Most prominent classic-rock bands either disband or gravitate to the state and county fair circuit two decades after scoring their last big hit. Def Leppard and Poison, however, continue to perform in arenas after the majority of their fans stopped purchasing their latest releases.
With only one exception, both acts enthusiastically played nothing but their most beloved material. It didn’t hurt that every musician who crossed the vast stage seemed remarkably fit and trim, allowing fans to pretend that they’d been magically transported to the late 1980s.
Def Leppard is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release of “Hysteria,” the 1987 album that’s been characterized as the hard rock version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The British hair metal quintet offered faithful renditions of eight of the album’s 12 songs.
The delectable pop of “Love Bites” and the stately shimmer of the title track remain as sweet and refreshing as the frozen drinks served at the convenience store inside the Sprint Center. The absurdly infectious “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Armageddon It” make a case for Def Leppard as the definitive arena rock act. Only when vocalist Joe Elliott uttered the unwelcome phrase “this is our new single” did the energy wane.
The band’s technically precise performance was enhanced by flawless sound reproduction. The live and recorded images displayed on seven video screens were similarly pristine. Poison doesn’t require such subtleties. While Def Leppard’s 100-minute set was rigidly orchestrated and immaculately rendered, Poison demonstrated that its members value rugged charm more than perfection in their blistering 55-minute outing.
A sloppy version of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” epitomized the quartet’s scurrilous sensibility. The cheerfully unpretentious frontman Brett Michaels invested hits including “Look What the Cat Dragged In” and “Talk Dirty to Me” with a carefree swagger. The evening began with a bracing 30-minute showing by rock ’n’ roll veteran Lita Ford.
While Ford hadn’t performed in the area in recent memory, Def Leppard and Poison appeared at the Sprinter Center in 2011. They might have returned too soon. Def Leppard’s concert in August attracted 3,000 more fans than Wednesday’s event. The band certainly won’t be booked at the Johnson County Fair in the foreseeable future, but it might consider taking a well-deserved break from the road.
Poison: Look What the Cat Dragged In, Ride the Wind, We’re an American Band, Your Mama Don’t Dance, Fallen Angel, Unskinny Bop, Every Rose has its Thorn, Talk Dirty to Me, Nothin’ But a Good Time, Lita Ford, The Bitch is Back, Out for Blood, Gotta Let Go, Living Like a Runaway, Branded, Close My Eyes Forever, Kiss Me Deadly
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star