Three times ain’t the charm as Def Leppard brings the sap to Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 8, 1992

Last Saturday (October 3) I saw British rockers Def Leppard for the third—and probably last—time. I’d actually enjoyed their exhilarating brand of “happy metal” on the 1984 Pyromania tour with Uriah Heep, and on the 1988 Hysteria tour with Tesla. This time around they didn’t have an opening act, which is too bad.

They could have used the help.

The show started with the voice of Clint Eastwood, as Dirty Harry, explaining to some soon-to-die thug how his .44 Magnum could blow a person’s head “clean off”, then singer Joe Elliott ended Eastwood’s tirade by bellowing, “Do you wanna get rocked?” Indeed I did—I hadn’t come here for milk and cookies—but not by a boring piece of bubble-gum metal  like “Let’s Get Rocked”.

I was outnumbered by the majority of the Coliseum crowd, though, which was quickly won over, thanks in part to a fine in-the-round stage that afforded all an unencumbered view of the goings-on, which included a plethora of fancy lights and more lasers than Star Wars. But the pushed-to-the-max sound was screechy and muddled—at least from where I was sitting—and stayed that way throughout.

But it was more than substandard sound and an emphasis on the band’s sappier new material that turned this scribbler off. The band may have recovered from the trauma of drummer Rick Allen losing an arm, but it hasn’t dealt so well with the death of founding member Steve Clark.

The joyful camaraderie and youthful exuberance that drove the band just isn’t there any more, and Clark’s replacement—former Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell—appeared tired and bored for most of the show. Elliott’s off-handed threat to play a Loverboy tune at one point turned out to be a tad ironic, since his group is quickly becoming a formulaic caricature of itself, like Loverboy did before packing it in.

All doom-saying aside, though, it should be mentioned that the show picked up considerably near the end, when the band’s earlier, more genuine-sounding tunes were reeled out. But the strong exit didn’t banish the thought that the band was just going through the mega-budget motions.

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