WEST VALLEY CITY — “Are you ready for the first night of this tour?” Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliot asked the 20,000+ people who packed into the USANA Amphitheatre Monday night.
The defining roar of approval from the crowd signified a resounding, “Yes!”
Two iconic names in rock, Def Leppard and Kiss, are co-headlining a tour across the nation this summer. Monday night in Utah was night #1 of their cross-country venture.
Each band played 75 minutes. While Kiss put on a more elaborate stage show, Def Leppard delivered an arsenal of hits that the crowd was expecting to hear.
Just as they did in 2012, Def Leppard started their entire summer touring season Monday night at USANA. What was uncommon about this appearance, however, was for the first time in recent memory the Leppards weren’t the final act of the evening.
The quintet from Sheffield, England has developed a reputation for putting on elaborate stage shows during their career. But with the sun still shining down brightly at showtime on Monday, Def Leppard would have to rely on substance rather than a wall of flashy lights and lasers.
For Def Leppard, this was not a problem at all.
Hitting the stage with a few lines from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the band kept the energy rolling with a driving “Let It Go,” off the 1981 High-n-Dry album (not the Frozen song). Showing no signs of age, the Leppards were running on all cylinders from the start.
The set list concentrated mainly on the massively successful Pyromania and Hysteria albums. Unlike their Las Vegas residency last year where the band pulled out deep tracks that hadn’t been played in 30 years, Def Leppard stuck to what one expect on Monday night. Fan favorites such as “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Animal,” “Rocket,” Photograph,” “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Rock of Ages” all sounded excellent and were well received by the crowd.
Even though the band has played essentially the same six songs off Hysteria and the same three songs off Pyromania every summer, the reason it still works in concert is because Ellioit and his band all look like they still enjoy what they’re doing and are having fun on stage. Monday night, the band looked particularly pleased to be back, as each wore big smiles and were easy going in their interactions with the crowd.
“This one is for Uncle Gene,” Elliot said before launching into Gene Simmons’ alleged favorite Def Leppard song, “Foolin’.”
Guitarist Phil Collen was in standard fine form (and shape) while Vivian Campbell, who is still undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, showed no signs of being slowed down.
Elliot, Collen and Campbell pulled out the acoustic guitars for “Two Steps Behind.” “Bringing on the Heartbreak” also started off acoustically, but by the final chorus was built back up to its full throttle, album-sounding version, complete with the instrumental “Switch 625” at the end.
By “Hysteria,” it was dusk enough for the the large digital screens to be turned on. Images of past tours and members were shown during the song. Elliot added a few lines of Kiss’ “Beth” at the end of “Hysteria.”
Overall, it was another solid performance by the historic band.
Kiss, whose original lineup was recently inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, kicked off their 40th anniversary tour Monday night.
Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer were backed by an elaborate stage show filled with more explosives, fireworks and flame throwers than many local 4th of July celebrations. The elaborate lighting system was even in the shape of a giant spider.
Simmons, Stanely and Thayer rode that insect-like system to the ground as the curtain dropped and Kiss opened with, “King of the Night Time World.”
The show was filled with everything you’d expect from a Kiss concert, including fire breathing and fake blood by Simmons and Stanely riding a zip line to the center of the reserved seating section to sing.
What was missing for some, however, were the radio hits.
For diehard Kiss fans, it was a great set list that included “Cold Gin,” “War Machine”, “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and “Black Diamond.”
For casual Kiss fans, the inclusion of some of those songs in addition to “Hide Your Heart” and “Psycho Circus” over more classics such as “Love Gun,” “Strutter,” “Beth, “Domino,” “Calling Dr. Love” or even the disco-infused “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” were interesting choices.
With the 11 p.m. curfew quickly looming, Stanley told the audience after “Black Diamond” that they were going forgo running off stage and jump right into the encore. A powerful “Detroit Rock City” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” rounded out the evening.
As part of the tour, Def Leppard and Kiss are also honoring war veterans from both America and England. Prior to Def Leppard coming on stage, an honor guard consisting of local veterans who served in every conflict since World War II presented the colors while members of the 419th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base sang the National Anthem.
Also during Monday’s show, two war veterans were selected from a nationwide pool to act as roadies…one for each band…for the entire tour.
Def Leppard Set list
1. Let It Go
5. Love Bites
6. Let’s Get Rocked
7. Two Steps Behind
8. Bringin on The Heartbreak/Switch 625
10. Armageddon It
12. Pour Some Sugar On Me
13. Rock of Ages
Kiss Set list
1. King of the Night Time World
2. Cold Gin
3. War Machine
4. Hide Your Heart
5. Christine Sixteen
6. Shout It Out Loud
7. I Love It Loud
8. Makin’ Love
9. Psycho Circus
10. Let Me Go, Rock N Roll
11. Black Diamond
12. Detroit Rock City
13. Rock n Roll All Nite