But they’re also making a few stops at some of their traditionally strongest markets…and that includes Utah.
“I actually like coming to Salt Lake City. We’ve started tours there. We’ve been there for a few days and we hang out. So I really dig hanging out in Salt Lake City. I’ve got some friends there as well. It’s kind of like an old friend. You throw your bag down in the corner and you know exactly where it is, you’ve been in the same room a million times,” lead guitarist Phil Collen told the Deseret News during a recent tour stop.
This Monday at the USANA Amphitheatre, the iconic Def Leppard returns to Utah along with Tesla and a reunited Poison, and is looking to continue its streak of selling out the venue…currently sitting at something like five times in a row. Evidence of the long love affair between Salt Lake City and the Leppards can be found on the band’s Mirror Ball album, which includes live tracks from various stops on their 2008-2009 tour. Most of the live recordings on the album are from Utah.
Last year, Def Leppard came into town in support of their self-titled 2015 album, a project that proved the band wasn’t simply going through the motions when making new music. The Def Leppard album was the best thing the band has released in a decade.
But a few months before the band played at USANA, singer Joe Elliot had some highly publicized vocal problems, forcing the band to postpone several shows. Still, when Def Leppard’s tour rolled into Utah, any fears that fans were not going to get their money’s worth were quickly erased as soon as Elliot took the stage. Rather than sounding like someone who was still recovering, Elliot’s voice was the best it had sounded in years.
“He’s sounding way better than he did last year. He’s actually been doing these vocal warm-ups. He’s really been taking care of his voice,” Collen said. “Joe can actually sing things that he physically can’t normally do, that, you know, you take two weeks to do in a studio and luckily get one of the lines. He’s actually nailing this stuff every night. It’s the effort thing. And that’s something we’ve always been proud of ourselves.”
But Collen said it was touch and go for awhile, revealing that at one point doctors suggested throat surgery, a path Elliot did not want to go down. Today, Collen said Elliot religiously does vocal exercises. He compared it to opera singers who are in their 70’s and still “killing it” every night. Collen says it’s because those singers are making the effort to exercise their vocals and keep their voices strong, unlike some rock singers who just scream until they can’t do it any more.
“I think there’s a thing with pop people and rock people especially, where they really don’t take it that seriously, and there’s an ego thing that’s bigger than their talent,” he said. “Like an athlete, you really have to work at it to keep it at that level. I’m really proud to say that Joe is really working at it. I’m so proud of him. And I keep telling him this is the best I’ve ever heard you since I’ve known you.”
Even though this year’s summer tour is shorter than normal, that doesn’t mean Def Leppard is ready to go into hibernation for the rest of the year. In September, the band will play its first Rock in Rio show. They’re also headed to South America later in the year. And the band is busy writing new music. Collen anticipates Def Leppard will embark on a much larger world tour next year.
The band is also preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its most successful album, Hysteria, which has sold 25 million copies worldwide. The album that includes fan favorites “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Armageddon It,” and “Animal” turns 30 in August. To mark the occasion, Def Lep will re-release all of their albums in a vinyl box set.
Unfortunately for fans, a long rumored return to Vegas for a residency to celebrate the band’s second biggest album, Pyromania (“Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin”) is looking less and less like it will happen as Collen says other opportunities keep popping up for the band.
The always busy Collen also doesn’t have any shortage of projects on his plate. Not only is he finishing work on longtime touring mates’ Tesla’s next album, but his blues side project Delta Deep has a new live album coming out, and his guitar playing will be heard on a few songs off the upcoming new album from The Professionals, a band formed by members of The Sex Pistols after that band’s demise.
In July, Collen has been invited along with Warren DeMartini of Ratt, and Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big, to Joe Satriani’s G4 Experience, providing workshops and activities for guitar players of all skill levels.
Collen says he plans on talking about the psychology of guitar playing and how the ego can affect a person’s playing. Collen said when he first started playing guitar, it was for artistic expression. Guitar playing provided an escape valve for his teen angst. And for a lot of people, Collen said playing guitar helps build confidence. Guitar players performing on stage should be more concerned with expressing themselves than how people might judge them, he said.
The Deseret News talked to Collen shortly after the attack in Manchester and asked for his comments on the situation. Def Leppard formed in 1977 in the neighboring city of Sheffield, though Collen grew up near London. When Collen was growing up, it was bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s that England had to worry about. He said he really didn’t have an answer on how to stop the continuous cycle of violence in the world.
“All of these terrorism things, it’s really disgusting. What do you do? There’s this mentality that’s beyond any logic. It’s got no noble cause attached to it whatsoever, killing little girls, little school children,” he said. “Human nature is not very nice. And the reality is it’s a harsh, cruel world.”