Review / photos by John Jeffrey
Darien, NY - As summer winds down, on the last day of August 2016, one of the most anticipated concert tours made it's way to Western New York. The triple bill of Def Leppard, Reo Speedwagon and Tesla rolled it's way into the Darien Lake PAC last Wednesday night. This bill, while almost identical to the lineup which came to Darien Lake last year (Reo Speedwagon were the less than palatable replacement for last year's Styx), did not fail to excite the masses, as the concert drew approximately 13,000 - not too shabby for a rock concert on a week night.
As Def Leppard is heading into it's fourth decade as a touring and recording artist, they continue to struggle with adversities, something which has plagued the band's career for the better part of the past 39 years. While guitarist Vivian Campbell soldiers on, as he continues to receive immunotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, vocalist Joe Elliot has been battling issues with his voice since the end of 2015, as he suffered problems with his voice last November, blaming biker exhaust during a stop at Sturgis, ND and he was also unable to perform at the group's concert on their "Hysteria on the High Seas" cruise in January of this year. Elliot's problems continued, as the band was forced to postpone 10 shows at the beginning of this year's tour, originally scheduled throughout February.
Elliot stated the his vocal condition was not caused by singing, but rather from a bad cough he developed over the winter this past year. He elaborated by saying, "I got a really bad cough over Christmas and New Years, and that's what did the damage. It wasn't singing. It was just an injury. I just got a really, really bad cough, couldn't clear it up, and I was warned, having seen a couple of throat doctors, that I needed to take four to six weeks off. So it's about now that I start giving it a shout again. But other than that, everything else is fine, you know. It just needed a rest."
In March, guitarist Phil Collen announced Elliot's voice was "All Back to Normal," with the tour resuming in May. I don't know what kind of doctor Elliot went to, but whomever it was, performed nothing short of a miracle, as Elliot's voice magically returned to a state of perfection once the tour resumed.
Taking the stage at about quarter past 9pm, Elliot, along with Phil Collen - who came out sans shirt of course - were flanked by Vivian Campbell and Rick Savage on bass, with the one-armed drum legend, Rick Allen, perched behind his self-designed electronic drum kit. Together, the unit led an assault of electric noise and layered vocals. As Elliot and company paraded through their 17 song set, comprised of all their hits, plus 3 songs from their latest, self-titled release, I couldn't help but notice how artificial their sound was. Even with keeping in consideration how slick their live sound is normally, there seemed to be much more canned (pre-recorded) vocals and music than I could recall being used on previous tours. At times, Elliot's vocal levels struggled to be louder than the music, with an audible MP3 type of distortion to them, confirming my suspicions that Elliot, very well, "could be" lip-syncing. I guess that was the true "magic" of the night.
Whether the band was playing live or we were all one watching one big music video happening before our eyes, it didn't matter to the packed crowd at Darien Lake. Either they didn't know, or they just didn't care about how much of the music was actually live or a backing track, the crowd was simply content with staring at the aging pretty boys from Sheffield, singing along to all of the songs they knew, and drinking their $13 beers, until they got too tired, drunk or broke.
Def Leppard has always put on a great show, but when all is left is a "show," going to a Def Leppard "concert" is not as an appealing thought, as it once used to be. Perhaps they should change the lyrics to the song "Rock of Ages" to "it's better to burn out, than to play to a tape." Godspeed.
Let It Go
Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
Let’s Get Rocked
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock Of Ages