Def Leppard review – metal legends revisit a riff-laden classic

O2 Arena, London
The British hard-rock favourites play their 1987 album Hysteria in full in a show that demonstrates their scintillating craft

Two days before his 61st birthday, Phil Collen stands stripped to the waist, his torso oiled, striking the first notes of Def Leppard’s 1987 album Hysteria on his guitar. In fairness, after several decades in which the gym has taken the place of drink and drugs, he has the kind of body most men his age would consider achievable only by means of radical surgery. What’s more, the song he’s starting – Women – is one so silly that an oiled torso seems only fitting. “And in the garden, lust began,” sings Joe Elliott – who remains fully clothed at all times – “the animal instinct, the wanton man.”

Lyrics were never Def Leppard’s strong suit. But hooks were. Hysteria – played in full tonight – has sold somewhere in the region of 25m copies because it leaves nothing to chance. Rather than write songs and record them, Def Leppard wrote the best sections they could, which they then assembled into songs in the studio with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. Live, you realise just how complex the edifice is: the interlocking vocals (with lots of glam-rock chanting), the switches between guitars, the fact that every song just gets bigger: this bit should be the chorus! No, this bit should! No, this is the chorus! It’s irresistible.

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