June 17th 2019 – Prague´s O2 Arena welcomed two of the biggest hard rock legends on the scene: the British groups WHITESNAKE and DEF LEPPARD! Here´s the story along with my memories and impressions, enriched with excellent photos of Lukas Urbanik.
Promoters are nowadays following the strategy of interconnecting multiple genres, as it surely attracts a much larger number of spectators to shows so they can easily sell out the bigger venues and arenas (also thanks to the good combination of artists). Some of them of course don’t attract as many fans, so they are not capable of selling out the big arenas. That’s why the combination of two or three supporting acts with one big headliner very often fulfills the same expectations from a commercial point of view as the combination of two legends from the same genre, which a lot of fans still welcome with open arms. In such case no other bands are needed because this kind of combination means no financial risk for the promoter – something that Prague’s O2 Arena clearly confirmed with two of the biggest hard rock legends on the scene: the British groups WHITENSKE & DEF LEPPARD!
WHITESNAKE enter the stage shortly before eight o’clock. The famous “My Generation” from the WHO is traditionally blasting before the musicians hit the stage. The setlist consists of songs from the WHITESNAKE era only. There are songs chosen from three albums in their discography; “Slide It In,” “Whitesnake” and “Flesh & Blood.” WHITESNAKE is releasing their new album after eight years, considering brand new songs only. There are no songs from David Coverdale’s era with DEEP PURPLE (probably because of the “The Purple Album” tour which was dedicated to songs from the DEEP PURPLE era). WHITESNAKE have only 60 minutes to perform their songs, so the audience in Prague doesn’t get the chance to hear more than two songs from the new album: “Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” and “Shut Up & Kiss Me.” Compared to other shows on the tour, we miss out another three songs from their latest opus. There are two interesting facts about the video clip version of the song “Shut Up & Kiss Me.” You can see the same white Jaguar and the same jacket in the video that David used in the video for the famous “Here I Go Again.” We are used to traditionally bad sound quality in the O2 arena, and there is no difference tonight. The sound engineers happen to improve it a bit in the second half with DEF LEPPARD’s show, but I am going to leave this topic for later. Sometimes it was really hard to hear David Coverdale’s voice over all that drum and bass. The bad sound had probably nothing to do with the band, so I better try to get rid of these emotions and just enjoy the show and the fantastic performances of the musicians as much as possible. I was tuned and prepared for the show in advance. Since the moment I first listened to the new album “Flesh & Blood” it was clear the whole band was in great shape. I expected the band to transmit the same energy on stage and my expectations were definitely fulfilled. A WHITESNAKE show is not built on big video projections or bombastic effects. This way David Coverdale maintains the level we are used to, and we find no surprises this night, which in this case are not needed at all. The still charismatic and ageless front man has always had the great capability of being surrounded by excellent musicians and it’s no different with the current line-up. The last WHITESNAKE studio album left the impression of wholeness. I don’t have the feeling that it’s just about the self-promotion of David Coverdale, which was a big thing with many discussions in the past, but it’s about the band as a whole. I have the same impression during their live show. The two new songs perfectly fit into the setlist which mostly consists of their biggest hits. Everything fits gently and naturally. The voice of David is compared to the past of course lower and is strengthened by backing vocals, but this is reality and there is no need to talk about it round and round. It’s important to accept and use everything life has to offer in the best way and made possible to us in each period of our lives. WHITESNAKE have 60 minutes for their set, so the songs come one after another without any bigger breaks or longer talks in between. The guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach are perfectly adjusted to each other and get the chance to exhibit their skills in their guitar duel right in the middle of the set. Their performance is not about who is technically better skilled, but about the harmony and synergy they both enjoy. Legendary drummer Tommy Aldridge saves space for his drum solo right before the final of the biggest classics, even in one part going without using drumsticks just with the help of his hands and legs. And this is exactly how the whole band, including the newest members, keyboardist Michele Luppi and bassist Michael Devin, works together. Pity, the biggest part of audience only dances and gives the bands the best response while they are performing their most famous songs only. Compared to the mainstream, the percentage of true music connoisseurs and those who truly love music and are interested in a band’s complex discography is probably impossible to compare. So, as expected, the biggest ovations go to the pop rock hit “Here I Go Again.” WHITESNAKE confirmed with their show as well as with their last album that they are rightfully still one of the most essential hard rock bands on the scene.
WHITESNAKE – setlist: Bad Boys, Slide It In, Love Ain’t No Stranger, Hey You (You Make Me Rock), Slow An’ Easy, Guitar Duel, Shut Up & Kiss Me, Drum Solo, Is This Love, Give Me All Your Love, Here I Go Again, Still Of The Night
DEF LEPPARD is not releasing any new studio album in 2019. Throughout the selection of their biggest hits, the band maps out up to now their music journey over two hours, connecting the most essential and the most successful moments of their career. Nostalgia, memories and balancing various things… they all simply belong to this concept. Nostalgia is even more underlined during the show while watching the photos that are shown on screen during the song “Hysteria,” reminding us the band’s different periods. The year 2019 means for DEF LEPPARD not only the year of concert celebrations of their journey up to now, but also the year when the musicians are celebrated and prized for their contributions on the scene. This year, in March, they were also inducted into the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame, by their no-less famous colleague Brian May of QUEEN.
DEF LEPPARD became a synonym for magnificence in its best sense of word. This band probably was meant to have huge success long before they were even formed and is the prototype of a concept with no possibility of not working out. The band was formed as a part of the New Wave of the British Heavy Metal movement, but the biggest success for them was their combination of melodic hard rock, catchy melodies with an overlap with pop as well as the specific and from the first moment unmistakable vocals of front man Joe Elliott. DEF LEPPARD’s uniqueness and originality is confirmed by some kind of non-transferable and indefinable emotions which form a part of their whole work and which is also absolutely impossible to copy. It’s probably due to their natural gifts, the symbol of these music giants that makes them totally different from others. They are some of the rare few artists who have managed to produce so many mega hits, sold over 100 million records worldwide, repeatedly occupied the top of the chart’s worldwide, gained countless number of awards, including 12 platinum albums, and have two albums with RIAA diamond certification (Recording Industry Association of America certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and ancillary markets). This is all without mentioning their last studio self-titled album “Def Leppard” (released in 2015), which became their seventh top ten album after debuting on the Billboard 200 at number 10. I could continue with DEF LEPPARD’s list of awards for almost forever.
Since the beginning of the 80s, DEF LEPPARD have been a band with one of the most stable lineups on the scene. They have had the same lineup since 1982 and there were only 3 changes in their history. I’m convinced the whole success and stability of the band is also influenced by their human side. In the big world of showbusiness, especially at the top, you can rarely find people with physical handicaps getting their shot or excelling there with such a background. Of course I don’t know all the things behind the story or the things the band had to go through in the times after their drummer Rick Allen was dealing the amputation of his left arm in 1985. Even after all these years, I really value all the band members, that they happened to make it through the whole situation together, and mainly the fact, that Rick has never given up and is such as wonderful human being and drummer. We don’t really have to dig deeper into the complex topic of how society adjusted, especially how people are being treated in terms of imaginary prestige. Anyway, this consideration leads me to the motto of my life that I used in my Background Story (available for free in the Shared Treasures section): “Make your weaknesses your strengths and make your strengths a temple.” DEF LEPPARD not only managed that in the best possible way, but to me they are tangible proof for this saying.
The DEF LEPPARD concert is guided by a synchronized laser show which is an attractive complement for the audience. The word complement is the right one as the effects are in balance and not too much or disturbing, and they probably were best showcased during the song “Love Bites.” One of the most beautiful moments of the show was without a doubt the acoustic version of the famous ballad “Two Steps Behind.” Let me return to the part of the review where I talked about the bad sound. The sound engineers used the acoustic version to improve their reputation a bit because up until this point, the sound was nothing but real misery. To screw up the sound to two legends is really amateurish. I don’t know if they had their own sound engineer, but I guess he was just a local guy hired for the show, probably not a professional, or maybe he just didn’t care at all. I was fortunate enough to enjoy DEF LEPPARD shortly before the show in Prague at the Sweden Rock Festival, where the sound was absolutely amazing. Joe Elliott perfectly interacted with the audience and he also never forgot to mention his companions, who he introduces a couple of times during the show – especially the oldest in the business, his band mate and friend, bass player Rick Savage, who Joe formed the band with back in 1977. The two of them are the only members from the original line up, with drummer Rick Allen joining the band one year later in 1978. The next member, who joined the band while DEF LEPPARD were recording the famous album “Pyromania,” was guitarist Phil Collen. The last personnel change at the guitarist position happened after Steve Clark died, who was replaced by the guitarist Vivian Campbell. DEF LEPPARD are in a great shape, and thanks to their show they symbolically take us back to the 80s, to the time of bombastic arena rock. And if there is anyone who still has the right to present this kind of music and style, there is probably no one better than DEF LEPPARD.
DEF LEPPARD – setlist: Let It Go, Foolin’, When Love And Hate Collide, Let’s Get Rocked, Armageddon It, Rock On (cover version – David Essex), Two Steps Behind, Man Enough, Love Bites, Bringin’ On The Heartbreak, Switch 625, Hysteria, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages, Photograph
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