Whilst Crüe lives with an air of constant chaos, Def Leppard are a slick machine with enough edge to bring that old-school buzz. Joe Elliott and his merry troupe certainly know how to put on a Wembley show, and with a bulging bank of diamond-encrusted bangers at their disposal, they’re finer than ever.
Wembley Stadium – 1 July 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
Again, making the most of the video screens, the night turns into an explosion of sound and light as the band prowls the stage, throws shapes and displays why they’re one of the biggest-selling rock bands in history.
Eschewing long monologues, they let the music do the talking, and it’s a romp through their back catalogue that stretches from nascent debut On Through The Night right up to last year’s Diamond Star Haloes.
As Elliott always proclaims, Leppard where never really part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They just emerged at the same time. Rather than the meat and potatoes bands that emerged from that era, the quintet were much more keyed into the rabble-rousing glam of Bowie and The Sweet, the harmonies and hooks adding a timeless quality.
Sure, there was humour too, and these working-class boys could throw out songs like Let’s Get Rocked and the punsomely titled Armageddon It, but never at the expense of the songwriting. In this way, they reflected the masters of glam with the humour of Slade, and the night proved that their own brand of hard rock could easily fill this sort of cavernous venue just as Noddy, Dave, Jimmy and Don did some fifty years before.
Given the size and breadth of their output, it was going to be impossible to play everyone’s favourites, but with songs like the jubilant Animal and a down-and-dirty Foolin’ in their armoury, only the most nitpicking could quibble.
The huge groove of Kick and sublime Love Bites built things up before the band came to the stage at the end of the walkway to perform a mellow and heartfelt semi-acoustic version of This Guitar, reducing the stadium to an intimate bar atmosphere for those few minutes.
To see Leppard live is to truly understand them. Whilst the lights and screens may blaze, it’s their musicianship that garners the most attention and appreciation. The guitar duo of Phil Collen and Viv Campbell is one of the most potent out there, and when they both stroll down the walkway to provide the swirling harmonics of Switch 625, you can’t help but be swept up and blown away.
Similarly, Ricks Allen and Savage make a powerful rhythm section, imbued with feel and driving precision, all of them providing the bedrock on which Elliott sings his heart out, his vocals seemingly barely affected by age barring the (wise) slightest of loss right at the very top of his range.
Whilst others may have blown their voices, the frontman has wisely kept his in shape, and he’s arguably never sounded better.
Ballad When Love And Hate Collide, a propulsive Rocket, the showstopping Bringin’ On The Heartache and sky-scraping club favourite Pour Some Sugar On Me roll in, each bringing their own high before the percussive Rock Of Ages turns up the heat to boiling point.
With Photograph closing the night with its uplifting spirit, all that was left was for the band to take their bows and head off into the night. Given that Campbell’s big debut with the band was at this venue for the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert back in April 1992, being back here headlining at Wembley Stadium was a dream come true for Leppard, the quintet glowing with pride and bathing in the experience.
Certainly an evening that neither the band nor the audience will ever forget, this was a night when it felt that rock ‘n’ roll could truly conquer the world.
You can read about the Mötley Crüe show here.