As Joe Elliott screamed, “Do you take sugar? One lump or two!?” to the near-sellout crowd at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre on Monday, and the video screen showed plenty of women in skimpy tops dancing, all I could think was, “The ’80s were so weird; no wonder Seattle exploded.”
That’s not to say the Def Leppard show wasn’t fun. The band had two of the biggest-selling albums in the ’80s for a reason, and they tore through plenty of those hits, after throwing a bone to being current by opening with “Undefeated,” a nondescript pop metal tune that was one of three studio tracks on their recently-released live CD “Mirror Ball.” After that, it was time for the classics, going backward through time by hitting “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Animal” and “Foolin’.”
While the voices have deepened a bit and the harmonies, as a result, don’t quite soar as much over the twin guitar attack of Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, the tightness of the band is still impressive. They also know how to put on a show, whether it was Collen using a helmet cam on his guitar neck that showed him fretting notes on the video screen, or the lights changing from red to yellow to green in synch with Leppard singing “Red light, yellow light, green-a-light go,” during “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
During the “Rock of Ages” encore, images of fallen rock stars like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, and still-living ones like Keith Richards, flashed on the screen behind a flaming guitar, an eerie image.
Before Leppard rocked CDA with power pop metal, Heart and sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson ripped through an awesome set. One mystery is how 61-year-old Ann still hits the high notes like she used to; the woman has an amazing set of pipes. Heart took the stage to a the PA blaring Led Zeppelin’s “In the Light,” then launched into a cover of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”
After hitting various high points, such as classics “Barracuda,” “Alone” and “Crazy on You” (complete with Nancy tearing it up in animated fashion on acoustic guitar), the sisters returned for a double encore that Nancy introduced by saying they had started in the early ’70s by learning covers of some of their favorite artists. After a soulful cover of Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” the band finished with The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The only puzzle to Heart’s 60-minute set was the song selection, as three covers precluded songs like “Love Alive,” “Never” and “Dreamboat Annie.”
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.