DEF LEPPARD was one of the first rock bands I got into (the half dozen of vinyls I own include “Adrenalize”) but never had the chance to see live. And to be honest, when I “accidentally” saw MAN RAZE (Phil Collen‘s other band) in Brighton, opening for Alice Cooper in 2009, I thought that would be the closest to DEF LEPPARD that I’d ever get. Sometimes it feels so good to be wrong.
I lost track of them more than a decade ago. I remember reading on the web about “X”, but I never listened to that album. And until checking some details to make this report accurate, I didn’t even know about “Songs From The Sparkle Lounge”. Which means the last DEF LEPPARD album I know is “Euphoria” (1999). But that was okay for this gig, as that was precisely the most recent album they visited through “Promises” – song they were performing for the first time in Madrid, as the last time they’d played in the Spanish capital, the song hadn’t been released yet.
They kicked off with a rare oldie – one you can’t even find on CD! “Good Morning Freedom”, the 1980 B-side of the single “Hello America”. I didn’t know the song, but its hardness was late-seventies old school – no way this was a new song. Then came a mix of old and not-so-old: “Action”, originally done by SWEET in 1975, and covered by the LEPPARDS in 1993.
“Foolin'” was the first of the three mandatory “Pyromania” songs (the other two left for the encore), then came the aforementioned “Promises”, and before the “Adrenalize” hymn “Let’s Get Rocked” (“Madrid, we’ve got a question for you. Do you wanna get rocked?”), “High’N’Dry” got a three-track slot: “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes”, the beautiful ballad “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” and the first moment of that evening when tears came to my eyes – “Switch 625”, Steve Clark‘s song.
Steve had already passed away when I started listening to DEF LEPPARD, but it had been less than a year at the time, and when “Adrenalize” came out the press was still all over it. And with the passionate eagerness of a 13-year-old, I read all about it and Steve‘s death marked me in a way that even today, 22 years later, I still cry over it. Listening to “Switch 625” and remembering the tribute video they did with that song brought up a wave of mixed feelings – sadness for his early death and thrill for the music legacy he left behind.
The band left the stage and a few more tears rolled down. In the video wall played part of the documentary featured in the “Adrenalize” videotape, with clips from interviews where the band was asked about the success achieved with “Hysteria” – with Steve in them – and then Joe Elliott and Rick Savage talking about Steve‘s death. When they returned on stage, they performed the full “Hysteria” album. Joe warned us to “watch out, love bites”, asked our help to sing “Pour Some Sugar On Me”… and I think that it was after “Armageddon It” that the lights went out again and Joe was on the video wall, filmed 25 years ago, introducing to a big crowd “ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Steve Clark“. We saw a bit of one of his guitar solos, as amazing as his stage fright.
And during “Hysteria” (the song) the video wall played a slide show of pictures of that era – promotional, on and off stage, media clippings… a literal trip down memory lane.
When “Love And Affection” finished, they once again disappeared, returning shortly after, as it was getting real late (I’d never been in a Spanish gig that didn’t end between 23:00 and 23;30, and this one went on past midnight). “Do you have something to say? ‘Cause we do. It’s better to burn out than fade awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”. Personally, I would have preferred if they had played “Photograph” before “Rock Of Ages” and not the other way around, but whatever – the show was perfect just the same.