Def Leppard's Joe Elliott
Def Leppard opened last night’s double header with Journey at the Q with the kind of excessive drama that made the '80s the decadent era the band once dominated.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
At the concert's start, a huge countdown clock ticked away the time until there was no time left and suddenly "DEF LEPPARD CLEVELAND" in giant fire-orange letters filled two giant screens. The screens started moving to reveal the band, the letters becoming huge big-box televisions reminiscent of old “I want my MTV” commercials, and then the band assaulted the crowd with the huge hit “Rocket.”
Frontman Joe Elliott stomped the runway with his massive electric socket hair blowing in the wind as he screeched out lyrics that seemed to time warp the crowd straight back to 1987.
The spectacle continued with heavy tracks “Animal” and “Foolin’” before the band slowed things down with their ballad “When Love and Hate Collide.” It was during the slower songs that Elliott’s voice sounded a bit strained and not quite and strong as it once did, but during heavy rock hits he sounded incredible and hit every note perfectly. The band got the crowd back on its feet for fan favorite “Let’s Get Rocked.” Infamous one-armed drummer Rick Allen was barefoot while dominating his drum set. Elliott’s mic was tied with a scarf that swayed around as he thrashed his mic stand side to side.
Bold, loud, aggressive, and insanely talented, the band was everything you would want Def Leppard to be. They weren’t trying to reinvent themselves or be anything they are not. Elliott told the crowd that he and his band mates love coming to Cleveland and have been coming here for 38 years with more years to come.
Bassist Rick Savage started off a sultry cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” with a solo, and the rock theme continued with a cover of Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks” which the crowd chanted along with the band. Then, things slowed down for an intimate acoustic of “Two Steps Behind.”
Still, the best moment was yet to come and the crowd was once again back on its feet for the explosive hit “Love Bites,” red neon lights pouring from the stage as Elliott growled the heartfelt words, hypnotizing the crowd. The night continued with an epic bass guitar /drum off that sounded like the winding down of a helicopter. Then, Allen continued for an extended drum solo, smiling the entire time, winning the hearts of the crowd as everyone manically cheered him on.
The classic hits continued with the raucous “Hysteria” with vintage pics and video of the band on the screens, upping the nostalgia factor. Elliott added a snippet of David Bowie’s “We Can Be Heroes” at the end. Next up was the band’s most well-known song, the sticky-sweet “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with some fans pouring actual sugar on each other during the heavy-rock anthem. The encore included “Rock of Ages” and the gritty “Photograph.”
Journey kicked its set off with the hit “Separate Ways." On it, singer Amel Pineda channeled original frontman Steve Perry to an almost frightening degree of accuracy. Pineda was a ball of energy as he ran to each corner of the stage to sing to every crevice of the crowd. Next up was “Be Good to Yourself” during which Pineda ripped off his jacket to reveal a LeBron James jersey, a move met with approving screams from the fans. The crowd lost some of its pep during “Where Did I Lose Your Love” but found it again for hit “Anyway You Want It.”
Guitarist Neal Schon dedicated the tender “Lights” to the troops away from their families and to the ones that lost their lives fighting for our country. Fans held up their phone flashlights for the somber moment while Pineda soulfully sang lyrics, “So you think you’re lonely/well my friend I’m lonely too.”
Keyboardist Jonathan Cain performed a solo before the band went into the power ballad that defines all power ballads, the beautiful “Open Arms.” The ballads continued with “Who’s Crying Now,” a sorrowful rainy windshield backdrop filling the screens. Next up was “La Do Da”; a vigorous drum solo by drummer Steve Smith followed.
The night kicked back into high gear with a long guitar solo by Schon that led into the raw “Wheel in the Sky,” a cactus desert background filling the stage. Pineda again paid tribute to the troops for the Memorial Day performance by dedicating the hopelessly devote ballad “Faithfully.”
And then came the song made famous many times over from drunken bar sing-alongs to the finale of The Sopranos —
the hope-filled “Don’t Stop Believing.” The band performed it with great enthusiasm and pride. One could feel a gush of release as everyone sang along to the eternal feel-good hit. Journey hit the stage once more for an encore that featured fan favorite “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”