By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa, Florida
Venue: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida–August 18, 2018
It was a hot and humid evening in the 90s when I began my walking trek from the Port of Tampa Parking Garage toward the Amalie Arena. The streets were packed with fans wearing black t-shirts as well as short skirts and high heels, many fans of Def Leppard, intending to re-live their 80s youth. The double-billing of Def Leppard/Journey at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, Florida, was probably the “hot ticket” of the summer as the arena was sold-out! The arena holds about 20,000 people so essentially there was a small city of hair metal fans in one location!
Promptly starting at 8, from the get-go, there were plenty of lights, lasers, rock star strutting, and hair flying. Def Leppard hit the ground running with the song “Rocket” from the massively popular Hysteria album, which celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2017 and re-entered the Billboard Chart this year, with Def Leppard’s arrival of its full catalog of music to digital retail and streaming services. Joe Elliott was constantly moving around, swinging the mic stand with its long red-white-and-blue scarf, and throwing it up in the air occasionally. Phil Collen stood on the side of the stage wearing red plaid pants, his trademark “shirtless” chest, heavy gold neck chains, and sporting a stunning blue Jackson guitar in hand. Bassist Rick Savage hasn’t aged a bit, sprouting long blond locks, and looking like the classic 80s rock star. I was loving it! Rick Allen was on top of the drum kit, banging out beats with his arm and bare feet—a joy to watch! Vivian Campbell stood on the left side, playing lead guitar solos, and meeting up with Elliott, to do guitar posing. I was so glad to see him since the last time I saw DL was in 2015 during his brief absence. I was hoping all evening “RockStarStu”, his little mutt Stuart I follow on Instagram, would make a brief appearance!
The evening progressed into what essentially was a Greatest Hits catalog, much to the liking of the crowd, which never sat down for the two-hour show. There were plenty of graphics (cool skulls for “Man Enough”) which matched the theme of the songs, smoke, lasers (“Love Bites”), and flashing lights. The crowd sang along with the songs from memory and many were standing in place and dancing. I noticed couples dancing arm-in-arm and snuggling during “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”, which featured live videos of the band seen through drips of water on a glass pane. Def Leppard even paid homage to “our friend” David Essex by playing “Rock On.” During the concert, the band was constantly walking up and down the catwalk aisle, posing, and giving the audience pure entertainment—and more. I heard people saying that Journey would have a hard act to follow (actually, as I understand, the bands trade opening position on a nightly basis).
It’s always interesting to watch fellow concert goer’s reaction and interjections during a concert to gauge the show. During Rick Allen’s drum solo moment, the guy behind me declared, “I fuckin’ love that guy!” That pretty much says it all!
During the song “Hysteria”, the screen played videos of the band from the 80s, with their boyish faces and high-teased, tousled hair. It made me think, “Geez, has it really been 30+ years? Yikes!” The crowd had their arms raised, fist pumping, and singing. There were plenty of hands holding cell phones raised above the crowd, video-taping or live-streaming the concert (we professional photographers were allowed two songs from the soundboard…hmmm).
Joe Elliott paused during the concert and asked, “How are you Tampa?” The crowd was lit and everyone could see wall-to-wall people stacked from floor to ceiling in the massive auditorium. It must have been a sight to see from his vantage point. He asked, “You having a good time?” The guy behind me yelled, “Fuck yeah!” Again, point taken.
After a rousing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” which had the whole auditorium singing, the band walked off stage. The arena was dark except for people raising their cell phones in flashlight mode, clapping, and cheering for more DL. At that point the band walked out to sing “Rock of Ages” and ended the evening with “Photograph”.
Honestly, Def Leppard never disappoints. This was how all rock shows should be—entertaining, fast-paced, and without missing a beat with all the showmanship one expects for a “rock concert.” These guys are still in their prime—and give, give, give!
SET LIST: Rocket, Animal, Foolin’, When Love and Hate Collide, Let’s Get Rocked, Armageddon It, Rock On, Two Steps Behind, Man Enough, Love Bits, Bringin’ on the Heartbreak, Switch 625, Hysteria, Pour Some Sugar on Me….ENCORE: Rock of Ages, Photograph
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