Posted on January 28, 2010 -
At long last, Def Leppard’s classic “Pyromania” from 1983 has received the remaster treatment. “Pyromania,” a 10-song masterpiece that was laboriously pieced together riff by riff, beat by beat, bridge by bridge and vocal by vocal to sterling effect by reclusive uber-producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, was my generation’s British Invasion and still sounds fabulous — slick heavy metal for a new generation of Atari-savvy kids who had yet to encounter a slew of less talented pop-metal bands that would follow in Def Leppard’s cutting-edge wake. If you’ve heard “Pyromania,” then you already know about the classic guitar riffs; the massive amount of hooks around every corner; Joe Elliott’s distinctively raspy vocals; bombshell backing vocals; Rick Allen’s fast but thunderous drumming; and the somber, London-fog aura heard on songs like “Too Late for Love,” “Die Hard the Hunter” and, one of my all-time favorites, “Billy’s Got a Gun.”
But the real reason for purchasing this well-packaged two-CD set is for the second CD, a live Leppard performance at the L.A. forum in 1983. Rip-roaring from the get-go on “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop),” the show rarely lets up. Live in `83, these guys were a blitzkrieg force of nature. Well before the pristine pop metal of albums like “Hysteria” and “Adrenalize,” Def Leppard churned out rough-and-tumble heavyweights like “High `n’ Dry (Saturday Night),” “Another Hit and Run,” “Wasted” and “Foolin’”. In fact, what’s most interesting on the live L.A. CD is how the band reached back in time with confidence and played a plentiful amount of tunes from its two albums prior to “Pyromania,” — far from the “greatest hits” mentality these guys have today when playing live shows.
In any case, anyone who says Def Leppard doesn’t have the chops to duplicate their studio sound onstage should hear this CD: Elliott’s live voice in `83 was raspy, versatile and hit all the high notes, likely because cigarettes, booze and age had yet to take their harmful toll; his mates’ backing vocals are a bit spotty in parts but mostly come through with gusto; the twin-guitar attack of Phil Collen and the late, great Steve Clark is both spot-on and gloriously ragged at times; and it’s hard not to notice drummer Rick Allen’s sensational two-armed drumming, filled with flitting fills and crashing cymbals on nearly every downbeat, just like on record. Throughout the L.A. show, Elliott continually banters and attempts to rev up the crowd in typical arena-ready fashion — with great success — and it all culminates with the closer, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Travellin’ Band,” a song that suits Elliott’s voice perfectly and was played with guest guitarist and friend Brian May from Queen. It’s an enthusiastic, crowd-pleasing rendition that leaves a lasting impression.
Included with the discs are engaging liner notes by Rolling Stone writer David Fricke, who eons ago wrote a book about Def Leppard called “Animal Instinct.” Fricke’s firsthand account of the band’s early 1980s saga truly resonates, and many Leppard fans may long for the days when this Sheffield, England, quintet was young, rocked hard and possessed a more aggressive vibe. Though Leppard has evolved with class and has continued to make solid music, the band’s `80s mojo will never be topped, both from the band itself and the fans that followed Leppard so avidly. In the liner notes, Fricke claims the group’s performance on the live-in-L.A. CD displays Def Leppard at its apex, with the classic lineup of Elliott, Clark, Collen, Rick Savage and Allen. After hearing it, it’s hard to argue with his assessment.