TVD Live Shots:
Def Leppard and Cheap Trick at the SSE Arena
at Wembley, 12/17

I was nine years old, and Def Leppard was the coolest band on the planet. The first record I ever bought with my own money was 1983’s classic rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut Pyromania. It was one of those rare albums where you could put it on from start to finish and never have to skip a song.

Back then you could expect a new record from your favorite band, like clockwork, every two years. But tragedy struck Def Leppard when, on New Year’s Eve 1984, drummer extraordinaire Rick Allen lost his arm in a horrific car accident. Many of the fans, including myself, thought the band might be done. There certainly wasn’t a new record coming anytime soon. That could have been the kiss of death for many groups, but the decade was in full glam metal phase so it would give them the extra time they needed to regroup and reload—which is precisely what they did.

Hysteria was released on August 3, 1987, almost four years after the monumental success of Pyromania. The lead single “Woman,” a favorite track of mine, seemed to bomb in the States and the band and their label were starting to question themselves. But it would only be a matter of time as they had seven hit singles in their back pocket and they were determined to make history. Hysteria hit No.1 on the Billboard 200 and remained on the US chart for over three years, during which time Def Leppard became one of the biggest bands on the planet.

During a 2012 interview, lead guitarist Phil Collen told Guitar World that “Mutt Lange wanted to make Hysteria a hard rock version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The fact that with Thriller you had an R&B artist who crossed over not just into pop, but everything, even rock with Eddie Van Halen playing on ‘Beat It’—that really appealed to Mutt and to us.”

And that’s precisely what they did.

They took the slick production of Pyromania to a new level sonically and produced a record that would appeal to pretty much everyone on the planet. And it did. It is Def Leppard’s best-selling album to date, selling over 25 million copies worldwide, including 12 million in the US, and spawning the aforementioned seven hit singles. Mutt and the Leppard boys took the concept of “bigger and better” even further as they pushed the limits by making the album 62 and a half minutes and one of the longest ever issued on a single vinyl record.

How does the record hold up after more than three decades? Brilliantly. From the opening cut of “Women,” the capacity crowd at the SSE Arena knew they were in for something special. I had been listening to the record all week long reliving my teenage angst years preparing for this show and it was everything I expected it to be and more. All the hits sounded great—even their biggest hit which I loathe, “Love Bites” sounded good, rounded out with an encore lead by the undercelebrated “Promises” from 1999’s return to form Euphoria, and a fast follow up with “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”—all the makings for an epic arena rock show like no other.

And Cheap Trick as the opener… what more can I say about the greatest rock band in the world? I’ve seen them a dozen times, and they keep getting better and better. It’s so great to see one of my all time favorite bands back on the big stage playing to an arena crowd. This is where they need to be and if they ever decide to call it a day, they can do so knowing that they’ve left everything on the table and the world will remember them as legends. God bless Cheap Trick.


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