The ’80s were revived last Thursday night, as two of the decade’s premiere arena bands invaded Allstate Arena on the “Rock Of Ages” tour. Def Leppard, with their longest-standing lineup still intact, played their middle-aged crowd a 120-minute-plus career-spanning set that included all of their big hits, including nearly every track off 1987’s 12-times-platinum Hysteria.
The band’s age did show through a few times, as extra echo-effects and more were added to Joe Elliott’s vocals on many of the uber-high notes, but overall, Elliott and his crew proved they can still rock pretty hard. The light show, video screens, and the band’s backing harmonies were as prominent as ever, and the band still moved energetically around the multi-level stage, interacting with the crowd. One band member even looked healthier in his older age — eternally shirtless guitarist Phil Collen showed off his ripped abs (a result of less partying?).
Def Leppard did offer a few surprises, including an acoustic mini-set out on the a catwalk, sitting on a gear case playing acoustic guitars (except drummer Rick Allen who went with a shaker instead). The setlist included portions of hits like “When Love & Hate Collide” and “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad,” before Elliott invited the crowd to sing through “Two Steps Behind” in its entirety. Other pleasant surprises included the Hysteria gem “God Of War” (complete with all the battle sounds from the recording), and the instrumental “Switch 625” coming out of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak.”
Elliott asserted his veteran’s command of the stage, and at the end of the night he praised the crowd, “This is why we keep coming back to Chicago” and promised to return. Each Lep got the expected solo, but the highlight as always was drummer Allen proving once again that only having one arm doesn’t diminish his skills or ambition, as he rocked through some impressive rhythms with his array of foot pedals.
Openers/co-headliners Poison played to a full house as well, with a 40-minute set that included all the expected hits, just one ballad (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), and a cover (“Your Mama Don’t Dance”). Frontman Bret Michaels, donning the classic bandana and occasional cowboy hat, gave the crowd what they wanted (especially the ladies), and even managed to sneak in a few plugs for “The Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars” and his upcoming solo show in Chicago. Guitarist C.C. DeVille proved he hasn’t lost a step as he ripped through the riffs, and the rest of the band kept up with Michaels well.
Lita Ford kicked off the night of nostalgic rock with a short but energized set that closed with her big hits “Close My Eyes Forever” (sans Ozzy) and “Kiss Me Deadly.”
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