Def Leppard paid the San Francisco Bay area a long-overdo visit this past Saturday night as part of local rock radio station 107.7 the Bone’s sixteenth annual Bone Bash. A whopping 20,000 people endured the heat and the traffic to absolutely pack the Shoreline Amphitheatre so that by the time openers Tesla took the stage promptly at 7 pm, the crowd was already primed, liquored up and ready to rock.
Tesla’s energetic set laid the foundation for what would be a high-energy evening plastered with classic tunes from all of the bands. Frontman Jeff Keith used every inch of the stage as he belted out the tunes while Frank Hannon, Brian Wheat and Dave Rude peppered the front rows with guitar picks between licks. To say the crowd was receptive would be a vast understatement. Hailing from Sacramento, Tesla is a local favorite and received the proper hometown treatment with folks on their feet and singing along from the front row all the way to the lawn.
The crew thankfully made quick work of the stage between sets allowing for longer set times. Next up, Styx, whose hour long set of classics proved that, even if you’re not a longtime fan, you probably know way more Styx tunes than you thought you did (and remember the ones that didn’t make the setlist this time around, like Mr. Roboto). Lawrence Gowan appropriately kicked off the set on vocals for The Grand Illusion as his keyboard riser spun in circles. Tomm Shaw, ‘JY’ Young and Rick Phillips were clearly enjoying themselves, all smiles as they ran around the stage and up onto the ramps that topped the LED screens. The crowd, by now at capacity, sang along to every word as the band traded lead vocals from song to song … 40 plus years clearly hasn’t done anything to tamp the enthusiasm of neither the fans nor the band who sounded as tight as can be. Even original bass player Chuck Panozzo joined the band for a few tunes before Styx wrapped their set with handshakes and a final deep bow; it’s rare to see a band treat their fans so graciously.
With another quick set change ahead, the crowd was buzzing as the crew hoisted a giant Def Leppard curtain across the stage. As Disintegrate began to play over the PA system, you could hear Rick Allen playing along to the drums and the pump in the amphitheater became palpable. Despite the show actually running ahead of schedule, it felt like an eternity before that curtain finally dropped and was sucked away in the blink of an eye revealing frontman Joe Elliot … arms outstretched and soaking in the eruption from the crowd as the band launched into Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop) and the crowd erupted.
Sharing much of the same production with Styx, Def Leppard made clever use of the LED screens which changed from stacks of guitar speaker cabinets to song lyrics for Bringin’ on the Heartbreak to a retrospective photo slideshow during Hysteria. But the real action came from these five guys who showed no signs of slowing down or cashing it in after all these years. Joe’s vocals were on-point and a shirtless and pumped-up Phil Collen looked like he had just wrapped up a few hundred reps of push ups and sit ups before taking the stage. All this from a band that’s had the same members since 1992. Even Vivian Campbell, who announced back in June that his Hodgkin’s lymphoma had returned, looked and played fantastically. So when Joe introduced him before Armageddon It as, “a happy and very healthy Vivian Campbell,” the fans were demonstrably pleased, but likely not surprised, with the prognosis.
During the set, each band member got their moment in the spotlight. Rick Savage took center stage for a thumping bass solo intro into Rock On. Similarly Rick Allen kicked off Switch 625 sitting low behind a surprisingly compact kit, his fancy footwork on the solo thankfully visible on the big screen due to a number of cameras connected around his drums. Elliott offered up the funniest moment of the evening when he stepped up with his acoustic guitar and started playing San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) but cutting it short, “Fuck that flowers in your hair shit. That was 1969,” and welcoming the fans to join him on Two Steps Behind. As the final notes rang out, Elliot screamed, “GUITAR,” which broke the crowd and the band out of their acoustic lull as the band broke into Rocket.
The rest of the set including the encore was all about bring out the hits … Hysteria, Sugar, Rock of Ages, Photograph collectively wrapped up 90 minutes of Def Leppard bliss which was only missing a taste of the new material that’s been promised for an October release. Here’s to hoping that with that new release comes with another tour!
- Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
- Let It Go
- Love Bites
- Armageddon It
- Rock On
- Two Steps Behind
- Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
- Switch 625
- Let’s Get Rocked
- Pour Some Sugar on Me
- Rock of Ages
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