Joe Elliott by Gordon Armstrong@Newcastle Think Tank?, December 14 2014

As the dust settled on the Down N Outz’ headline set a surprisingly disappointed Joe Elliott likened his current predicament to a ‘porn star having his balls chopped off’.

It was a typically candid assessment from the Def Leppard frontman as he continues to battle the bronchial infection that has plagued this month’s run of eagerly anticipated shows by the Ian Hunter-inspired act. However, Elliott was being overly hard on himself. 

Sure, he’s had better nights behind the mic but the odd croak, cough and snot-fueled splutter didn’t detract from the fact that this multi-millionaire leader of a stadium rock institution clearly loved every minute of a tiny club show that sparkled from start to finish.

The pre-gig warning that there would be no Leppard hits and no Quireboys’ standards (half of the band hail from the reborn Geordie rock n rollers) had clearly been heeded by the respectful throng. The fans – like Elliott and his beaming hired hands – were ready for a night of 70s glam-flavoured nostalgia and as an unpretentious pop rock party this was close to perfect.

The decision to kick off with a classic instrumental-led jam – Elton John’s Funeral For a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding) – proved inspired. Elliott has insisted the Down N Outz is a genuine band rather than a self-centered vanity project and each member had the opportunity to shine within the expansive set opener.

Flanking the voice of Leppard stood lead guitarist Paul Guerin and Vixen’s Share Ross – the former on fire and the latter bringing some silky smooth bass to the mix. Guy Griffin’s rhythm guitar screamed understated cool and Keith Weir carried on where he’d left off at the same venue three weeks earlier tinkling his way into the hearts of an enamoured crowd. Throw in Phil Martini’s pounding class and it was immediately obvious why Elliott loves his time fronting Down N Outz.

US rock hit Overnight Angels brought the band closer together before One Of The Boys picked up the pace. If Elliott was struggling to shake off his illness then it wasn’t obvious.

Quireboys’ fans are well aware of Guerin’s quality but challenged to fire out soaring solo after soaring solo, the local hero rose to the occasion. Just as Ross revelled in the spotlight alongside Elliott, Blyth’s finest did everything in his power to steal the show from his famous sidekick.

If Violence’s edgy tone didn’t quite work as the main set closer then Down N Outz served up a suitably raucous encore with Hunter’s England Rocks segueing into Mott’s aptly-titled Good Times: that’s exactly what this band specialises in.

Simon Rushworth

Image courtesy of Gordon Armstrong