Live Review: Camden Gets Rattled as Def Leppard and Heart Reclaim Arena Swagger

Published on June 29th, 2011

DEFLEPPARD
June 26, 2011 – There was a deceiving calmness in the air at Camden, New Jersey’s Susquehanna Bank Center on a cool Sunday night as fans anxiously waited in their seats for the main attraction. Before the lights went out, all that could be seen was a dormant looking lighting and LCD rig atop a stage; a quiet day across the river from Philadelphia. But it was a quiet day no more when the lights blazed and a thundering sound jolted out of the amplifiers. No, the arena had become the scene of an epic rock show rivaled by no other. Def Leppard is back.

Expectations have always been set high for Def Leppard. They broke new ground in the concert realm of the 1980s, presenting their smash album Hysteria “In the Round” on one of the most ambitious tours of the time. Since then, they have become known around the world as one of the most supercharged live bands in existence. A torrent of powerful hit songs make their shows a stunning rock n’ roll adrenaline rush, but it’s their intense stage presence that puts them over the top. Attending a Def Leppard concert requires no second guessing, it will be a heart-stopping shakedown from beginning to end.

The boys took a hard earned break from touring last year after going non-stop for half a decade. A slightly older and less polished Def Leppard could have been expected in 2011. But the five – Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, and Vivian Campbell – simply wouldn’t have it that way. Emerging with a monster sound and magnetism in front of blaring lit screens and a whirring of bright spotlights, they announced they’re as fit and primed as ever.

Joe Elliott scoured about on the platform before invading the crowd on the stage thrust, his confrontational presence impossible to ignore. He’s belting out a new tune this time; “Undefeated” is the new studio anthem from the brand new live release, a song so deeply layered in Leppard that it became an instant crowd pleaser. As one of rock music’s most brilliant frontmen, Elliott’s allure has never been lost, but on this night his steps had more swagger and voice had been given extra ounces of bite.

But the British metal heroes gave themselves a tough job when they called upon a powerhouse like Heart to join along for the summer ride.

It simply doesn’t do their action packed show justice to call this band an opening act. Well known among the band’s faithful followers is that singer Ann Wilson can run circles around singers half her age, and in concert her voice is absolutely startling. She holds nothing back, the crowd cheering every high note in sheer amazement.

Guitarist Nancy Wilson maintained a more relaxed posture until her moment came with “Crazy on You”. Out on the thrust, she leaped into the air and kicked out her guitar jam. Sister Ann’s eyes grew wide as she watched. Exchanging looks with each other, the two were relishing the moment.

They prefer to keep the song choice just as interesting as the stage play. Even lesser known cuts like “You’re the Voice” were heard in a show that reached into all decades of their career with a Zeppelin finale.

Just when the Wilson sisters couldn’t get any hotter, they kicked into the grinding new “WTF” and took the energy to a whole new level. Ann’s talent of conveying emotion through her lyrics never falters, but this particular song seemed to bring out her very best.

Much like Wilson, Elliott is the instigator that roars the band and the crowd to life. It was plain to see that he was having a great night just by watching and listening to his wails, and there was a certain candid moment when he successfully balanced the microphone with its stand in the air for a verse of “Photograph”. After letting it down he gleamed and gave an enthusiastic fist pump to the crew on the side of the stage that conveyed his “that just happened” excitement.

You won’t find Leppard taking many chances with their set list, however. They’re counting on the strength of their hits to win the crowd over. And for the most part, the strategy works. The sugar gets poured and the ages get rocked, and never for a moment does the energy get turned down so much as a notch. The acoustic “Two Steps Behind” is really the band’s only break in a set that’s chock full of guitar solos, bass thumping, and drum pounding. For a band that can’t get enough of the arena, it’s strange they took 30 years to release a live album.

Concert staples from years past haven’t gone away. Bassist Rick Savage still gets to pluck those strings during a cover of David Essex’s staple “Rock On”, drummer Rick Allen gives his all with no sign of slowing down, and of course guitarist Phil Collen still refuses to wear a shirt. Some things never change.

What’s remarkable about this outfit born out of the late 1970s British rock scene is that age isn’t a factor. This is a band that defies it. Retaining the velocity of days gone by, they refuse to give up any ground. And why should they? In a world that often disappoints, Def Leppard is one band that won’t.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Posted by Stephie on June 29th, 2011, 14:33 [Reply]

    That was a great review. Gives me a taste of what I have to look forward to this time around (I’m seeing them soon)! Thanks for sharing your experience, and phenomenal pix!

  2. Posted by Danielle on June 30th, 2011, 19:38 [Reply]

    I was at this show. AMAZING, is putting it mildly.

    I am a fan of both bands. Heart is my favorite band. And have always been a Def Lep fan.

    Heart doesn’t have to open for anyone. They are a major rock band with the best female singer ever. But, as a fan of both it was GREAT night.

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