Carling Academy, Islington, London, 6 May 2008
As well as being a privilege, it was an oddity to see Def
Leppard play a club show before 800 or so fans at the Islington Academy, given
that in the 1980's they became perhaps the ultimate in arena rock bands.
In the week their new 'Songs from the Sparkle Lounge' album appeared, this
was billed as an intimate show, but any suggestions they might be playing
an acoustic set or otherwise taking it easy were dispelled by an opening
salvo of Let it Go form High'n'Dry and their cover of the Sweet's Action.
Whether or not the surroundings played a part, the band seemed
to have regained the raw edge they lost sometime after 1983 and the first new
song, Bad Actress, was a surprisingly ragged piece of rock'n'roll.
Of the other new songs, the catchy lead-off single Nine Lives
was cannily familiar while Hallucinate, though not an immediate song, featured
excellent solos from both Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen.
But as Joe Elliott wryly pointed out, when he sees the Rolling Stones he wants
to hear Brown Sugar, so the hits from Pyromania and Hysteria were all present
and correct - Armageddon It, Rocket (all the better for being stripped of the
usual drum solo) and a home run of Animal, Photograph - still my all-time
favourite, Pour Some Sugar on Me and Lets Get Rocked which sent the crowd into a
While the trademark harmonies were there, the sound felt more rocking and
stripped back than usual, while at close quarters Phil Collen's fiery but
concise guitar solos impressed above all.
They dropped in new song C'mon C'mon, with its 70's style glam stomp, as
the first encore before Joe quipped they were playing an Offspring cover
before Rock of Ages had the whole crowd singing along.
Having heard earlier that they would only play for an hour, that was
surely it, but the icing on the cake was the band returning for what
seemed like an unplanned encore.
On a night when they rediscovered some of their roots, it was
fitting they closed with the rarely played Mirror Mirror from High n Dry -
sending one of my friends into near apoplexy! - and the classic NWOBHM riffing
of Wasted from their 1980 debut album On Through the Night.
This was not just a taster for their summer tour with Whitesnake, but a
memorable night in its own right.