Album review: DEF LEPPARD – Viva Hysteria!

Def Leppard - Viva Hysteria

Frontiers (2CD/DVD) www.frontiers.it

One of Britain’s best and hardest working rock bands, Def Leppard have always been at the melodic end despite growing up with the NWoBHM scene. After the classic third album ‘Pyromania’ (which went diamond in the USA), the band suffered the minor setback of drummer Rick Allen losing an arm in a car crash, before releasing the stellar album Hysteria and 1987.

The album spawned 7 hit singles and sold 20 million copies world-wide. Now, after a dispute with their (now former) record company, they have taken to rerecording some of their back catalogue, and during a residency in Las Vegas, they recorded Hysteria live in its entirety, with the original album’s set list.

Disc one is basically the live version of ‘Hysteria’, with an encore of ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’. ‘Hysteria’ is a classic rock album, even if Leppard at their most commercial, and the band have always been one of the tightest rock bands on stage you’ll ever witness. So here’s the problem – they are SO good that, with little or no deviation from the original album’s performance, sometimes it’s only the audience that tells you it’s a live recording.

True there is plenty of energy, you can almost hear the sweat, the power is fantastic, and if you loved the original album you’ll love this. ‘Rocket’, ‘Animal’, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and the title track are all wonderful tunes, but it all comes over a little dry. There is less identity differentiating the songs, it’s like the ‘Hysteria’ as a 60 minute track, with audience applause every 5 minutes. Backing tapes reproduce the song intros exactly, and the intersong chat is conspicuous by its minimalism. There 2 encore tracks rock hard too, in the same vein.

Now, it’s disc two that perks the interest. Firstly, the varied setlist, with chat, banter, and f*** me some serious guitar shred in the playing. The band bill themselves as the opening act and the cover band Dead Flat Bird, so in the absence of a press release one may assume this was the band opening for themselves before the main set. Tracks from most of their career going back to 1980. From ‘Rock Brigade’ through ‘Action to Undefeated’, 15 tracks of classic Def Leppard.

The band are solid, on form, I just would have preferred to see a one set concert of 20-22 tracks, with some Hysteria in the mix.

The DVD is a film of the above Hysteria set and is well filmed, from band close ups to crowd shots. While many reviews slate Collen for being topless throughout – so what, it’s called posturing and playing to the crowd, it’s what you get at rock gigs, Vegas or otherwise. There is all the glamour and the glitz, for me the film (and the bonuses too) are something to flick through once, it’s the second CD (see above) that make for a live disc to return to.  ****

Review by Joe Geesin

 Nikk Gunns review…

Having sold in excess of 20 million copies since its release in 1987, Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” is not only a milestone for the band but a defining moment in rock history.  The recent trends for bands playing an album in its entirety and also for Las Vegas residencies (Motley Crue, Gun N Roses’s etc) found Def Leppard combining the two and the results are simply stunning.

Opening the set each night as Ded Flatbird the band played a solid set of older material that delves a bit deeper than their usual set list- the likes of “Wasted”, “Rock Brigade” and “Let It Go” sit well alongside tracks such as “Slang”, “Switch 625” and “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, which make a more regular appearance in the band’s shows.

Then we come to the main event, Def Leppard performing the whole of “Hysteria” in order and doesn’t it sound great!!! Now, there will be the usual doubters that will no doubt insist that there has been some studio overdubbing and I have no way of knowing either way but I will tell you this- I have heard some rather nice “live” recordings of these shows and it doesn’t sound to me like there has been anything added or taken away from the shows played each night.

With songs like “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rocket” still sounding as fresh as they did way back in 1987, it is no surprise that there were no less than seven singles from the albums twelve tracks. There is also a nice touch at the beginning of “Gods Of War” where singer Joe Elliott introduces the late Steve Clark and you get to hear him play the live intro- it really is a hair on the back of your neck moment. The set is rounded off by two more of Def Leppard’s massive hit singles in the form of “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”.

The deluxe edition of “Viva! Hysteria” comes with a DVD of the show and, more than just a mere bonus, this is actually essential viewing as the live show itself is visually as good as it sounds. In fact this specially designed show is a visual feast that really does represent the album’s original artwork and the legacy of “Hysteria” itself.

There are people that will forever bad mouth bands like Def Leppard but you cannot take away from them that they are one hell of a band and “Hysteria” was one hell of an album.

*****


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