Def Leppard – Mirror Ball (Live and More 2CD/DVD set)

Bludgeon Riffola 2011

Review by Rick Ossian

“Our dream was to be the biggest, or one of the biggest, at any rate, rock bands on the planet. We wanted to be up there with the Beatles and the Stones and the Who(s) and the Pink Floyd(s) and the Queen(s)…and that’s what we’re doing!”” For anybody who is still wondering, that was, of course, Joe Elliot, from vH1’s Behind the Music Remastered, expounding upon what the Leppard camp have been getting up to.

There was a point in time, as we all know, when Joe and company’s dreams were, indeed, fully realized. Theirs were lives lived in the true spirit of rock and roll backstage (and sometimes under the stage) bacchanalia. Without a doubt, the booze, drugs and debauchery did flow. A far cry from nowadays, as is evidenced by the Sparkle Lounge Tour rider, which includes “Ginger root” and a “juicer” backstage. These are must haves for the road, as Phil Collen explained to Eddie Trunk of vH1’s That Metal Show; “I’ve been sober for about 23 years now, and we need to say in shape…as for groupies, I just recently got married, so…”

So things have changed drastically in the Leppard camp, it would appear. Except, thank goodness, for the music. Thirty years on, and the boys can still rock out as hard as ever. Over the course of these three discs, they roll out hit after hit, as well as a few unexpected treats, such as Nine Lives (the Tim McGraw collaboration from CMT’s Crossroads program), the lyrics of which make sly reference to an old Ian Hunter tune (Once Bitten Twice Shy), Action, a balls-out Sweet cover from the Give Us A Wink album (one of two bonus live tracks) (the other being Bad Actress), and a welcome intrusion from High N Dry, Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (do I detect acoustic guitar?) and Switch 625. This writer, for one, would LOVE to have seen/heard more from High N Dry. Perhaps, with the advent of bands performing entire LP’s live in concert, we can persuade the boys to play the whole thing?

As busy as these blokes have doubtless been, what with Vivian playing with Thin Lizzy, Joe moonlighting in the Down N Outs (performing covers of his heroes Mott the Hoople/British Lions) and Phil’s Manraze side project, its astonishing that they can still get a project like this one out in relatively speedy time, especially when one considers their track record. In addition to, of course, their lengthy summer tour schedule. Festivals such as Download come to mind…

The three new studio tracks are worthy of inclusion, and in fact make one wonder how many other tracks they already have in the can.  These cats still have a few tricks up their sleeve, in particular the chorus (“CHA”) and the up-side-your-head riff of Undefeated, apparently a tune about a survivor of the rock wars. But, then, that’s just my immediate interpretation. Kings of the World is more in the ballad vein, but features some stinging lead runs from Phil and Viv. It’s All About Believin‘ is actually one of those tracks that could put these boys back up on the charts. Any of the three new tracks could quite possibly accomplish that feat, for that matter. Even in today’s music industry climate.

The DVD features lots of extras, including a mini-live concert and a couple of videos. Highlights include a very heartfelt tribute from Joe to Rick (Allen, drummer) just before the band break into Rock of Ages, wherein the car crash and horrific injury from 23 years past was recalled yet again, something most of us will probably never forget. One wonders if it is coincidental that Phil Collen is in his 23rd year of sobriety…Also, there are a couple of backstage guests, most notably Billy Idol and his guitarist, Steve Stevens, who recalls a night in Frankfurt where they were both on the same bill, and evidently some hilarity ensued. All too briefly, Queen guitarist Brian May is spotted backstage at Download.  In addition to that are a couple of surprises, namely mention and footage of three CMT awards received for the Tim McGraw collaboration, a brief montage featuring scenes from Download, and a couple of shots from the co-headlining tour of Japan with Whitesnake, and last, but definitely not least, a once again all-too-brief glimpse backstage with Cheap Trick from a down under tour of Oz and New Zealand. The live clips from the Sparkle Lounge Tour footage (08-09) are near perfect, reminding us all of what we once loved about this band. Joe sums it up at the close: “Until next time–and there WILL be a next time…don’t forget us, and we won’t forget you”.

Rating: ****

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