Red Hill Auditorium, Red Hill, Western Australia
Supports: Live, Baby Animals
The whirlwind three date Australian Def Leppard tour concluded on a balmy night in Perth’s hills area, this past Saturday. Despite the heat, the Red Hill Auditorium, set about 30 minutes out of the city and overlooking the majestic west coast sunset and surrounded by bushland, couldn’t have made a more apt, unique setting to celebrate a band still plying their craft into their fourth decade as a group. Joined by U.S band, Live and Australia’s Baby Animals, this was one show not be missed.
With the sun still perched high, raising an almighty thirst level across this picturesque landscape, local legends, Baby Animals (yes, we still claim Suze DeMarchi as our own) took to the stage and immediately made their presence felt. Rolling into some Baby Animals classics such as ‘Early Warning’, ‘Rush You’, ‘One Word’, ‘Painless’ it wasn’t long before the crowd swelled at ground level whilst those trudging in to secure their places on the lime stoned terraces jostled for position. DeMarchi draped in white shirt and bopping that head side to side still charming the audience with charisma as if it’s 1991. Sultry, sweaty the 30 minute showcase DeMarchi and band peeled off had the crowd bubbling and kicked off a great start to one of the shows of 2015.
As Baby Animals completed their set, the crowd continued to flood into the coliseum-like open enclosure. With birds chirping away in the background, the sun meandering down from the deep blue sky, the audience, almost in unison syphoning down as much amber liquid as quickly the efficient staff at Red Hill would allow, Live entered the stage.
The Pennsylvanian band were once the darlings of the alternative rock scene with 1994’s Throwing Copper the catapult that fast forwarded the band into stardom. The album sold more than eight million copies in the U.S alone and spawned a host of catchy singles including its highlight ballad, ‘Lightning Crashes’. Fast forward two decades and despite waning success over the past ten years and the departure of front man, Ed Kowalczyk in 2009, the Live version in 2015 is still very capable of matching its heights of the mid ‘90s; at least on the stage. The soul is still there. Kowalczyk may be gone but in ex-Unified Theory vocalist, Chris Shinn, Live have found a hidden gem to take Ed’s mantle. Strikingly similar to Kowalczyk in delivery, Shinn may have had his doubters at the beginning of his tenure but those voices are quickly dissipating. Put simply, Shinn has the goods.
As darkness filled the sky, the crowd swarmed, Live’s set abundant with those sing-along moments that immerse audience into participation. Whilst the Throwing Copper record made up the majority of the set, fans were also treated to belters such as ‘Dolphins Cry’ and ‘Lakini’s Juice’. The crowd lapping up the tender moments of the songs and rocking out when time called for a more gusto delivery. ‘All Over You’, ‘Selling the Drama’ and ‘Iris’ surged over the speakers, as strangers sung in unison, at one point threatening to overpower Live’s sound, especially as ‘Lightning Crashes’ entered the fray. Finishing with another Throwing Copper classic in ‘I Alone’, the anticipation reached fever pitch for Def Leppard to continue the ‘rock’.
Onto the main act. It seems Def Leppard saved up all the lightshow and back drops for themselves, but who could blame them, this was ‘their’ tour, and they used video screen as background to perfection. Slipping from old photos of the band to neon signs to other artistic eye candy, the quintet powered into each song with bravado, kicking off with ‘Let’s Go’ from the band’s latest self-titled album, released just last month. Fans slow on the uptake of the new stuff didn’t need to wait long though for some old classics. ‘Animal’ had the crowd voice singing every word, Joe Elliott’s range still as strong as ever. ‘Undefeated’ from 2011’s Mirrorball Live album with a few extra tracks thrown in is next, which despite its rollicking beat, again had some old crew in the audience pondering their attendance to the show, especially after another new song, ‘Dangerous’ was played next. Personally I love the new songs, in fact the new album is probably the most enjoyable Def Leppard album since Hysteria but with mix of hot weather, amber liquid consumption and the crowd baying for old tracks there was that air of, ‘Please Mr Elliott play some old stuff’ running through my head following ‘Dangerous’ conclusion.
Thankfully Def Leppard obeyed. Rick Savage, Vivian Campbell and by now a shirtless 6 packed Phil Collen manoeuvred the stage in choreographed grace, Joe Elliott slipping into several stage guises throughout the 90 minute show. ‘Love Bites’ had the ladies dancing in the aisles, another Hysteria favourite, ‘Armageddon It’ had everyone fist pumping to ‘that’ riff, Collen controlling the audience like an orchestra conductor, riff after riff.
Slowing it down a notch, the David Essex cover ‘Rock On’ had a ambient airing, Rick Savage bending the bass lines, the crowd anthemic in their assistance, ‘Rock On!, oo my soul’. From there Elliott went acoustic, stripping back the track, ‘Two Steps Behind’, a true ‘lighter’ moment, though the crowd at the rear of the venue swayed their beverages side to side in some sort of show of consolidarity. ‘Rocket’ got the whole crowd involved, the Hysteria classic tune sending Red Hill Auditorium into raptures, the sonic sounds and succinct Collen/Campbell duelling guitar work coming across beautifully in a venue that captures the sound so crisply.
Following a killer, bordering on heavy metal souped-up version of the instrumental ‘Switch 625’, the crowd were treated to three gems in ‘Hysteria’, ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ and perhaps the biggest track of the Leppard discography, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. Elliott may as well have placed the microphone on the stage floor, he wasn’t required. From “Hysteria, when you’re near”, to “I’m your average ordinary everyday kid”, to “Step inside, walk this way”, the crowd surged in voice, every word! It wouldn’t surprise if the whole of Perth some 30km’s away didn’t know every word after the performance of this crowd.
Stepping closer to the stage, mingling with fans it was apparent from the faces of Def Leppard band members that the venue, the crowd, the tour, was a triumph. Rick Allen’s beaming smile said it all. To top it off, an encore of ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ topped off the night to perfection. Kudos to the mastermind promoters for bringing Def Leppard and some stellar supports to a venue of this kind. Having personally travelled throughout Europe in the ‘90s and numerous rock shows throughout Australia in the past twenty years, Red Hill Auditorium is truly a unique setting and one that highlighted the fun times this band has brought to millions of fans across the world to perfection.
Come back soon!
DEF LEPPARD SETLIST
Two Steps Behind
When Love and Hate Collide
Let’s Get Rocked
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock of Ages
(** thanks to Robert Pilcher for some of the photos)