Strutting confidently about the stage, clad in the tight-fitting leather garb thats always been essential to the hair-metal
dress code, the members of Def Leppard appear to have been cryogenically frozen in the '80s, only to be thawed and dumped
in present-day Sacramento for Friday night's show at the Arco Arena.
There are minor discrepancies, of course, between the boys then and the boys now. The Sheffield quintet, whose 1987 smash
Hysteria has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide, lost founding guitarist Steve Clark in 1991 to a fatal combination
of alcohol and drugs, paving the way for ex-Whitesnake shredder Vivian Campbell (a brunette!) to hop on board after the 1992
release of Adrenalize.
Otherwise, the band hasn't changed a bit, save for a few added wrinkles. Their set lists borrow heavily from their '80s
heyday, so it came as no surprise that the Sacramento show featured no less than 16 selections from early efforts like High
'N' Dry (1981), Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria, as compared to just three from their disappointing 2002
comeback bid, X. And despite their advancing ages -- remember, these boys formed back in 1977 -- lead singer Joe
Elliott and company dutifully jogged about the stage, throwing out obligatory shots to the crowd ("Its great to be back, Sacramento!")
and striking enough provocative rock-star poses to drive the crowd wild.
To be sure, Def Leppard has lost none of its touch as an arena act, even if its appeal has grown more selective over the
years. The upper deck of the 17,500-seat venue was blocked off Friday, presumably due to lagging ticket sales, but fans packed
into the lower levels rewarded the band with deafening cheers as it ripped through a two-hour greatest hits set featuring
spirited takes on "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," "Rocket" and "Photograph."
If the boys have lost a step creatively -- their '90s releases, beginning with the lackluster Adrenalize,
have found the band drifting more and more in the direction of bland, undistinguished adult-pop -- they're sure-handed veterans
on the road, whipping fans into a fist-pumping frenzy with tight harmonies, soaring solos (courtesy of Campbell and longtime
guitarist Phil Collen) and overwrought theatrics. It's all about nostalgia for Def Leppard these days, but they package their
nostalgia slickly and professionally, whisking fans back to a long lost era of hair-metal glory, if only for a couple of hours.
-- Rossiter Drake