaborate stage show with enough lights and digital screens to light up all of West Valley. Elliott’s vocals were strong the entire evening. And what particularly made for enjoyable night was that this year’s set list is stronger than other recent outings.

Def Leppard opened with one of their most recent singles, “Undefeated,” a song used by ESPN in their promos. Although many in the crowd didn’t seem particularly familiar with the song, Def Leppard quickly dove into the material most of the fans in the packed 20,000 seat amphitheatre came to see.

As with most Def Leppard tours, the set list focused primarily on the Hysteria and Pyromania albums. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the massively successful Hysteria album, prompting the band to give it special attention. Eight of the 12 tracks were played Wednesday night. As one would expect, “Rocket,” “Animal,” “Love Bites,” “Hysteria,” “Armageddon It” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” were all played and well received by the crowd. But the band also put “Women” back into the set list (Elliott was in fine form rocking the stratospheric high notes) and pulled out a deeper track, “Gods of War,” that hasn’t been played in several years.

I admit it, I’m the guy at Def Leppard concerts who has seen the band perform so many times that I’m constantly wishing for the deeper and not-often-played tracks from the band’s storied three decade career like “Another Hit and Run,” “Rock Brigade” or “Tear It Down.” Maybe that’s why “Gods of War” was a refreshing addition to the set list and was one of the highlights for me, sounding as good as it did in 1987.

Elliott and crew weren’t done with the deeper cuts. Halfway through the show, all five band members walked out to the center of the catwalk and sat on an equipment case for an acoustic session. The band blended pieces of five songs into one medley, including the never before played “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” off the Slang album, “Now” off the under-appreciated X album, “When Love and Hate Collide,” “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” and “Two Steps Behind.”

Elliott was his typical cheerleading self, moving about all parts of the stage to keep the crowd pumped up. The audience was a wide range of age groups, from 40-somethings and older re-living their college and high school days to younger fans in their pre-teens who were seeing Def Leppard for the first time.

Phil Collen impressed with both his guitar playing and chiseled 54-year-old frame as he and bassist Rick Savage moved about the bi-level stage. Guitarist Vivian Campbell also appeared to be enjoying himself (when he wasn’t arguing with a stagehand whom he eventually flipped off) with a bevy of solos of his own. Rick Allen was solid all evening behind the drums, impressing with both his hand and footwork.

Def Leppard reached into the archives to pull out “Let It Go” and “Brining on the Heartbreak/Switch 625″ off the High ‘N’ Dry album. Their most recent single, “It’s All About Believin’” off the Mirror Ball album sounded decent in concert. Elliot noted to the crowd that 70 percent of the live Mirror Ball CD was recorded in Utah.

The big 3 songs from Pyromania were in the set list – “Foolin’,” “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages” – with “Rock of Ages” finishing out the evening.

After 30+ years of packing stadiums, arenas and amphitheatres all over the world, Def Leppard are showing no signs of slowing down. After Wednesday’s performance, it wouldn’t be surprising if Def Leppard continued to tour Utah for another decade.

Poison once again opened this year’s summer tour. Although the song placement was juggled a little, the set list was essentially the same as it has been for many, many years (even their backdrop banner was the same with the exception of strategically placed black tape changing 2011 to 2012) but somehow Poison still delivers those songs with a ton of energy and enthusiasm.

Lead singer Bret Michaels – headband and cowboy hat intact – was in high spirits and extremely interactive with the audience, slapping hands, fist-bumping, waving and pointing to numerous people. Michaels, Rikki Rockett, CC DeVille and part-time Utah resident Bobby Dall all seemed to be getting along fine on stage. And the crowd responded to them as they blasted through another summer of 80s rock anthems including “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Unskinny Bop” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”

There’s really no rhyme or reason to what Poison does or how they’ve managed to stay together so long with the four core members. Yet, year after year, they deliver a highly energetic and fun set, and in Utah they are always well received.

Def Leppard set list

Undefeated
Rocket
Let It Go
Foolin
Animal
Love Bites
Gods of War

acoustic medley
Where Does Love Go When it Dies
Now
When Love and Hate Collide
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
Two Steps Behind

Women
It’s All About Believin’
Let’s Get Rocked
Bringing on the Hearbreak/Switch 625
Hysteria
Armageddon It
Photograph

Pour Some Sugar on Me

encore
Rock of Ages

Poison set list

Look What the Cat Dragged In
Ride the Wind
We’re an American Band
Your Mama Don’t Dance
guitar solo
Fallen Angel
Unskinny Bop
drum solo
Every Rose Has its Thorn
Talk Dirty to Me
Nothin’ But a Good Time

11 comments

  1. Jesse

    Was seated in section 302 front and must say it was awesome seeing Def Leppard last night. Been wanting to see them my whole life (I’m 33) and finally got the chance last night. I seriously plan on seeing them every year now. They were just great. Brett Michaels/Poison were great as well. And I must say Brett was such an awesome frontman, and just seemed like a really down to earth guy the way he got the crowd involved. Awesome evening….. one of the best nights of my life. Thank you Def Leppard & Poison for a great night!

  2. Keith

    I was front row in section 103 and seeing both of these bands that close will definitely be one of the highlights of my next 20 years. Poison was so interactive and personable, they really made the giant crowd feel like an intimate show. I’m not a big Poison fan but CC and Bret kept the energy up and I had tons of fun. Then Def Leppard came on stage with their larger than life performance. While there wasn’t any audience interaction from any one except Vivian Campbell, they blew us away with the sheer amounts of energy coming off every member in the band.

  3. Kevin

    I have been an intense Def Leppard fan for many years, but had yet to see them live. A work associate saw them last year and couldn’t stop talking about it. I took my teenage son with me, since there is a major 80′s revival going on. There we were, father and son being seriously rocked by one of the world’s greatest rock bands! And man were they in fine form! The energy was amazing, the sound pure and loud! Def Leppard is everything I had ever imaged them to be live and more! Poison was also in top form, very enjoyable. I do not doubt at the end of the concert when Joe Elliott promised they would be back, that they will, and I will be there to listen.

  4. Dave

    We actually weren’t going to see Def Leppard this time around as we’ve seen them nearly every time they’ve been here in the last dozen years– that’s about 6-7 times! But my wife had Mirror Ball in the car and I listened to it again for the umpteenth time. I thought, “Man they are good! I wonder if there are still seats.” There were and we went.

    We weren’t disappointed. Our seats weren’t great–way off to the side– but we could hear just fine. Def Leppard’s music is amazing– soaring guitars, solid rhythm, amazing vocals. Like Pat, I was glad to hear a few different songs, although of course we love the big hits, which are numerous. If you don’t own Mirror Ball, get it! It is a great live CD, and even has a couple music videos. The three new songs are fabulous, and it’s too bad the crowd wasn’t familiar enough with them. Now we need a live DVD so we can watch at our leisure.

    My wife had a great suggestion. Next tour, no opening act. Just Def Leppard for 2-3 hours. They have plenty of great material, and could take an intermission like Pink Floyd used to.

    Thanks, guys, for another amazing concert! Until next time… and we can’t wait for that next time. We won’t forget you, thanks for remembering us!

  5. Jackson

    Last night was AMAZING!!!!!! It was my first concert and i loved it!!!!!!! I love 80s rock!!!!!!!!! Thanks to Def Leppard and Poison for the AMAZING concert!!!!!!! Im comin to see both these bands again!!!!!!!!! Go C.C!!!!!!!!

  6. Marie

    Sounds so AWESOME!! Gods of War….unbelievable song!! I’m in Washington State….come on guys and remember us for this tour. Gonna be seriously bummed if you don’t get here this summer. I’ll be the first one (of MANY) buying a ticket. ROCK ON!!!!

  7. Luke

    Looking forward to this tour, and catching their date in Kansas City next week.

    Last years tour was good, probably better than the previous few years, but this is sounding like it’s going to make those pale in comparison. I really dig the deeper cuts as well, and keep waiting for Lady Strange to make it back into the set list. Maybe one day, I guess.

    Poison always puts on a show. Period. Whether it was opening back in the day (I remember them showing up David Lee Roth one particular tour), or headlining on their own. Regardless of their place on the card, the show is guaranteed to be a killer.

    Hands down this has to be my solid 2nd place for this summers bumper crop of tours. 1st place? Iron Maiden. There isn’t any better.

    To any of those who went, did Lita Ford open? Odd she hasn’t been mentioned yet.

  8. Jenny

    This concert was amazing! I went with two of my friends, one of which had never been to a concert before, and I was so glad I got to share the experience with them. It was the best concert I’d been to in a while even though I was seated pretty far back and to the side.

    Lita Ford was alright for an opener, but most of the audience didn’t even bother to watch them and instead went to buy food and merchandise. Poison… Well, it’s Poison. They’re always fantastic live. Bret had the crowd involved and made sure we all had a good time. As for Def Leppard? They were epic. I don’t believe I need to go beyond that. They are, and forever will be, legendary.

    Def Leppard is my favorite band, and I was supremely glad to see that there were a lot of kids there around my age as well. I most definitely plan on seeing them again.

  9. Lloyd

    Def Leppard always has and will always be my favorite band. Cant wait for July 17th when I get to see them again. Please please add Lady Strange and Mirror, Mirror to the set list but keep Gods of War. Few years back I was dead center and Joe took a pic to put on the site……then it turns out he didnt hit the button all the way down and the pic didnt take. : (
    Hopefully he stumbles across this review and as a makeup he puts Mirror, Mirror on the setlist. Would make my 5th Def Leppard concert truly memorable. Keep rocking guys!!!!

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