Inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, an excited crowd of 30-somethings felt 14 again, awaiting the five members of Def Leppard: Joe Elliot, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell to arrive.
As anticipation grew, I could hear nostalgic chatter all around me. Standing in front of a large veiled display that would soon reveal an important part of rock ‘n’ roll history, one woman proudly proclaimed that Def Leppard was the second concert she’d ever been to, while another chimed in that she’d seen the band 15 times. These fans who were strangers just minutes earlier, collectively began to share stories, which unfolded the band’s rich history. They reminisced about favorite music videos and concerts attended pre and post drummer Rick Allen’s car accident. which claimed his left arm. There were also memories of the untimely death of guitarist Steve Clark, whose 1991 passing led to Vivian Campbell joining the band as the last addition to the line-up, a rotation which hasn’t changed in 21 years.
The band walked through the casino floor, received by cheers. Each member greeted the press and fans with a smile while stepping out in front of the large white sheath. But first, Bobby Reynolds, the AEG Live Las Vegas’ Vice President of Booking took to the floor along side Paul Davis, the Hard Rock’s VP of entertainment and offered a Q & A session with the guys.
Reynolds asked bassist Rick Savage why the band had chosen to do a residency engagement entitled “Viva Hysteria” at the Hard Rock.
“It was a no-brainer,” Savage quipped. He said after years on the road, the show would finally give them a chance to be in one place for a change and “unpack our suitcases.” Singer Joe Elliot mentioned that both Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue had already performed residencies at the Hard Rock and likened Def Leppard as the “Sammy Davis, Jr.” of this new-era Rat Pack.
Guitarist Phil Collen explained they had chosen to play the entirety of their 1987 “Hysteria” album for their residency because of the fun and really deep aspects of the album, not to mention all the work that went into making it, which culminated from a three-year recording project.
It was during the making of “Hysteria” when Rick Allen lost his arm. Allen explained to the Las Vegas fans that he was lying in a hospital bed when an “electronic guy” paid him a visit and noticed that when Allen listened to his stereo, he would tap his feet along to the beat. Allen said the guy looked down at his feet and told him, “I can make you foot pedals!”
A one of a kind customized electronic drum kit was built and Allen worked hard to re-train his brain from drumming with both hands to re-channeling that information through his body and into his feet. Eventually, Allen said he learned the drum beats to help complete recordings for “Hysteria.”
The fans surrounding the band began loud applause for Allen, prompting Reynolds to unveil the special surprise piece of memorabilia that was prominently placed inside the Hard Rock’s main entrance. When the sheets came down, Allen’s custom drum kit sat distinctly upon display. It was a sincerely proud moment for the band and Allen recalled the first time he played the drum kit in 1986, saying he felt “sheer terror”. He expressed his happiness that fans would now be able to “realize what went into it” and he stared at the amazing contraption as if he were seeing an old friend. Allen spoke sentimentally, “I’m happy it’s seeing the light of day again.”
Def Leppard began their “Viva Hysteria” residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Friday, which was the city’s official Def Leppard Day. The band will not only play “Hysteria” in its entirety at the show, but they say they've rehearsed 35 songs and promise a different set each night. The engagement will last until April 13. Tickets may be purchased online at the Hard Rock Hotel website.
While the band is in town, they will also headline the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp from April 4th to April 7th. You can reserve your spot for the fantasy camp at the Rock Camp website. For well-established rock stars, it sounds like they’ll be keeping themselves pretty busy working here, but as Joe Elliot said to the adrenaline filled crowd, “It’s about time Vegas was taken by rock ‘n’ roll!”
Photo credit: © Erik Kabik / Erik Kabik Photography