CD Review: Def Leppard - Hysteria At The O2, Hits Vegas

Previously available as part of a box set, Def Leppard have released standalone versions of two great concerts.
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Earlier this year, Def Leppard released a killer live box set, London To Vegas, that documented two fantastic shows -- one at London's O2 area where the band played their iconic Hysteria album in its entirety and the other in Las Vegas, where the group delivered a 28-song show filled with hits and seldom-played cuts. Now the shows are being released as limited edition standalone audio versions -- Hysteria at the O2 and Hits Vegas, Live at Planet Hollywood. Both releases will be available on CD and LP (in limited edition transparent blue vinyl no less). Digital audio files were used for this review.

For the O2 show, the band opens the proceedings by playing all of Hysteria, an album that could easily be a greatest hits album for lesser bands, with no fewer than seven huge radio hits, including the first six tracks on the record. The underappreciated "Women" begins the show and the band is in fine form both vocally and musically. These are well-crafted songs with multiple layers and the group recreates them flawlessly, a testament to the band's considerable abilities.

"Rocket" follows and the crowd is all in from the outset and the band responds in kind, giving an energetic performance. These are songs the group has performed hundreds of times, but they still seem energized playing them. Not just the hits either. Songs such as "Gods Of War" and "Don't Shoot Shotgun" are delivered with equal gusto to tracks such as "Armageddon It" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me."

When the Hysteria portion ends, the group does a short, but memorable, hits section, starting with "Wasted" from their first album. A triumphant "Rock Of Ages" and "Photograph" close the show, giving fans a double dose of hits from the group's early MTV heyday.

While the O2 show was steeped in the band's jukebox full of hits, the Vegas show is something very different. The group opens with a strong "Die Hard The Hunter" and plays deeper cuts such as "Action" and "Promises," all the with the same potency as the big hits. The band seems to be relishing the idea of not just doing the hits in the show and their excitement is palpable in these recordings.

Of course, the show isn't purely obscure numbers and the band closes it with the same two songs as in the O2 show, but the feel is decidedly looser here. The band is having fun and the Vegas show is a gift to the die-hard fans who own every album and want to hear the deeper cuts.

Def Leppard's strength lies in its ability to not only play a hit-laden, extravagant show, but also the fact that they can play a set filled with songs one rarely hears on the radio and make it just as exciting, both for the die hard fans and the casual fans who may not know those songs quite as well. It helps that their musicianship and vocals are still top notch and that some 40 years on, the group is as passionate as ever. For fans who did not spring for the big box set, these are well worth owning.