I discovered Def Leppard just before ‘Hysteria’ came out. I remember reading in the Sunday supplements about Rick Allen’s remarkable three-limbed comeback, and going out and buying the cassette, thinking it was the best album ever, then promptly dumping them as being ‘too soft’. Fast forward a quarter of a century or so, and I find myself queuing to get into the Brixton Academy with a couple of thousand financial advisors, accountants and other sensibly coiffeured and conservatively attired 30-50 year olds reliving their youth – an extremely un-metal crowd.
The Academy was absolutely filled to bustin’, so much so that we (my future wife and I, at our first gig together) missed almost all of The Darkness whilst queuing at the coat check and then fighting our way to the bar. No real shame though, they were a fad and a half and wound me the fuck up. If I want comedy metal, I’ll listen to Spinal Tap or Bad News, thanks.
So, on came ver Leppard. They’re all knocking 50 now, but they still look really young, far more healthy and slim than most bands of their era. Viv Campbell had replaced the sadly missed Steve Clarke a decade ago, so I guess he was a pretty established member by now, but I considered him a new face, and an unexpected surprise for me (told you I was out of touch with Leppard). Right from the off, it was classic Leppard all the way – they certainly know what the crowd want, and what the crowd wants is the old stuff. They played very little from Adrenalize onwards, and played a good half-dozen from Hysteria alone. On Through The Night, High ‘n’ Dry and Pyromania were also pretty well represented. What a show. They are seriously good live, so tight and energetic, and for once the Academy sound was pretty decent. Joe Elliott still has a great voice – all the high notes still being hit with remarkable accuracy.
I think I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better display of twin lead guitars – Phil Collen and Viv Campbell were truly incredible – easily as good as Smiff & Murry aaht of Maiden, and with a bit less facial contorsion histrionics too. Rick Savage took things a bit too far, posing about wearing a single leather fingerless glove, but he sounded alright I guess. As well as watching the duelling guitars, I spent a lot of the gig fixated on Rick Allen. I had read so many accounts about his struggle to get back on the ‘throne’ after an arm, I was fascinated to see how it actually worked. At first I was convinced he was being aided and abetted by a drum machine or another drummer hiding in the wings (apparently Bros did this, the limp fuckers), he was producing that much riddim. He was easily as good as all the four-limbed tub-thumbers I’ve seen – his feet were just a blur having taken on the additional work of an arm. One of the best in the business, and no mistake, and played one of the few drum solos I’ve been able to sit through without mentally picking the quickest route to the bar. Fucking. Awesome. Gig.