Def Leppard: The concert review that nearly didn’t happen

It was a scorching 36 degrees so my cousin Laura and I decided to have a pint at the Rosemount Hotel while we waiting for the bus to Red Hill.

The last time I took the shuttle to Red Hill, and if you’re familiar with the Rosie (I do have a point), there is a vacant lot over the road where the bus would wait for roughly 10 minutes to collect everyone. No big deal.

This vacant lot, however, was now fenced off.

So, when it got closer to the designated pick-up time of 5pm, Laura and I started to do a perimeter check, mainly the car park because, well, car park.

A few concert-goers were asking me, due to my band T-shirt, if I had seen the bus yet and whether we could keep each other in the loop if we saw it. We were also told by bar staff that ‘usually’ the bus operators would let them know to round the stragglers up.

Then it happened.

One of our ‘spotters’ rushed up to us.

“We missed the bus,” she said, looking like she was going to be sick.

“What? No, that can’t be right,” Laura and I looked at each other quizzically.

All I could think was that these people didn’t know us well enough to be bullshitting us like this.

Another few approached our forlorn group, speaking all kinds of ‘WTF’ variations.

I had to think quickly. I mean, it was one thing that I had to write a review for work, but these people had spent $160 a ticket. And Red Hill is just shy of an hour out of Perth.

We were about to call for an Uber, when this totally loose unit said we could get a lift with him and his friends.

“We have a seven-seater, two spare seats, you’re welcome to them,” our new best friend said.

Laura and I looked at each other and both said “fuck it”.

“We would really appreciate it,” one of us said.

“Sweet, we’re just going to get a roadie,” he said as he introduced himself as Glenn.

It was evident what we were getting into when we were paying for our drinks to have in the car.

Next to our 4-pack of Mountain Goat beer, was Glenn’s entire carton of Corona.

Laura and I spoke to each other purely by looks.

As we climbed into the Land Cruiser that had clearly seen better days, we met Glenn’s wife Nelly, Tracey, Gary and Shazza (not a word of a lie).


Gary was kind enough to roll my backseat window down for me by pushing down on the glass from the outside.

These guys were pretty pumped, and it was not five minutes into our lift that we realised they were pretty pumped about getting pretty stoned.

Absolutely no judgment from me or my cousin, we were happy to pass the dutchie to our left hand side and nothing more.

We thought the passive smoking was extremely funny at one point, but when I saw Gary pack a pipe and pass it to Shazza – our designated driver –  in my mind I was like ‘umm, driver, umm, no, no see you’re driving’, but we really didn’t want to be thrown out of the car on the side of Roe Highway. We made sure our seatbelts were as tight as our hand-holding.

Finally, sweet baby Jesus, we arrived at Red Hill without incident. After we all climbed out of the Cruiser, some more slowly than others, we were asked if we wanted a lift back after the concert.

We cheerily said “no thank you but thank you for asking” saying we were going to give the bus driver an earful for taking off without us. But really, nothing sounded better than a designated bus driver. I mean, chances are he wasn’t fucking high.

We had three empty beer cans and one still unopened, but we were just keen to dump all of them in a bin and get into the venue and find the loos.

As we headed towards the gate, and the nearest bin, a security guard stopped us.

“Is that full?” gesturing toward the unopened tinny.

“Yeah, but we’re chucking it in that bin up there” I said.

“Are you kidding?” he asked.

“Umm, no” I said.

“What’s wrong with you? Go back into the car park and drink it!” he said.

This was the weirdest day of my life.

So there we were, standing between all the shuttle busses which had made their way from different parts of the city, sharing a not-so-cold can of ‘Fancy Pants’. We tipped half of it out. The guard would’ve been appalled.

I showed the security guard the up-ended can, showing it was empty before he gave us an approving nod.

Finally, we were in.


It was about big sounds, big hair and big boobs.

Despite it being a sweaty Saturday, by the time Red Hill Auditorium opened its gates, a blessed breeze had made its way to the tucked-away bush venue.

The heat hadn’t, however, zapped the energy from the crowd.


We knew exactly who we were here to see: Def Leppard. The support acts, the Baby Animals and Live were simply the icing on the 1990s cake.

There was no mucking around, there was a stack of music to get through.

I hadn’t heard a Baby Animals track for years, but as soon as front woman Suze DeMarchi opened with Rush You, it was a case of total recall.

DeMarchi, a Perth girl, still looked effortlessly rock chick (or is that rock chic?) decked out in black pants, a billowy white shirt and a peek-a-boo black bra as she belted out One Word followed by Painless.

There’s no gimmicks with the Baby Animals, it’s just good Aussie pub rock, and they delivered. And with that, they finished their short and sweet set with Early Warning, and a satisfactorily warmed-up crowd.

When I saw Live on the bill, I thought it was a typo.

I remember when Throwing Copper came out in 1994 (don’t we all have a copy of it on a forgotten CD tower somewhere?). But I couldn’t name an album of theirs after that without checking Wikipedia.

They launched into All Over You. It was brilliant.

It was halfway through the song that I was thinking, wow, the lead singer has gotten hot. He’d filled out a bit, he had some stubble and there was no shiny party hat.

While I recognised the intensity, the guy I did not. This wasn’t the same bloke. It wasn’t Ed Kowalczyk.

I then learned that this was actually a completely different frontman: Chris Shinn. He replaced Kowalczyk in 2012.

Anyway, this guy sounded more Live than Live. It was like we were hearing a recording, not seeing Live, well, live. Yes, Shinn was actually that good.

I had also forgotten how many hits this band had, but Iris, The Dolphin’s Cry, Lakini’s Juice came one after another… the energy they were putting out was phenomenal.

Live finished strongly with the slow-building Lightning Crashes followed by the intense I Alone.

I made a note to myself to find my Throwing Copper CD.

The thing is, when getting ready to go out to a concert, I’ll spend most of that day listening to the band’s music and watching a few of their vids.

I don’t know if it was the heat or the fact they followed Live’s super high-energy set, or maybe it was a new, unfamiliar song (Let’s Go), but Def Leppard’s entrance seemed to just miss the bullseye.

But I will say this. Joe Elliot (lead vocals), Rick Savage (bass) have been in the band since its inception – we’re talking 1977. Rick Allen (drums) joined a year later in 1978. These guys have been together for almost 40 years. So you know what? I’m giving them a pass.

The newest album, a self-titled offering, has only been out a couple of weeks, so some tracks, like the aforementioned Let’s Go, and Dangerous, while still having that quintessential Def Lep sound of jangly-guitar and on-point harmonisation, they hadn’t had much time to make their way into high rotation yet.

But we knew what was coming.

Shortly after Animal, the unmistakable few bars of Love Bites turned everyone wild. I was singing along, getting right into it when I realised that the girl next to me was perched on someone’s shoulders, completely topless. That was it, we were now totally back to the 80s.


Elliot cooled everyone’s heels with an acoustic Two Steps Behind, but we barely had time to catch our breath before they blasted into Rocket.

Each band member seemed to just keep to their part of the stage – Elliot never really veered to either side of the stage, preferring front-and-centre, and from where I was standing, we seemed to only be graced with Phil Collen’s shirtlessness as he pulled his porny faces while he grinded his guitar.

We were treated to an amazing drum solo from Rick ‘The Thunder God’ Allen (who in 1985 had his left arm amputated after a car accident, but was able to keep playing with a modified drum kit), and being outside meant the intermittent breeze was a natural wind machine for Rick Savage’s lustrous mane.

When Love and Hate Collide was followed by Hysteria, and we were treated to a montage of old Def Leppard clips of the same song. It was like they were singing along with their younger selves. It was glorious.


The answer to the string of slower tracks? Let’s Get Rocked. Once again Red Hill was heaving.

They kept us sky high with their signature tune, Pour Some Sugar On Me.

They then left the stage but we knew better.

One encore, two songs.

Rock of Ages packed a punch, reminding us they were ‘still rollin’, rock and rollin”.

They wrapped up the night with the song that shot them into the stratosphere in 1983 – Photograph.

While some of the band members have changed over the years, like Elliot swapping out his gorgeous mullet for the straightening irons, this Leppard never has, and never will, change its spots.