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
Let It Go
Gods of War
Where Does Love Go When it Dies
When Love and Hate Collide
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
Two Steps Behind
It’s All About Believin’
Let’s Get Rocked
Bringing on the Hearbreak/Switch 625
Pour Some Sugar on Me
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
Every Rose Has its Thorn
Talk Dirty to Me
Nothin’ But a Good Time