Def Leppard @Sheffield Bramall Lane, May 22 2023
Same city, different stage.
Four days apart, five decades to fall back on.
Def Leppard might have been playing their second Sheffield show within a week but the stadium-sized main course was every bit as satisfying as Friday’s club aperitif.
Having cooked up some rare cuts just down the road at The Leadmill, this was the Greatest Hits feast a sold-out Bramall Lane demanded.
It was barbecue weather in the Steel City and a sumptuous setlist sizzled after a day of South Yorkshire sun.
Almost 30 years to the day since Leppard’s baking hot Don Valley triumph, another al fresco affair benefited from perfect pre-show conditions.
And just as the mercury began to dip, the sun slowly retreating behind Sheffield United’s famous ground, the fired-up hosts sent temperatures soaring.
Banger after banger brought a capacity crowd to the boil.
And when Joe Elliott let slip the whole thing was being filmed for a future concert release, Bramall Lane’s cauldron of noise erupted.
Bramall or nothing
If the emphasis of Friday’s intimate fundraiser was to shine a light on the value of the small independent venue, then this was the supersized antidote.
Few British rock bands can still fill regional football stadia and it’s a testament to Leppard’s longevity that 1993’s legendary Sheffield show is no longer the benchmark for open air gigs in the city.
Ever since they engaged Mutt Lange to challenge Michael Jackson for the pop rock crown, Elliott and co. have always moved with the times.
And the striking difference between two historic outdoor dates on the band’s doorstep — staged three decades apart — is the relentless advance of technology.
This was hi-Def Leppard in every sense.
No way was the Stadium Tour’s masterful mix every going to get lost within the four stands of a vacuous venue.
And if those sat in the Kop couldn’t always make out the dots (or should that be spots) on stage then the pin sharp screens right and left captured every emotional highlight.
How the late, great Steve Clark’s mother and brother must have wished one of Sheffield’s favourite sons was still around to share in another homecoming triumph.
Sat high in the Tony Currie stand, to Elliott’s right, the pair were among scores of family and friends invited to celebrate this special evening.
And when the band dedicated This Guitar, from Diamond Star Halos, to their fallen comrade it was difficult to suppress a tear.
That ‘new tune’ was one of three included in a carefully curated, career-spanning setlist that captured the true commercial clout of this anthem-fuelled machine.
It’s little surprise that more than a third of the show is still devoted to Hysteria, given that game changing record’s status within the pantheon of radio-friendly rock.
And fan favourites Animal, Rocket and the album’s title track benefited most from the stunning digital backdrop to a truly jaw-dropping stage show.
Of course, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages and Photograph are about as reliable a set-closing trio as it’s possible to imagine.
The harshest of critics might argue all three songs have become painfully predictable choices as Leppard look to set the seal on their biggest gigs.
The rest of us would feel robbed if Elliott dared to omit any of the three.
The flow of memorable snaps sticking to the band’s virtual picture board surely meant more here than anywhere as Photograph captured Leppard at their nostalgic best.
Whether Sheffield will ever see the like again remains to be seen.
But the joyous hordes said exactly the same as they drifted home from Don Valley 30 years ago…
Is there life beyond Mars?
Mötley Crüe have become an easy target for the ‘rock is dead’ brigade as the original Sunset Strip rabble rousers have negotiated one crisis after the next in recent years.
A band beset by criticism parted company with Mick Mars last year and an ugly legal battle rages on.
But then the Crüe have never been far away from the next implosion: how Vince Neil and his bullet-proof brothers have survived this long is a question Rushonrock will never be able to answer.
That Leppard’s loyalty to the one-time Hollywood hellraisers extended to the UK and European leg of the Stadium Tour surprised many.
But given the volume of Crüe fans invading Sheffield it seems the band retains a hard core of committed devotees this side of the Pond.
Bramall Lane might not be Home Sweet Home for Tommy Lee and his buddies but the US stars did their best to woo a fast-filling venue.
What many had billed as the ‘tale of the tapes’ saw an under-fire Neil perform with confidence and zeal — whether or not that was his voice we could hear.
There was no mistaking the trolled frontman’s commitment to the cause but the decision to use eye-catching dancers and intricate video backdrops created a canny diversion.
Anyone expecting to witness a flawless set rehearsed to death had clearly never caught Crüe before.
But this was far from the worst performance on UK soil by a band liable to fuck it all up at the drop of a hat.
In fact, a hit-laden setlist was hugely entertaining with a heady mix of theatre and musicianship painting over any perceived vocal cracks.
Sure, Lee massacred the intro to Home Sweet Home.
And Neil never quite got on top of Live Wire or Looks That Kill.
But the classic Crüe cuts still scream sleaze at its very slickest.
In truth, the Mars bar had been set pretty low towards the end of the co-founder’s tenure with his former band.
Only time will tell, but adding John 5 to the mix might well give Neil and co. a new lease of life…
…eight years after that infamous ‘final’ show at Los Angeles’ Staples Centre.