Yes, they performed one ’80s hit after another—they even strategically closed the pre-encore set with their iconic anthem “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” And yes, the fist-pumping dudes and hip-swaying chicks who packed the arena ate it up, singing along word-for-word throughout the entire 90-minute, 16-song set just as they did the first time they saw this British quintet a quarter-century ago. For that reason alone, Def Leppard received high marks for its Labor Day weekend performance.
Sure, lead singer Joe Elliot rarely hit—or even attempted—his signature high notes (in fact, Elliot wasn’t even the best singer onstage this night; that honor went to the vocally flawless Ann Wilson of Heart, which opened the show). But whereas some aging rockers insist on force-feeding their fans new material that few in the audience know (and fewer still give a crap about), Def Leppard clearly embraces its history. So after opening with “Undefeated”—one of three new songs off their most recent live-album release Mirrorball—the band spent the rest of the night in a time machine, offering spot-on turns of “Foolin’,” “Photograph” and “Hysteria,” plus unplugged renditions of “Two Steps Behind” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.”
By the time Rick Allen, the most famous one-armed drummer on the planet, pounded his last symbol on “Rock of Ages” to cap the encore, it was clear longtime fans who came for a trip down memory lane got their money’s worth … along with a hoarse voice.