In these uncertain times, there are many things we’re missing. Friends. Family. A quiet pint or two in the local. And, of course, live music. As good as regular albums might be, there’s just something special about being at a great gig (or, indeed, any gig really). It may be the atmosphere, the quiet hubbub of excitement that ripples round the venue as the lights go down and finally, finally the band appear on stage.
You might even have a pre-gig ritual that just has to be done (mine is a pint or two in the bar closest to the venue – mostly because I can’t bring myself to drink during a gig). You might be one of those people who turns up early to hear the support act. You might turn up seconds before the lights dim. Whatever way you handle a gig, it’s always something special.
The Hysteria: Live at the O2 part of the DVD is no exception. From the moment Phil Collen appears bare-chested and defiant with his really quite sparkly guitar and blasts the opening notes of Women, you know this is going to be some concert. Although the pint has been replaced by a mug of hot tea (it’s raining outside and the pubs are shut…), there’s the same tingle down your spine that you’re in for something special.
As the camera looks over the crowd, you can see this is a feeling that basically everyone there feels too. If the crowd are singing along in voice from the very first song, there’s always going to be a special atmosphere, and that’s definitely the case here,. Granted, it may be the Hysteria tour, where the entirety of that classic album is being played, but that’s besides the point.
The sight of so many lighters and/or mobile phones being held aloft during Love Bites is enough to make a shiver run down your spine. For my money, this is a really underrated song that doesn’t get anywhere near enough air play.
At this point, it would probably be worth mentioning the incredible lighting display that Def Leppard are using on this tour – mostly because Love Bites sees it stripped right back to simple lasers rather than the extravagant and mighty colourful display that’s on show for most of the rest of the set. Rather than distract from the band and their expert playing, the lighting adds an extra element to the concert.
Pour Some Sugar On Me, as you’d rightly expect, is a total crowd-pleaser, with the crowd in great voice. I may or may not have been singing along at home as I watched, which may have garnered some strange looks from my family. But then, that’s the sign of a great concert – that it’s able to help you forget where you are and just let loose.
When Vivian Campbell is brought forward as the “new boy” of the group, despite being a part of Def Leppard for 26 years (when the concert was recorded), it’s hard not to be amazed at not only the longevity of the band but at the sheer fact that they’ve stuck together so well for such a long time.
It’s only now that you realise we’re half an hour and five songs deep into the concert…yet it feels like we’ve only just started. What’s even more amazing is the fact that Def Leppard seemed to hit the stage running – there was no “settling in” period for this gig, where the first few songs are really just there to warm up the crowd. This was straight in, no holds barred rock.
Gods of War opening with a tribute to (and video of) the late great Steve Clark serves as a reminder of what Def Leppard have been through over the years and the fact that they’re still going just as strong as ever is perhaps the greatest tribute they could pay to him. With the stage behind them turned into a giant television screen, showing images from conflicts through the years, the song also serves as a poignant reminder of everything that’s going on in the world.
I was lucky enough to see Def Leppard play the Belfast leg of this tour, and watching this DVD has brought back so many great memories of that night. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen them live, but this was something else. There are some bands who, the longer they go on and go on tour, the more it’s almost just a chore. But with these guys, you can tell they still love what they do and that comes across in the sheer energy they put into each and every song.
Finishing the set with Love And Affection (strangely enough the last song off the album), it’s hard to believe that we’ve just witnessed one of the greatest albums ever recorded (in my humble opinion) played in full – including Excitable, which gets its first ever live outing in the UK on this tour.
The encore, as you’d expect, is a chance for the band to let rip with some of their other classic songs and encourage the crowd to sing along. Not that they need any encouragement – this has been one hell of a concert, and with When Love And Hate Collide, we get another instance of thousands of lighters and phones held aloft – which in an arena like the O2 is some sight indeed.
If When Love And Hate Collide put lighters in the air, Let’s Get Rocked replaces them with hands clapping and heads banging. Out of all the classic tunes we’ve rocked to so far, this is the one that shows just how on top Def Leppard really are, even after 31 years (and counting) in the business. Much like wine and cheese (two of the best things around), Def Leppard just get better and better with age.
As for the bonuses here, we get a great insight into not only the group, but what actually goes into setting up such a massive concert (mostly through shots between interviews). Finding out the thought processes that went into Hysteria make you appreciate just how monumental an album this is. It’s hard to believe it’s over 30 years old, yet it still feels just as important as ever. Seeing the guys interact with the crew just proves what down-to-earth, sound people they really are. You’re always told not to meet your heroes…but I think Def Leppard might be the exception to that.
The Las Vegas show, by contrast, feels a bit more…restrained than the London one, certainly when it comes to the stage show. I doubt “restrained” is a word that’s been used too often about Vegas, but in comparison with the previous concert, there’s a lot less going on. That’s not to say it’s less effective. If anything, it works on a different level as it makes the gig feel that bit more intimate.
Then all of a sudden we’re into Animal, and the lights are back – and all is right with the world. This is the Def Leppard show we’ve come to know and love. Not that they need the lights to put on a great show – their sheer stage presence and musicianship is more than enough to keep you enthralled and rocking out for as long as humanly possible.
While this concert is part of their residency in Vegas, this is by no means a dialed in, greatest hits-only concert. Yes, their biggest hits are there in abundance, but then we get the added treat of some lesser played songs – Billy’s Got A Gun providing an early highlight. It’s hard to believe that some of these songs aren’t played all that often – they sound right at home in a set like this, and if the guys don’t play them often, it doesn’t show.
For a two and a half hour DVD, this fairly flies by and before we know it, we’re over an hour through – yet it really doesn’t feel like it. This is the sort of concert you love to watch or be at – one where you don’t notice the time going by, yet you’d be happy to stay at for hours.
All of a sudden, the music stops and we’re into an acoustic set. Not something you really associate with Def Leppard, but by jove does it work. Playing songs that they’d rarely (if ever) played in front of a crowd till they reached Las Vegas (and one that Joe readily admits they haven’t played in so long, they’ve forgotten how it goes), this is a fan’s dream.
Hearing these songs played acoustically brings a new edge to them. Even if they’re songs you know and love (I’ll readily admit, I hadn’t heard a lot of them before this DVD), hearing them performed like this makes them more emotional, more intimate, more…alive.
It’s almost a disappointment when the acoustic set finishes and we move back to regular Def Leppard. Almost. Given how good this concert is, the fact they’re still going so strong after an hour and a half, it’s good to get brought back to full on rock.
The bonus section of the Vegas DVD is another behind-the-scenes look at what goes into bringing a concert like this to life. If you’re interested in the logistics, it’s a fascinating brief look, without going into too much detail. Seeing the concert hall in the “light” (as it were) makes you realise just how huge a hall and stage it actually is. The video follows each of the band members round (briefly), showing their reactions to the stage as well as a bit of the prep that they do while getting ready. Hearing Phil try out one of his guitars, with no other noise around, really showcases just how good a guitarist he is.
Individually, these are two of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time. But combined in one package like this? Incredible. If you want to experience live music again, then this is definitely one of the best places you can start. Until we can get back to actual gigs again, with the electric atmosphere and a couple of beers, this is pretty much the next best thing. Watched on a big TV with a beer in hand? Yep, that’s pretty much us there…