Three resilient forces in hard rock have partnered up for one impressive live show, which thousands of fans gathered to witness during the launch of Def Leppard‘s summer tour with Styx and Tesla at Tampa’s Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheater.
During the first few hours of the evening, however, it seemed as though the first night of this extensive run wouldn’t even happen as a ferocious lightning storm had it’s way with the fairgrounds.
Rock and roll doesn’t hold a reputation for having a weak fan base, however. Instead, crowds of fans stood firm at the venue’s front gate, enduring the elements while chanting their demands for entry.
The odds were seemingly stacked against this unification from the start; Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell went public with the latest development in his cancer battle prior to the start of the tour, which would prevent him from playing during the first few shows while he received medical treatment.
Fortunately enough, the storms held off long enough for the members of Styx to hit the stage. While the audience certainly wasn’t thrilled about the absence of Tesla, the mood was quickly refurbished to the energetic themes of “The Grand Illusion” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).”
Styx have always been one for putting on an impressive stage performance, and this night was no different. Vivid LED animations rotated through the cover artwork to such treasured installments as ‘Pieces of Eight’ and ‘Paradise Theater’ while James Young stepped forward to the main microphone for the signature “Miss America” anthem.
Sporting a clean look was keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, who interacted with the audience by turning his back to the instrument while still nailing the distinctive parts to “Come Sail Away” and “Renegade.” Bassist Ricky Philips and drummer Todd Sucherman stood tall while laying out the backbone to these staples, whereas Tommy Shaw proved to be every note the vocalist he was back during the 1980s.
The members of Styx did an admirable job at warming up the rain-battered crowd, however it was the performance from Def Leppard that sealed the deal for ticket holders. This veteran British rock unit delivered one of their most energetic concerts in recent memory, beginning with the themes of the ‘High and Dry’ fan favorite “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop).”
Frontman Joe Elliott could be found nailing the song’s high notes with some intense falsetto, as the rest of the band pounded out the instrumental parts with drop dead accuracy. Vivian Campbell is surely the guitarist for Def Leppard, but it became instantly apparent that Steve Brown is the next best man for the job as he grooved to the beat while nailing out extended solos on his assortment Eddie Van Halen-brand guitars.
Similar to Styx’s seven song set, Def Leppard had to drop two anticipated deep cuts (“Promises” and “Paper Sun”) because of mother nature, however the band still threw out an unexpected surprise when bassist Rick Savage ran out on the catwalk to crank out the bass line to “Rock On,” a cover of David Essex’s song of the same name that first appeared on Def Leppard’s 2007 album ‘Yeah!’
Joe Elliott manned an acoustic guitar for an intimate version of “Two Steps Behind,” where the rock vocalist and the Tampa audience took turns during the chorus. The obligatory electric version of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” subsequently sent the crowd into a frenzy, but not as much as it’s twin “Switch 625” did.
Following a few blistering renditions of “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Def Leppard moved straight into an encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” – the latter of which featured vintage footage of the band performing back during their ‘Hysteria’ years.
As the members of Def Leppard stood together for a group bow, Steve Brown respectfully stood back, instead offering a few waves before heading backstage.
“Do us a favor, Tampa: Don’t forget us and we won’t forget you,” Elliott proclaimed. There’s no chance that any attending fan would forget this performance anytime soon, in what was still a successful launch of a great summer tour.