Live review:  18th November 2015 @ Rod Laver Area

The night started with a riff. Then more big ballsy riffs filled the cavernous and mostly empty Rod Laver Arena as ¾ of Electric Mary took the stage.

A man clad in black and cowboy hat crept up the side stage and tip toed his way on like a pantomime villain, you felt like yelling “lookout! He’s behind you”. But instead of any villainous hijinks the singer crept to centre stage, grabbed the mic, struck a boat captain pose, gazed distantly out to the imaginary sea then started growling.

It was thirty minutes of gruff rock, a bit of fist pumping, some feet on monitor action, loud guitars through big Marshall stacks – they had a great time, admitting they were “a long way from the espy “. A good, solid way to kick off a “big night of rock”!

Live are up next, the room is a nearly full, and they have a new singer – Chris Shinn – touring for the first time in Australia. I bet Chris hates comparisons more than anything. The other guy left six years ago, he’s been in there for three years now for god’s sake, he’s doing his own thing!

He goes very early on the crowd sing-a-long though, second line in and he’s wanting us to wail. Granted it’s a bit of a blockbuster start with ‘All Over You ‘ but most people are still trying to balance their chips and beers while working the fold down seats to offer too much vocal assistance.

There’s not much action stemming from the rest of the band, so things are sort of left to Chris a bit. He’s a likable fella, tries the singalong, struts and poses up and down the ramp, does the overhead clap, the whole works. No one digs the new stuff though, and most of the seats are aglow with people checking Facebook on their phones. It doesn’t deter him, proclaiming “What an awesome night, Def Leppard! Are you serious? Come on!”

The big songs come out late, and of course the one that had everyone reaching for their phones, and pointing them towards the stage; ‘Lighting Crashes’. Which is an inarguably ubiquitous hit, it got to the chorus, Chris threw singing duties out to the crowd again, the lights hit the cheap seats and every last person was singing.

It doesn’t really even matter that it’s a new voice, as everyone has it in their head their own way from hundreds and hundreds of times hearing it anyway, and what it sounds like mostly depends on the tunefulness of the people singing it around you. It got the whole arena buzzing. They finished with ‘I Alone Love You’. Good oh. One thing I love better about Chris is, at least he kept his shirt on!

‘Shoot to Thrill’ by AC/DC blared out. The black-band-T-shirted brigade in the room – which was the vast majority – sang along and chugged plastic cupped beers. People were pumped, the lights went off then the geometric lasers on the big screen started. The five fellas of Def Leppard spill out to their intro tunes and rip into ’Let’s Go’ the first song off their new album. It was exciting, but no one really knew it that well, so we just sat and just took everything in.

The guitarists flanked the stage, Phil Collen was shirtless and oily, contrasted with the catalogue male model demeanour and dressed Vivian Campbell. Rick Savage was a mop of hair, leopard skin, denim and a cool Blondie T-shirt, while Joe Elliott cheerily sang, clapped and strutted his way up and down the centre-stage runway. While we couldn’t see Rick too well on drums, but he was soon featured in lots of cymbal cam shots, smiling and crashing away.

The first big sing came with ‘Animal’ – played out in front of an array of neon signs blazing on the big screen. There’s not many bands who do an anthemic, stirring chorus better than Def Leppard. These are songs designed for stadiums! They go alright at a power ballad too, as the handwritten lyrics to ‘Love Bites’ appear on the screen and tear stain blotches drip down on the page as the song is plaintively wrung out.

‘Armageddon It’ was accompanied by a profound series of statistics highlighting how badly we as humans are treating the planet, juxtaposing the number of obese people against the amount children dying of hunger or highlighting the amount of forests lost today and the number of days left until the world’s oil runs out. Please take note any world leaders in attendance.

Lights dim. Joe Elliot returns alone and acoustic sporting a fancy white jacket and top hat for a cover of David Essex’s ‘Rock On’ and a teasing couple of bars of The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. Self-awareness is a great thing in a band, and we are told “You need new blood or else everything just dies. Thanks for your patience with the new songs in the first half of the set.”

Then it gets a bit cheesy “Do you want to be in the band? For the next four minutes you can be a part of Def Leppard!” As we all help sing along to ‘Two Steps Behind’.

Guitar! Drums! Rocket Baby!! The band comes back and the hits flow. ‘Rocket’ is a fist-pumping belter, then back to the balladry of ‘When Love & Hate Collide’.

Everyone gets a chance to shine and some instrumental action for ‘Switch 625’ with shredding guitars, and the single-handed most heroic drum solo ever.

‘Hysteria’ is accompanied by some retrospective clips with lots of cracking mullets, de riguer singlets and stonewash.

“Got a question for ya?! Do you wanna get rocked?” Of course, and the double blast of ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ and the rousing shout-a-long of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ is utterly absorbing. They almost should have left it there, as the serviceable encore of ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ didn’t quite hit those heights again. But we did get the obligatory heartfelt farewell “It amazes us that we’ve come from the other side of the planet and there’s so many of you come to see us 37 years after this band first started and 31 years since we first came here. Until next time, and there will be a next time, don’t forget about us, and we won’t forget about you!”

You can see why Def Leppard have sold hundreds of millions of albums, they’re just great, catchy songs that get into you, and don’t leave. As one of the biggest bands in the world, they are best appreciated large stadium scale. Just excellent.

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