Def Leppard and the final era of outrageously impressive musicianship
A Def Leppard live show was — and continues to be — an outrageous spectacle akin to something straddling a megachurch and a music festival. There are lights, there are stage antics, but above all, there is amazing musicianship. For this is the one true legacy of this era of rock music.
During the ’80s and early ’90s, everything was bigger in rock and roll.
Big hair, big stadium shows, big long albums, big guitar solos, big power ballads, big ambitions. There were a handful of bands who were grouped together during this time based on nothing else more than having a similar sound — derived from classic rock, thrashy punk, and heavy metal — and a vaguely similar look that sat somewhere between that of a biker gang, a safety-pinned punk group from 1977, and British glam rock stars like T Rex, Bowie, KISS and (dare we say it) Aerosmith.
Guns N Roses, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison, Skid Row — each of these bands sold tens of millions of albums, became worldwide superstars and seemed to revel in the excess of the times.
These guys have chops, honed over decades of practice and performance.
It’s interesting to note that, of all the popular musical movements that have been both commercially successful and critically acclaimed, this seems to have been the last one in which musicianship was prided above all else.
Take any band from this era and you’ll find at least one (often two) red hot lead guitarist who shreds at Formula One speeds, a bass player who can toss in tasteful jazz changes over otherwise vapid songs like ‘Paradise City’, a drummer who can command a kit like Keith Moon, and a singer with a five-octave range, a misleadingly-beautiful falsetto, and the vocal power to fill a stadium.
Listen to how tight the entire band is during the Def Leppard instrumental ‘Disintegrate’. Listen to how Slash’s solo on Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Perfect Crime’ seems to run off the rails before Axl attacks the following verse with the same menace inherent in the soloing. Listen to how Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ sounds like a shot of adrenaline. This is musicianship that can be truly appreciated by everyone from jazz-heads to traditional bluesmen.
The good news is that musical talent doesn’t dissipate.
41 years after forming, Def Leppard sound better than ever: after all, constant touring and recording can only sharpen their virtuosity – and they are still filling stadiums, too.
These bands trade in big songs written for big venues: songs to wave cigarette lighters, to head bang to, to sway and scream and be overwhelmed by.
It was only natural that these bands became the biggest in the world. That was the plan.
Def Leppard live 2018 Australian tour
Tickets on sale from Friday May 4 through Live Nation
Friday November 2
Sunday November 4
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Tuesday November 6
Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Thursday November 8
Rod Laver Arena
Saturday November 10
ICC Sydney Theatre
Monday November 12
The article was originally published on Tone Deaf