Time-traveling with Def Leppard at the BOK

On a night that made time travel possible, at least for about 3 ½ hours, the BOK was lit up with three of the biggest acts from the 70’s, and 80’s.alt

Arriving at the arena was quite a site, especially with some spectators.  As with any 80’s rock show, there were those ladies hanging on (maybe a little too long) to the ‘straight off the Sunset Strip’ look with short skirts, high heels and teased out hair. Then there were the guys who have long since lost their hair, but felt the need to stop by the wig shop for the now infamous mullet.  

Cheap Trick, Poison and Def Leppard hit the stage Saturday night for the quintessential rock tour of the summer.  Honestly though, a grouping like this was a little strange. Cheap Trick was huge in the 70’s and early 80’s.  Leppard hit it big in the mid-eighties and Poison came on the scene in the latter part of the decade.  Ironically, Def Leppard has tried to distance itself from the “hair band” cliché, yet are on tour with a band credited with starting the trend.  Nonetheless, it did make for a night of great nostalgic entertainment.

Cheap Trick opened the show and quickly became a fan favorite.  The sound was a little weak in the opening moments, but improved by the time Robin Zander paused to say the famous “I Want You, To Want Me” line. This caused an eruption of cheers from the crowd and the band

Rick Neilson was as zany as ever with his trademark ball cap and bow tie.  He ripped up the place with stellar guitar work and worked the crowd. “We would like to thank you for making us the best selling group in the world…..on 8 track,” shouted Neilson at one point.


I found it very intriguing that the frontman for the group steps aside and lets the lead guitarist do the talking and audience interaction.  This is a very tight group that hasn’t lost a step in the over three decades.  Strong vocals, blazing guitar and great drum line thanks to Bun E. Carlos, kept the crowd going.   CT could have easily kept playing after their 45-minute show and no one would mind. And one wonders whether they should be the opener.


Poison was up next, opening with “Look What The Cat Dragged In.” Scorching guitar riffs, heavy bass line and firebombs gave way to Bret Michaels coming onto the stage to start the set off.  It was obvious the years of touring and the Rock of Love show may have taken its toll on the man, as he seemed to really struggle finding his sound and range.  CC Deville was a great showman. With his incendiary guitar work and playing to the crowd, he was the highlight of the set.

Poison’s hits were in place, “Talk Dirty to Me,” Unskinny Bop,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and “Something to Believe In.”  For that last song, Michaels stated, “That every night we want to dedicate this song to the men and woman of the armed forces who are making it possible for us to do what we do.” A cool thing to do, but the song is about the let down of the establishment and the death of his roadie.  Maybe could have gone a different way, and in my opinion, was just using a vehicle to pull at Middle America heartstrings.


The band closed with “Nothing But A Good Time.”  The tune has become an anthem of sorts for the “hair generation” and it brought a fantastic ovation from the capacity crowd.  The audience was really into the band, and showed their appreciation for the 22 plus years they’ve been around.

The main event was still to come and the stage began to transform somewhat.  This reviewer has seen Lep a couple of times and they were always ‘in the round,’ so I was interested in seeing what kind of show they could pull off  with an end-of-the-arena stage setup.  The lights went out and a video montage began that ran from the early days of the band to present.

The video featured each album cover and the songs on each, then stopped with the words “That was then, this is now”  “Welcome to The Sparkle Lounge.”  That fed into  the band’s opener, “Rock, Rock (Til You Drop).”  From that point on, it was all energy and amazing guitar, bass and drum work.

Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell were robust and commanding on guitar, both sharing time as lead and rhythm guitarist.  Rick Savage looked like he stepped out of 1987 and the Hysteria album, but still had the bass work prowess that made it a fresh full show.  He plays some very thick bass lines that at times have your insides churning.

Rick Allen is always a treat to watch on drums.  It is nothing short of captivating to see this man, who has suffered so much in his career, play at the top of his game.  Joe Elliot was the front-man, and he continued to command the show as only he could.  His vocal range is slipping some, but he did use some cool tricks to avoid hitting those high notes.  

During a stripped down part of the show, Elliot, Campbell, and Collen all came out on the catwalk part of the stage with acoustic guitars as Joe Elliot asked, “Does anyone want to join the band? … For the next couple of songs you can tell your friends that you were part of Def Leppard.”

The little known song “Two Steps Behind” was followed by a song that was once referred to as “The hit that just wouldn’t be” – “Bringing on the Heartbreak”  This is where Elliot got inventive and allowed the high note part of the song to be sung by the crowd.  Very cool Joe, good call on that one.  The crowd ate it up and sang every note.  


The band seemed genuinely blown away at the crowd’s response and kept stating, “We will be back here, this place is loud and you look great!”  As a friend of mine said, “It is very cool that these guys get reminded of who they are.”  This is a rock band that has had ever rock and roll cliché that you can think of thrown at them. Yet they somehow manage to come back better and stronger than before.  This night was no different. They delivered on all levels.  All the songs you have grown up with and love were showcased and tight, “Photograph”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Hysteria”, and “Foolin” to name a few.

The show closer was “Rock of Ages” set to an incredible video that was the inventing of a rock “Mount Rushmore” of sorts. Perhaps, Mount Rockmore?  Lameness aside. As the song played on the video screen, behind the band were images of past greats of rock  taken from the world way too soon: from Jerry Garcia to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain.  The biggest cheer came for former guitarist and co-founding member Steve Clark.  

One encore followed, “Let’s Get Rocked.” And once again, Joe Elliot remarked prior to the song what a great venue the BOK was and that they would definitely be back.  Adding, “We won’t forget about you, but don’t forget about us.”

Overall, this was a very solid show with its high and lows.  As you would expect, some of the pieces of the show that may have been a part of it a decade ago were absent.  Time, touring and age have begun to catch us all.  That being said, it is still nice to escape for a few hours and remember the garage bands, heck even air bands that we all played in, when we were Joe Elliot, Rick Neilson, CC Deville and Rick Allen.  Gone days, but never forgotten.

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 August 2009 )