VIVA! Hysteria:
Live At The Joint, Las Vegas

Def Leppard

A loud crazy clapping crowd feeds into the buzzing guitar start of the plodding "Women" that opens VIVA! Hysteria: Live At The Joint, Las Vegas, the 2013 live set (there's also an accompanying DVD) from Def Leppard. The chunky "Rocket" follows, a near perfect read with Joe Elliot sounding like he's getting into his vocal grove.

Like many bands are doing these days, De Leppard played an entire album at this show during an 11-day residency at the Joint, located at the Hard Rock hotel and casino in Las Vegas. For most of the first CD, the band trudges through their wildly successful Hysteria album that caused quite a bit of hysteria when it was released back in 1987. We get perennially buff blisteringly talented guitarist Phil Collen all over the big and bad "Animal" with backing vocals from everybody else working flawlessly (though some of the highs are slightly 'funky' as they are in "Rocket"). The robotic opening to "Love Bites" gets a big response as the band keeps that slow power ballad groove and Elliot gives it his sexy best. The ballsy full backing vocals on "Pour Some Sugar On Me" rock. This is probably the first truly spectacular sounding song of the set.

Rick Allen's unique drumming leads the big thick "Don't Shoot Shotgun" with bassist Rick Savage's simple and effect playing evident as well. "Run Riot" sees Elliot employing some very tough screaming, sounding unlike himself, and a super heavy "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph" finish up, with "Rock of Ages" finding Elliot in near perfect voice.

The second CD might is a little more interesting, with Def Leppard "opening" for themselves, tongue firmly-in-cheek, as Ded Flatbird and running through rarities and early hits. These tracks include "Good Morning Freedom," a song released as a B-side of the "Hello America" single from Leppard's 1980 debut (and appearing on the band's Unreleased Demos & Unreleased Material). They roll into "Wasted," a ragged high energy tune from the same period, hitting early on with more or less simple metal tunes the band were trotting out in their early years. An awful" Stagefright" has some very weak Elliot vocals, but you got to give the guy kudos for trying. A cover of the Sweet's "Action" has Collen and second guitarist Vivian Campbell wailing.

Things get nice and chunky on "Undefeated," with one of the better Elliot vocals. This has all we expect and need from these guys - ballsy big sound, crunching guitars, Savage and Allen locked in tight, and those truly great harmonies in a perfect rock pop context. "On Through The Night" has the heavy rock thing down, but lyrically it's a trite lofty as is lots of the band's early songs, but the chorus lifts things up with those vocals. "Slang" is all nasty, high-end guitar pyro, a truly sexy strut of a title tune from the band's sixth studio album.

"Switch" (called "Switch 625" originally) features Savage opening on what turns out to be a rather menacing little rock instrumental with some nice Thin Lizzy-like guitar moments between the spinning dual guitars and a quick drum solo spot.

This is two CDs full of Def Leppard playing their hearts out. It's Hysteria in its entirety and lots of hard rockin' hits and misses trotted out for a voracious Vegas crowd. VIVA! Hysteria: Live at the Joint, Las Vegas sees this band, beset as they have been by a fair amount of tragedy and personnel changes, at their rockin' best.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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