Band's still ready to rock
Def Leppard will be in the area for two shows next week.
By JOHN BENSON
What a difference a supporting band makes.
That's the lesson learned by rock act Def Leppard, which spent last summer touring minor league baseball stadiums with Bryan Adams and is currently playing amphitheaters with classic rock act Journey as its opener.
"Since Ugly Kid Joe in 1992, we've never really had somebody on the act that helps sell the ticket," said singer Joe Elliott, calling from vacation in Spain. "We've relied totally on our name and it's kept us at a certain level, which is nothing to sneeze at."
He added, "The problem we had in the '90s was we couldn't get anybody who wanted to do it. They were literally saying, 'We don't want to tour with Def Leppard.' All of the '90s bands were trying to kill people like us."
Perhaps getting the last laugh now, Def Leppard remains one of the more active touring bands from its generation. You can see Elliott and company Tuesday at Blossom Music Center and Wednesday at Post Gazette Pavilion.
This summer fans are getting a healthy dose of its hits -- "Bringin' On The Heartbreak," "Foolin'," "Hysteria," "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" -- as well as a few songs from the band's recently released covers album "YEAH!."
About the cover album
Talked about for decades, the 14-track album took years for the band to finish. "I guess this was the first time the opportunity had arisen so we could take the idea seriously," Elliott said. "With our history of making records, you don't do [a cover album] for your first, second or third album and it just got put on the back burner. Then in 2004, we decided to do it."
Elliott makes no excuses for the fact the disc is a tribute album to the band members' musical heroes. The list of artists include The Kinks, Badfinger, T. Rex, David Bowie, Sweet, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Free, Faces and Thin Lizzy.
While diehard fans will recognize the influence of these bands, casual observers -- thinking Def Leppard is an '80s hard rock act akin to Whitesnake and Motley Crue -- may be taken off guard. However, a closer look at the band's hit single "Rocket," from its 10-million-selling 1987 album "Hysteria," shows the band giving shout-outs to its '70s glam rock idols. The song's lyrics include "Dizzy Lizzy Major Tom," which is a nod to both Thin Lizzy and David Bowie.
This leads us to the point of every Def Leppard article where the band explains its unfair pigeonholing as a hard rock act. For once and for all, Elliott said he'd like to get Anthrax guitarist Scottie Ian, Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead's Lemmy in a room to discuss Def Leppard being a heavy metal act.
"They'd all burst out laughing," Elliott said "We've blatantly told people, "We're not from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.' We've actually gotten angry with journalists who keep lobbing us in that bucket. It's like we have nothing to do with that. It was a time zone. If you're going to do that, you might as well throw Duran Duran or U2 in there as well. They came out at the same time. It's silly."
He added, "It's just something we have to deal with on a constant basis. It's like talking to a brick wall."