Concert Review: Def Leppard with Heart @ Molson Ampitheatre 8/16/11

I am a child of the 80s, that delicious period of jelly bracelets, decadence in neon, hair bands and synth pop goodness.  I suckled at the musical teat of Cyndi Lauper and Twisted Sister, and learned how to play vinyl via Purple Rain, and owned fingerless Madonna gloves and a replica of Michael Jackson’s infamous jacket.

Needless to say, being offered a ticket to see Heart and Def Leppard nearly made me climax.

How can you not have mad respect for an artist who tells of being on Mushroom records and writing hit songs on shrooms, and being amused by this?  How can you not want to cheer a band whose drummer lost an arm and never thought of replacing him, instead supporting him as he had a modified kit made to accommodate his newly improvised playing technique?  This was a double bill of iconic acts whose music everyone knows, even if, like my bestest gay, they don’t realize it.

I considered jelly bracelets for the occasion.

Watching said show in the lawns of Molson Ampitheatre was actually rather fitting; in my mind, it was their heyday, and I was drinking and savouring the warmth of the summer night and melodies flooding my ears.  Molson, for the record, is the best outdoor venue I’ve attended in North America; I’ve never had a bad show, and I’ve sat in every level of the place.  The screens improved our view, but really, we just wanted to rock.

The only lowlight: the idiocy that led to letting KO (a god-awful alt artist that is getting attention for reasons I do not fathom) open for the show, space that Heart could have played during, instead.  And for what?  A dreadful single that sounds to me like “I lick the macaroni south, and it burns all night and I pass around the Philly soul…”  Ugh.  The lukewarm reaction of the crowd assured me I was not the only one unimpressed.  At least it gave me time to run for food and drink.

Heart hit the stage next, with Ann Wilson showing all of the pop tart artists of today what real pipes sound like.  Mind blown.  Running through a set of key hits of the earlier years, coupled with Zeppelin cover material done in style, the crowd sang and danced their way through Barracuda, Alone, and What About Love with gusto.  My only gripe was the lack of 90s material in the mini-set (I’m a Bad Animals fan, through and through), but the songs we did get sounded even better than studio cuts.  Highlights for me included Barracuda, Alone, Crazy On You and opening cover Rock and Roll.

Aside:  Fergie should be shot for butchering Heart, and having a music career in general.

And then, the headliners…  What fountain of youth have these guys tapped to look so built at this stage of the game?  Seriously!  Rocking their way through a set of greatest hits dotted with new material and a bad-ass cover of David Essex tune Rock On, Def Leppard seemed as vibrant as their Hysteria days.  Video projections accented the performances with hot women that seemed hokey yet appropriate, an homage to the decadence of the music.

Invited to join the band for ten minutes – “no contract” Joe Elliott quipped – the audience belted out mellower hits Two Steps Behind and Bringin’ On The Heartbreak with the band, earning the declaration that Toronto was the best stop of the tour.  Bands claim this at every stop, but coming from Joe, it seemed sincere.  One can’t help but think of artists like Heart and Def Leppard and imagine their joy at having longevity in an industry that forgets so many artists before their second or third album.  That joy was omnipresent through both sets, and it was infectious.

Highlights included Let’s Get Rocked, Love Bites, Two Steps Behind, Armageddon It, Rock of Ages and of course, Pour Some Sugar On Me.

My inner 80s baby is very satisfied, indeed.

Setlist:  Heart

Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
Magic Man
Straight On
What About Love
These Dreams
Crazy On You

The Battle of Evermore (Led Zeppelin)
Love, Reign O’er Me (The Who)

Setlist:  Def Leppard

Let’s Get Rocked
Love Bites
Bass Solo
Rock On (David Essex)
Two Steps Behind
Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
Switch 625
Armageddon It
Pour Some Sugar On Me

Rock of Ages

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