Def Leppard Brings Expected 'Hysteria' To USANA Amphitheatre
by Doug Fox
September 1, 2011
Submitted by Diane Leigh
Def Leppard rocked the house in the British band’s Utah home away from home Wednesday night.
USANA Amphitheatre might as well put out a welcome mat with the band’s logo and a Union Jack on it at the venue’s entrance, having now hosted the venerable rockers four times in the span of five years.
As with many frequent guests, the host got exactly what it expected out of the visit as Def Leppard delivered a typically standard stellar set Wednesday -- much the same as its previous three shows at USANA. At this stage of their career, the members of Def Leppard know exactly what works for them and their fans, and they don’t ever appear to veer too far off script.
The band introduced one new song to the set, opening with the up-tempo proclamation “Undefeated,” one of three studio tracks tacked on to the end of its current live album, “Mirror Ball.” That album, incidentally, contains one track, “C’mon, C’mon,” recorded at USANA Amphitheatre during the band’s last visit, in 2009 -- a fact pointed out by lead singer Joe Elliott mid-set.
Other than that, the rest of the set was primarily filled with hits from the band’s two most successful albums, 1983’s “Pyromania”and 1987’s “Hysteria.” The band has been pumping out those classics every night live since then, and it showed as everything about Wednesday’s performance seemed in perfect sync -- from their head to their feet, yeah -- and from the music itself to the way band members roamed the stage working the crowd into a frenzy.
The hits flowed freely one into another -- “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Animal,” “Foolin’,” “Love Bites,” “Rocket” and on through the night as Elliott served his role as rock ’n’ roll ringmaster.
The playing styles of guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell make a nice complement. Collen is more flamboyant, strutting around the stage shirtless in sparkled boots while brazenly flooding the night with a torrent of tasty lead licks and main riffs. Campbell, although very active in his own right, is more understated in his delivery and can often be seen at his stage right microphone with eyes closed in apparent reverie, lost in the moment and his own playing.
Some of the clear highlights on the night were extended six-string showcases for the pair, including Campbell’s solo at the end of “Love Bites,” the duo’s back-and-forth guitar duel in“Rocket” and the high-energy interplay in the rock-solid instrumental “Switch 625.”
The Rick rhythm section, Rick Savage on bass and Rick Allen on drums, was 100 percent solid all night. Savage took a short solo before predictably launching into “Rock On,” the band’s highly effective cover of the David Essex classic, and Allen had a brief showcase at the end of “Switch 625” and dominated the beat in “Rock of Ages.”
As at previous USANA shows, the band slowed the pace mid-set for an acoustic rendition of “Two Steps Behind,” with everyone but Allen, who sat the song out, moving out to the end of a ramp that went out a dozen rows or so into the audience. Following that song, Elliott played along with the crowd a bit, commenting on a nearby fan holding up a sign that said “Wasted.”
“I don’t know if it’s because he is wasted or he wants us to play it,” Elliott said, before turning to his bandmates to ask,“Have we ever done it acoustically?”
Elliott, Collen and Campbell then gave it a go, briefly jumping into a bit of what was their first proper single, back in 1979. Following that, Elliott offered up an ode to Utah’s first family by playing a portion of “Crazy Horses.”
“OK, so it’s the Osmonds, so what?” he said with mock sarcasm.“That’s one of the greatest rock songs of all time. I played it on my radio show about a month ago.”
The acoustic trio then moved into more familiar territory with“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” Mid-song, Collen and Campbell retreated back up the ramp to the main stage where they strapped on electric guitars as Elliott carried the tune by himself. Then the full band exploded into the final portion, offering a jarring and fitting finale to the song.
The final stretch was loaded with top hits as the band rattled off “Hysteria,” “Armageddon It,” “Photograph,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and an encore of “Rock of Ages.” Even though the tongue-in-cheek suggestiveness of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is largely cliched by this point in time, there is simply no denying the power of its live performance -- something which could be said about Def Leppard itself.
Here’s hoping the band makes it back to USANA Amphitheatre, or anywhere in the Beehive State for that matter, again in the near future. Consider it an open invitation.
Heart was second on the bill, and ably warmed the crowd up for the main act. Heart, forever fronted by the Wilson sisters -- Ann on vocals and Nancy on guitar -- churned out an admirable 70-minute set that could have easily stretched longer.
Ann still has an amazing rock voice, which she displayed throughout the band’s set, but which was never more apparent than on the challenging middle segment of “Alone.” Her powerful highs at that point had members of the crowd both shaking their fists in approval and their heads in disbelief.
Nancy alternated between electric and acoustic guitar and even broke out the mandolin on a pair of songs. She soothed the crowd with her lead vocals on the ballad “These Dreams” and amped the proceedings with her famous guitar intro to “Crazy on You.”
Heart, which featured four other musicians backing the Wilson sisters, hit on many of its main standards, including “Magic Man,”Heartless,” “Straight On,” “What About Love” and “Barracuda.” The band played three cover songs -- opening with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and closing with the two-song encore of Led Zep’s “The Battle of Evermore” and the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me.” One might wonder why the band would leave many of its other possible songs on the table, especially in an already tightened set, but, honestly, after seeing the fantastic renditions of the covers, it’s impossible to criticize the choices. All three covers added something unique to an already strong set.
American guitarist Evan Watson opened the show with a four-song, 15-minute solo set -- except for the one song on which he was joined by Def Leppard’s Campbell. Watson, who accompanied himself with a bass drum foot effect while playing electric guitar, was an intriguing act. His music was good, and he got the crowd’s attention when he strolled onstage and announced, “This first song I wrote about a horny fish,” before playing “Love Piranha.”
He later said, “I’m trying some new ones, but you guys don’t know that because you don’t know who I am.”
Perhaps that’s about to change.