Def Leppard @Sheffield The Leadmill, May 19 2023

Mirror Mirror (On The Wall), who’s the greatest of them all?

As if we didn’t already know, Def Leppard reminded a feverish hometown crowd that the old ones are always the best.

The old venues, the old songs and the five old blokes rolling back the years…

…all the way back to the old spoon factory up the road and Steve Clark’s swaggering entrance to his first rehearsal.

Just as he does in the magnificent Definitely: The Official Story Of Def Leppard, Joe Elliott recalled that defining moment in the band’s history with pride.

And he dedicated amped-up encore Wasted to a guitar god much missed but never forgotten.

That Clark should have been sharing in another triumphant return to the Steel City — perhaps the most celebrated of them all given the unique circumstances of this intimate gathering — wasn’t lost on a crowd keen to soak up a night of pure nostalgia.

Even 32 years after he passed away, it still feels as if the swaggering six-stringer is about to walk in with a trademark flick of that iconic blond mane.

And at The Leadmill, of all places, against the backdrop of a suitably retro set, Clark’s loss was felt so much more keenly.

Campbell’s super show

But as he has done throughout his tenure as Phil Collen’s fabulous foil, the classy Vivian Campbell paid his own peerless tribute to the treasured talent he replaced in 1992.

Whether swashbuckling his way through Switch 625 or reeling off the NWOBHM-fuelled riffs at the heart of Wasted, the Irishman never flickered. Never has done. Never will.

A decade into his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Campbell remains critical to this band of brothers.

And, in the sharp glare of a tightly packed and partisan crowd, his was a performance of Clark-esque composure.

Not a minute Wasted

So there was Wasted (according to, played just 21 times during the last 20 years), and Mirror Mirror (the same source confirms just 11 live outings since 2008) but what else did the Lepps unearth from the vault?

Slang has all but slipped into obscurity since 2006 but the title track of the band’s much-maligned response to grunge sounded fresher than ever in front of fans who lapped up every last note of this back catalogue rarity.

And was it too late for Too Late For Love? Not at all. Another of the deepest cuts here evoked spine-tingling memories of Leppard’s glorious transition from spotty NWOBHM-styled youths to global hard rock superstars.

Unsurprisingly, the hometown heroes left nothing to chance as their smallest Sheffield show for 40 years was streamed live to a worldwide audience of millions. 

An astonishing sound, given the most modest of surroundings, fuelled a faultless set with Collen and Campbell benefiting from the very best of a truly masterful mix.

Savage amusement

But who enjoyed it most?

It was a toss-up between the 850 paying customers and a beaming Rick Savage.

Just 24 hours after his beloved Owls completed the greatest comeback in Playoff history, the ageless bass player simply couldn’t stop smiling.

Hours later, chatting to friends at the hotel bar, Savage still looked like the proverbial (big) cat who got the cream.

Rick Allen looked similarly satisfied as he followed his band mate into the unofficial ‘after-show’ party — happily posing for pics and swapping fabled tales of the past.

The rock through Leppard’s ages almost beat his way through the Leadmill floor during the furious finale to Switch 625.

But Allen will no doubt look forward to Monday’s Bramall Lane bash and the chance to treat Sheffield to the full force of his dynamic stadium kit.

Collen’s cover-up

The biggest surprises on a night of many?

The consummate Collen kept his shirt on (it’s cold up north).

Animal was omitted from the set.

And a few people actually chucked away their empty cans of special edition Leppard At The Leadmill One Night Only Pale Ale.

Unbelievable behaviour.

One Ell of a night for gentleman Joe

So to Joe.

Looking like Gandalf’s great grandson with his meticulously straightened silver locks, one of this famous city’s most famous sons lapped up every last minute of a truly memorable moment in time.

Elliott actually joked that baby Leppard would have killed to get a Leadmill-sized show 45 years ago.

And that overriding sense of the band’s colossal present colliding with its modest past was a common thread running through the night.

As well as the deep cuts there were reminders that the last few years have been a fertile period for a band that’s not always been considered prolific.

Fire It Up and Kick sat neatly alongside Let It Go and Bringin’ On The Heartbreak — a steepling version of the latter doing due justice to this special evening.

Drastic fantastic on day of fundraising fun

Elliott happily reminded the masses that this was also album release day: in lieu of The Leadmill lacking the space to swing a cat — let alone host a full orchestra — Too Late For Love was given a token tweak to give a flavour of Drastic Symphonies’ dramatic reimagining of Leppard’s back catalogue.

On a night when vital funds were raised to help save The Leadmill and venues just like it, this felt like so much more than a bunch of working-class millionaires flexing their philanthropic muscles.

Of course, Def Leppard were dutifully generous to the city that spawned a worldwide success story.

But it felt as if the decision to play this tiny club classic came from a place of pure pleasure and a sense of boyish fun. Like it used to be in the spoon factory with Steve all those years ago.

Images by Kevin Nixon