Monday, July 18, 2011

Def Leppard - Mirror Ball – Live & More

Def Leppard
Mirror Ball – Live & More
Bludgeon Riffola Ltd./Frontiers Records/Riot! Entertainment/Warner Music Australia

Throughout U.K. hard rock act Def Leppard’s long and illustrious thirty years together, they have released a whole host of live bits and pieces to fans, whether it be the odd b-side to a single, on a live video (1989’s ‘Live: In The Round, In Your Face’, 1993’s ‘Visualize’ and 1995’s ‘Video Archive’, all of which have since been released on D.V.D.) or as additional extras to deluxe remasters of both 1983’s ‘Pyromania’ (The bonus disc features an energetic performance from the band at the L.A. Forum from the same year) and 1992’s ‘Adrenalize’ (The somewhat hard to find ‘Live: In The Clubs, In Your Face’ E.P. from 1992). But while there’s been no shortage of live material released, to date, Def Leppard has never officially released a full-length official live album for fans. That was until now.
After spending most of 2008/2009 touring the globe in support of their ‘Songs From The Sparkle Lounge’ album (2008), the five piece act (Who comprise of vocalist Joe Elliott, guitarists/backing vocalists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, bassist/backing vocalist Rick Savage and drummer/backing vocalist Rick Allen) have finally put together their first live release ‘Mirror Ball – Live & More’.
Comprising of two audio discs and a D.V.D., you would think that the band have put the ultimate package together for fans. And in some ways, you could say that they have. But having said that, I can’t help but feel a little short-changed after discovering what has been seen fit to include on this package.
The two audio discs is essentially a collection of the band’s greatest hits performed live from several performances throughout their ‘Sparkle Lounge Tour’. The twenty-one tracks that make up the set list will no doubt be familiar to most (Even those with only a passing knowledge of the band’s vast back catalogue), with six tracks lifted from 1987’s ‘Hysteria’ (‘Rocket’, ‘Animal’, ‘Love Bites’, ‘Hysteria’, ‘Armageddon It’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’), five from 1983’s ‘Pyromania’ (‘Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)’, ‘Too Late For Love’, ‘Foolin’’, ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’), two from 1992’s ‘Adrenalize’ (‘Make Love Like A Man’ and ‘Let’s Get Rocked’) and two from 1981’s ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ (The Steve Clark classic ‘Switch 625’ and an acoustic rendition of ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’). The remainder is made up of tracks from 2008’s ‘Songs From The Sparkle Lounge’ (‘C’mon C’mon’, ‘Bad Actress’ and ‘Nine Lives’), 2006’s ‘Yeah!’ (A cover of David Essex’s ‘Rock On’) and 1993’s ‘Retro Active’ (‘Two Steps Behind’ and a cover of Sweet’s ‘Action’).
Highlights are a bit of a challenge to select given that, as expected, Def Leppard’s performance throughout the live discs is nothing short of great. But if a choice had to be made, ‘Switch 625’, ‘Two Steps Behind’, ‘Animal’ and ‘Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)’ are definite favourites.
Although the sound of the recordings themselves is nice and sharp, the crowd noise is mixed a little too low at times, but it’s only a small niggling point to make about the recordings themselves.
The bigger issue I have with the audio discs is the track listing. I can understand Def Leppard’s desire to please the masses with a greatest hits live set, but surely it wouldn’t have been too hard to throw in a couple of obscure tracks for the diehard fans. I mean after all, it would have been great to see at least one track from the four albums that aren’t represented at all (In particular ‘1980’s ‘On Through The Night’, 1996’s ‘Slang’, 1999’s ‘Euphoria’ and 2002’s ‘X’). It’s impossible to please everyone, but after getting more of the same songs live on this live release once again (The singles from ‘Hysteria’ come to mind), I can’t help feel that Def Leppard have opted to go with a safe bet on the set list rather than gamble on some more daring decisions to include some lesser known efforts. The live recordings are great, but all in all, still a little disappointing.
As for the three new studio tracks, well it’s another mixed bag.
The Elliott penned ‘Undefeated’ is a hard rocker that’s easily the pick of the bunch with it’s hard rocking riffs, huge backing vocals and solid groove, while Collen’s ‘It’s All About Believin’’ is another great tune that sounds like classic Def Leppard.
Unfortunately, as much as I appreciate Savage’s love of Queen, his ‘Kings Of The World’ just doesn’t work for me. If you enjoyed Savage’s ‘Love’ from ‘Songs From The Sparkle Lounge’ album, then you’ll no doubt love this. Needless to say, that song didn’t do that much for me either.
The third disc on this triple set is a D.V.D., and it was the one disc that I really was looking forward to. But while the package looked promising, the offerings were nothing short of disappointing.
Running just a touch over fifty-eight minutes, the D.V.D. comprises of two promotional video clips from the band’s last studio album (‘Nine Lives’ and ‘C’mon C’mon’), some behind the scenes footage of the band on the ‘Sparkle Lounge Tour’ (Which is mildly interesting), some footage of the band recording the new studio tracks (Again, interesting, but hardly essential) and four live songs (‘Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)’, ‘Armageddon It’, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and ‘Hysteria’).
I really don’t understand why Def Leppard didn’t focus on including more on the D.V.D.’s, and relegating the audio discs as the bonus component. At the very least the D.V.D. should have include an additional live show of tracks that weren’t included on the live album. But as it stands, the D.V.D. is nothing more than a curiosity piece, and something that won’t be watched more than a couple of times, making it a wasted opportunity for the band.
Live albums were seriously big business years ago, and had this album been released fifteen/twenty years ago, it would have been a runaway success. But these days, it’s all about D.V.D.’s, with the live discs merely a bonus to deluxe packages.
‘Mirror Ball – Live & More’ is a great live album, and one that more than proves that Def Leppard are still rocking. Casual fans will no doubt snap this release up, and be pleased with what it has to offer. But I can’t help but feel that the band is losing touch with some diehard fans who still remember the band both before and after 1987 through to 1995.

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© Justin Donnelly