The Def Leppard setup in Sydney was one of the more interesting layouts that had rolled through the Qantas Credit Union Arena. The place could pack thousands in the seats and on the floor, but instead of shoving people in like sardines, the venue had put down chairs in the standing section, all the way to the front. It was the first time most people had been ushered to their seats at a metal show.
But it was also a Tuesday, people weren’t there to go wild, they wanted to kick back, tap their feet and have a good time. Rather than fill the bill with a bunch of wild youngsters intent on tearing the arena to shreds, Def Leppard brought along two other veteran acts in the rock ‘n’ roll scene who knew how to warm up a crowd without wearing them out.
Aus-rock stalwarts Baby Animals were the perfect act to ease people into the evening, with their blend of 90s-era alternative edge and that classic Aussie bar band sound that makes you want to dance and play the air-drums. Sounding just as good in 2015 as they did on their debut in 1991, and more than capable of putting on a show, anyone that walked in thinking “Baby Animals? Oh yeah I remember them,” left saying “man, Baby Animals were fantastic!” They’re not some nostalgia act riding the coattails of the past, they’re a goddamn rock band, and a great one at that.
Pennsylvania rockers Live had a bit more stage space, and singer/guitarist Chris Shinn made use of it. Once he was free from the axe after the first song, Shinn grabbed the mic then jumped on top of the monitors and clambered up the speaker stacks. The rest of the band matched his enthusiasm, although they couldn’t beat his facial expressions, while putting in just the right amount of energy to get the crowd on their feet without showing up the headliners – and they did it all without missing a beat.
Not that anyone can really outdo a full-scale Def Leppard show. Sydney’s Qantas Credit Union Arena isn’t a small venue by any means, but the hard rock heroes elevated the show to a stadium-sized spectacular right from the start. Everything from the gigantic screens to the gargantuan sound was so damn huge, it was impossible to deny, and within seconds of kicking into opening number “Let’s Go” almost everyone leaped to their feet.
From there, it was nothing but 90 mins of good old fashioned hard rock with more 80s vocal harmonies, guitar solos and reverb-laden shred than you could shake a pair of spandex at (even though these guys were of the denim and leather variety). Frontman Joe Elliot was the undisputed king of strut, as he swagged his way up and down the runway every few songs, much to the delight of front-row fans.
Most of the set came from 1987’s Hysteria, but the 16 song set plucked plenty of tunes from their large discography, including cuts from the new record – “Let’s Go” and “Dangerous” – which were the perfect fit for big, arena shows. Everyone had their individual moment in the spotlight, however Rick Allen’s one-armed drum solo scored the biggest cheer of the night from everyone, including the band who even after all these years, still seem to be blown away by his talent.
But of course, when a long-standing band comes to town, everyone wants to hear the hits, and Def Leppard delivered in spades. During “Hysteria,” vintage Leppard videos and photographs adorned the screen, “Rock of Ages” was just downright epic and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was… well look, if you have the vaguest understanding of heavy metal history then you probably know how it went. (It was amazing!)
Musically, Def Leppard are still absolutely flawless, almost. Elliot’s falsetto did start to give out towards the end, but the band commands a powerful presence with pitch perfect harmonies and unbelievable musicianship that’s been honed down over the last 35 years. But when you put all that aside, they’re a phenomenally good band to watch because even after almost four decades, they still enjoy what they do. Guitarist Vivian Campbell’s permanent childlike grin was particularly infectious.
And that’s what makes a good show. Yeah you can enjoy the songs, the delightfully cheesy banter and the musical prowess of it all, but when a band is up on stage, pouring their hearts into the performance, you can’t help but get sucked into the pure, unabashed love that rock ‘n’ roll addicts feel every day.