Def Leppard on the prowl once again as they return for Belfast concert
If they ever made a Mount Rushmore of rock, then you can bet your best leather jacket that Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott’s mug would be up there alongside the likes of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
Founded in Sheffield in 1977, the evergreen band is one of the biggest selling music acts of all time and have shifted a staggering 100 million copies-plus over their glittering career.
Songs such as Rock of Ages, Pour Some Sugar on Me and Animal have soundtracked everything from critically acclaimed Broadway musicals and big budget Hollywood movies to strip clubs and dive bars and ‘the Lepps’ continue to consistently sell out arenas across the globe while their peers have mostly fizzled out.
When Sunday Life caught up with the 56-year-old lead singer ahead of his band’s SSE Arena gig in Belfast on December 7, he told us he considers himself very lucky to still be performing for his millions of fans.
“I continue to be hopelessly in love with what I do,” said the charismatic singer.
“It’s a privilege to be able to still go out and play for people. Especially considering that these days, with the music industry going belly up, you never know what’s around the corner.
“We’ve never stopped working though. Yeah, some of the radio hits dried up, but we never stopped making them. They just didn’t get played. But that all seems to be coming back around again as ticket sales are showing there’s an interest in the band that’s much, much bigger than is being portrayed in some media.”
In the middle of a gruelling world tour which has seen Def Leppard — who are completed by bassist Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Ulster’s own Vivian Campbell — perform in front of tens of thousands every night in the States, Elliott revealed that although some of the band are a bit bruised and battered, they’re still having fun.
“I haven’t seen my house since June!” he laughed.
“We’ve three American shows left, then we’ve a three-week break and then we’re off to Japan before the British and Irish tour. Sometimes the road is tough. I’ve had a bronchial spasm for about nine weeks.
“It’s when you’ve got a cough and all the doctors can’t figure out why you have it. It’s one of those random things, I just cough for no reason, but luckily I’ve managed to avoid it onstage.
It was a bit of a nightmare. “It was brought on, I believe, by the dust and gas emissions from when we played this biker festival.
“They literally line up their bikes and rev their engines while you play and when you’ve got 30,000 doing it you can imagine the kind of air you’re breathing in. It can’t be good for you.
“That, coupled with the fact the kind of singing I do is hardly gentle, so your throat gets a battering every night. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and get on with the show.”
Earlier in June, Def Leppard announced some truly heartbreaking news about their guitarist Vivian. His cancer had returned after a two-year period of remission (he had initially been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013) and he had to take a brief break from the band.
Now back on the road and receiving treatment, fans will be thrilled to learn that Elliott confirmed the 53-year-old local man, from the Maze, near Lisburn, is in good spirits.
“Vivian is great. He’s gone back to LA for a ‘top-up,’ if you like, while we’re going to see Paul McCartney tonight. He’s having this radical new treatment which isn’t chemo, so it doesn’t knock him for six when he has it done.
“It’s a treatment which has worked very, very well for skin cancers and stuff like that, so they’re trying it on him. He’s like a trial patient.
“It’s a non-invasive treatment. He goes in for 10 minutes, then gets on a plane and comes back on tour. He’s probably in better shape than the rest of us!”
On October 30, Def Leppard released their self-titled 11th studio album. Made in secret, the original plan was to make an EP, but the quintet enjoyed their time recording at Elliott’s Dublin-based home studio (dubbed ‘Joe’s Garage’) so much, it turned into a 14 track full length LP.
“We’ve been wanting to make more music for a very long time,” said Joe of their first new album in seven years.
“We had total absolute 100% freedom to do whatever we wanted to do because we didn’t have a label at the time. When it was finished our management went to various different companies and that resulted in a bidding war.
“While our early days were exciting, I don’t think they were as exciting as what we’ve just done because nobody knew we were making this album. It was beyond liberating. If we were ever to make another record again we want to go down the same route.”
But before they start thinking about another new album, they have a clutch of UK home-coming shows to perform this Christmas and Joe told us he’s got plenty of surprises in store for the SSE Arena gig.
“I view the music business nowadays as a whole new challenge,” he concluded.
“It’s a different machine to when we were first starting out in Sheffield, but we’re adapting. We’ve changed our way of thinking and the more we keep at it, the more it’s working.
“We’re going to play some songs from the new album because we don’t want to be labelled as a ‘nostalgia band’, but we’ll also be playing plenty of the old hits for those who have supported us for decades. It’ll be a celebration!”
- Def Leppard play the SSE Arena, Belfast on December 7 with support from Whitesnake and Black Star Riders. Tickets cost £49.50 and are available from Ticketmaster. V.I.P. packages are also available.