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Def Leppard — Rock for the Ages [REVIEW] [PICTURES]

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It’s fitting that the musical ‘Rock of Ages’ chose the title of a Def Leppard song to define the music of a generation. Even though Tom Cruise and the cast butchered pretty much every song in the movie version, it’s still a testament to the band’s enduring power.

While you can pretty much anticipate what you are going to hear at a Def Leppard show, Friday night at Darien Lake, the band led the crowd through a tight set of great songs, a few remakes and even a few surprises.

First off, they fooled us with the intro to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” before they launched into the newer song “Undefeated.” But it only took a few songs into the set before you knew these guys were in top form.

The band is in the middle of re-recording ”digital forgeries” of some of their classic songs in an effort to battle thier label over compensation issues, and it showed on songs like “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It” and the predictable encore song “Rock of Ages.”

You could argue that Def Leppard’s success inadvertntly led to the demise of ’80s metal. Inevitably as a band rises to fame, record companies roll out the copy cats until the genre is destroyed. A decade that started with Def Leppard, Van Halen and Bon Jovi ended with Slaughter and Skid Row and left the door open for grunge to takeover.

Def Leppard has never shied away from their classic roots like Mott the Hoople and the Rolling Stones, and they paid homage on Friday night with a remake of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” during the acoustic portion of the show. Perhaps that’s why Def Leppard continues to sound so good. They really aren’t just a hair band. They are an extension of the music that came before them and influenced them. They are one of a handful of hair bands who still seem relevant today.

Def Leppard’s ”Hysteria” album turned 25 years old earlier this month (still remember being a rockin’, mullet-wearin’ 17 year old and walking to Cavages in the Seneca Mall to buy the cassette) and is arguably one of the biggest albums of the ’80s.  It sounds as fresh today as when it was released in 1987. It was a daring project with the infusion of electronic drums, MIDI effects and pop melodies. It could have easily drove their hard-rocking fan base away, but instead, it catapaulted the band to legend.

Ironcially, the new sound came as a result of tragedy, with drummer Rick Allen flipping his car and losing his arm. He built a new kit and had to relearn to play, and electronic drums were added to help him continue to get the sounds he needed.

They could have kicked Allen out of the band after his accident. They could have called it quits after the band’s original guitarist, Steve Clark, died of a drug overdose in 1991. But Def Leppard didn’t. Allen continues to play, and Vivian Campbell, a guitar legend in his own right, has been with the band now for 20 years.

On Friday night, Def Leppard proved that, despite turmoil and changing musical trends, they are Rock for the Ages. No burning out or fading away in sight. Lucky for us.

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