HomeMusicDef Leppard - Live at The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK

Def Leppard – Live at The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK

A hometown gig in a small club on a Friday night from one of the best British Rock bands of all time? Sign me up. Once I’d got past the shock off actually managing to get a pre-sale ticket for this triumphant return to Sheffield from Def Leppard my thoughts turned to a multitude of things. Will we get some deeper cuts or little aired songs? What will the sound system be liked in such a small venue and how would Def Leppard cope being back on the sort of stage they left behind somewhere around 1983? Thankfully, the band and the venue lived up to the anticipation and then some!

There has been a glut of Def Leppard content this week. They released their first ever official book on Thursday. Part memoir, part scrapbook, ‘Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard’ is an engrossing read. You can read my review of it right here. Today, (Friday May 19th) the band also released their new album, ‘Drastic Symphonies’, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. You can read my review of the album right here. And now the completion of the trilogy is upon us in the form of a live gig review from The Leadmill in Sheffield as Def Leppard roll into town with Motley Crue to play a huge stadium gig at Bramall Lane football ground on Monday 22nd May.

Raising money for this iconic and endangered venue, Leppard not only played the show to a lucky 850 people but it was livestreamed online too. Joe Elliott had previously promised to play a few deeper cuts and more obscure songs as compared to what the setlist will be in 48 hours time on the stadium show with Motley Crue in the same town and he lived up to being a man of his word.

The band hit the stage to a thunderous reception from the lucky ‘golden ticket winners’ (unnecessary Charlie and the Chocolate (or should that be ‘Steel’?) Factory reference but I still don’t know how I managed to get my ticket in the onsale and thousands of others didn’t) in the crowd with the bombastic ‘Action’ and the tone was set.

Sounding better than at anytime I’ve heard them since about 1993, ‘Action’ segued into the first of two songs from new album, ‘Diamond Star Halos’, ‘Fire It Up’ but it was on third song, ‘Let it Go’ that everything began to fall into place. A much loved song from the 1981 ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ album, ‘Let It Go’ was a ferocious, intense four minutes of Leppard at their best, invoking those heady club and theatre nights of the early 80s. Stripped of arena sheen and stadium razzmatazz the band were forced to fall back on muscle memory and it felt like we were watching a young, hungry band ripping through debut album songs with all the verve and cock-sure confidence of youth.

‘Let it Go’ gave way to one of my favourite ever Leppard songs, ‘Too Late for Love’. The reworked version of this song that appears on new album, ‘Drastic Symphonies’ is one of the best songs on that project and it was an absolute pleasure to hear it live with the traditional ‘Rick Savage peers out into the crowd’ hand gesture heralding its entrance before guitarists Phil Collen and Viv Campbell took over.

If ‘Too Late for Love’ could be considered a relative deep cut then the band went even deeper for ‘Mirror Mirror’, ‘Excitable’ and the title track of the much misunderstood 1996 album, ‘Slang’. ‘Mirror Mirror’, alongside ‘Lady Strange’ is probably my favourite song from the ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ album it was was a real thrill to turn back the clocks 40 years and be able to scream ‘Take a look into my eyes’ alongside the rest of the fervent and noisy crowd. The band delivered the song with an intensity and guile and you could visibly see the years gradually falling away from the faces of these seasoned road warriors as they found their inner sophomore album selves too. ‘Excitable’, a deep cut from the ‘Hysteria’ album was, obviously, less produced than its Mutt Lange-esque studio self and stripped of everything but the music and vocals it took on a much more urgent, intense persona which really worked in this small club setting whilst ‘Slang’ just did what it does in terms of it being a simple, three minute chant.

New song, ‘Kick’ served to cleanse the palate before the final run in of ‘Bringing on the Heartbreak’, ‘Switch 625’, ‘Hysteria’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. Outstanding guitar work from Collen and Campbell on fan-favourite ‘Switch 625’ gave Joe Elliott a breather whilst the rest of us gradually lost our breath but it was set-closer ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ that really stole the show in this small, sweaty, sold out club. When you see films and musicals like ‘Rock of Ages’ and you tell your kids that all gigs were like that back in the 80s there’s a certain level of embellishment going on in order to try and make yourself look cooler in their eyes but ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ was pure, hedonistic 80s pomp at its best. Augmented by the rapacious crowd and elevated by the low ceilings and a ferocious performance seeping off the stage this was Rock history in the making right here.

The band said their goodbyes but returned post-haste to play debut album banger ‘Wasted’. Joe Elliott gave a nice tribute to fallen guitarist Steve Clark without once mentioning his name although there wasn’t a single person in the crowd who didn’t know before Phil Collen took up the mantle of the riff that Elliot was referring to and we had one final, sweaty, three minute romp before the band, clearly moved and inspired by the set, the crowd and the whole experience, left for what would have been a well deserved beer, smoothie, mocktail or very necessary gallon of water!

To see a band of Def Leppard’s arena stature in a tiny club environment was an absolute privilege. Stripped of their stadium bells and whistles there was nowhere to go but into the past and they did it with ease and a kind of ‘punk’ ferocity that makes you realise that this is a band that could have survived in some shape or form without the excesses of ‘Hysteria’ and the years that followed. There’s a whole different band lurking beneath the glitz and showmanship that is necessary to pull off a stadium gig and it was that one we saw tonight. A band that sort of stopped at ‘Pyromania’ in 1983, a band willing to leave it all out on those smaller stages, playing with a fire and intensity because they know that is all that is going to carry them through each show and it is how you have to be to connect with crowds in small clubs and theatre venues. It was a privilege to witness them turn back the clock and I get the feeling they enjoyed it too. Normal service will be resumed at Bramall Lane on Monday with the stadium show with Motley Crue but I’d love to see them do this again, a little longer and a whole lot sweatier for one more time before age and creaking bones catch up with them for good as it seems to be doing to so many bands of their ilk and generation.

Set list: 1. Action 2. Fire it Up 3. Let it Go 4. Too Late for Love 5. Excitable 6. Mirror Mirror 7. Slang 8. Kick 9. Bringing on the Heartbreak 10. Switch 625 11. Hysteria 12. Pour Some Sugar on Me 13. Wasted Venue: The Leadmill, Sheffield Date: Friday 19th May 2023

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A hometown gig in a small club on a Friday night from one of the best British Rock bands of all time? Sign me up. Once I'd got past the shock off actually managing to get a pre-sale ticket for this triumphant return to...Def Leppard - Live at The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK