“I was gonna save it for the encore, but f*** it, we’ve just been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” bellows Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott half-an-hour or so into the band’s vast, celebratory homecoming show at the FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield.
Several thousand punters, dressed to variously appropriate degrees in leather and double denim, bellow back their roar of approval. Indeed, this is the first gig played by the South Yorkshire heavy metallers since it was announced that, alongside fellow British luminaries The Cure, Roxy Music and Radiohead, they would be enshrined in Cleveland for musical eternity. It’s clearly an honour they’re already relishing; a nod to their accomplished legacy as arguably the most successful NWOBH act in history.
It’s to this history they are turning on a wintery Friday night; Elliott and company are revisiting their seminal fourth album Hysteria, playing it from front to back on a major UK jaunt. Now 31 years on from its release, it still measures up remarkably well as a product of its times, a shiny guitar-driven behemoth of a record that topped the chats on both sides of the Atlantic and went diamond stateside.
Despite being frontloaded in terms of hits, Hysteria lends itself remarkably well to a live set too; opener Woman may mix Elliott’s voice, cask-aged yet still potent, a little low in the mix and guitarist Phil Collen, stripped to the waist with his muscular oiled torso gleaming, is relatively fast and loose on Animal, but everywhere else, it is a euphoric hard glam masterpiece that hits with the heft of a thunderclap.
Love Bites sees red lasers bathe the crowd in an insidious valentine-red hue; Pour Some Sugar On Me retains the sublime distinction of arguably being both the best stripper and stadium anthem ever committed to vinyl.
Armageddon It and Gods of War are linked by a brief tribute snippet to late guitarist Steve Clark, who died in 1991, that raises the roof; they later pay additional tribute with a fiery thrash through debut single Wasted to open the encore.
An encore almost feels superfluous after the euphoria; still, the lighters-old cheese of When Love and Hate Collide and the yearning power-pop finale of Photograph ensures Sheffield leaves on a high.