Concert Review: Def Leppard & Heart at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA
Def Leppard & Heart
June 30, 2011
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
Ahhhh summer time! Every summer of every year we wait with bated breath for the release of the summer concert schedule. Maybe you have a favorite act that tours every summer that you never miss, maybe it’s a band who hasn’t toured in ages or MAYBE two of rocks timeless classics join up for a juggernaut of a tour and the decision is already made for you – enter the Heart and Def Leppard tour.
Whatever era of Heart you enjoy most, you get the best of both the 70’s and 80’s with this sister act. Ann and Nancy Wilson, the driving force behind the band since their heyday, still lead the ship, and a rocking one at that. You sing along no matter if it’s “Magic Man “or “Alone” because they are great, iconic, rock songs that helped define their particular eras. Def Leppard has a similar connection with their classic hard rock songs from 81-83 with releases High N’ Dry and Pyromania and then a more commercial rock sound with Hysteria from 1987 and onward that produced a ton of hit singles and made them one of the biggest band on the planet. Again you catch yourself singing along to all of their hits regardless of which era you prefer, at least this is how this show ended up for me. It was a huge sing-a-long of fun, power ballads, dancing girls in my row, finger pointing at Nancy during “Never” (not sure what finger pointed back at me but that’s ok Nancy!), air guitar playing along with Phil during “Animal” – this show had it all and get’s full “80’s Guy for the Modern Eye” stamp of high approval!
If Ann Wilson isn’t one of top female vocalists of all time, I don’t know who is. She simply sets the bar and sets it high. At age 61 she sounds better than ever and has lost ZERO range over time. How is that humanly possible? She’s an enigma. I found myself (when not singing along) just shaking my head saying…”man how did she reach that note?” (Note to Ann: why doesn’t Heart throw in “Almost Paradise” into the set? It’s one of your best vocal performances ever and an 80’s classic from the Footloose Soundtrack. Hell, can’t you get some dude, maybe even me, to wear a headband and mouth the Mike Reno part? Just an idea.) The show started off with a few vintage 70’s tunes in the form of “Cook With Fire” and “Heartless” and you had the feeling the band meant business by wasting NO time getting the crowd worked up for the next five tunes, all huge 80’s, hits starting with “Never” and ending with “Alone”. This is the part of the set where Nancy really shines. She also hops, skips, jumps, jams and adds terrific harmonies and even lead vocals (“These Dreams”) to her repertoire. The stage had a small catwalk which led out to the crowd not far from my row and during “Never” Nancy happened to be out at the end during part of the chorus and she had to have had a clear shot of me (maybe 5-6 rows from that point of the stage) pointing to her like Uncle Sam (complete with Heart Leave it to Cleavage t-shirt) and I think she flipped me off..with a smile of course! Rebel rocker! I think that just propelled her to the top of my all time rock chick list. Anyway, the set ended with crowd favorites “Magic Man”, ‘Crazy on You” and “Barracuda”. Each song better than the next and the set ended with a fantastic cover of the Led Zeppelin classic “What Is and What Should Never Be”, just in case you still had any questions about Ann’s vocal chops. Heart still has a ton of energy and and their enthusiasm is infectious, you could feel it throughout the venue. Would I be willing to see this band again soon..in a ‘Heart’beat!
Def Leppard is out in support of Mirrorball: Live and More and opened the set with “Undefeated” one of the three new tracks included on the new record. The song has grown on me since first hearing it and came off much better live (heavier with more gusto) than the studio version. Creating the set list for this band has to be tough nowadays with eleven studio records under their belts and one live/studio album. Will you hear anything from Slang, Euphoria, X, Yeah! or Songs from The Sparkle Lounge? Only “Rock On”, the David Essex cover (from the 2006 Yeah! cover album) was included in the set. The current set pulls mostly from their earlier pioneering releases Pyromania and Hysteria, and why not with total album sales well into the millions. I guess if I had a small criticism it would be to possibly throw in a song or two from past albums that fans may not expect or have heard in a few years. Drop “Love Bites”, “Rocket” “Armageddon It” and add ‘Billy’s Got A Gun”, “Ride Into The Sun” and “I Wanna Be Your Hero”..but that’s just me.
After watching the entire show from beginning to end the real glue that holds this band together (at least live on stage) is Phil Collen. I don’t think he gets enough credit just in terms of what he brings to the stage as far as his energy, his charisma and of course his monster guitar playing. I don’t want to state the obvious and proclaim that Vivian Campbell is a great guitar player, because he is, but he’s not needed in this band. As much as I like him and the many other projects he has played with over the years he brings very little to the table on stage with Def Leppard. I may get flack for writing this but whether it’s done with intent or not Campbell could be replaced and nobody would care or maybe even realize it.
Highlights in the set include “Animal”, “Foolin”, ‘Switch 625”, “Hysteria” and “Photograph” which I think gets the crowd moving more than any other song in the set. I may get additional flack for saying this as well but “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is tired and needs to be put to rest for a bit. I realize it’s a huge hit but its popular for all the wrong reasons. Mostly drunken female fans who only know 2 or 3 songs in the set and wouldn’t know “High N Dry” unless it was a new shot or mixed drink offered up at the bar. That’s what I like least about a Def Leppard concert. I don’t mean to be overly critical of the entire night because Joe Elliot was better vocally than I thought he’d be and was light years better than the last time I saw the band a few years ago touring with Journey. Savage and Allen still team up for a great rhythm section and Savage ads a lot to the harmonies as well. Def Leppard still gives 100% in terms of their stage show, lights and overall presentation. Larger than life..which is what arena rock is all about. If they could match that with a larger than life set list, maybe we’d have something here..
Heart Set List:
Cook with Fire
What About Love?
You’re The Voice
Crazy On You
What is and What Should Never Be
Def Leppard Set List:
Let’s Get Rocked
Two Steps Behind
Bringin On The Heartbreak
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock of Ages
View our photo gallery from Heart’s set: