Concert Reviews

Def Leppard and Journey: Stuck in the Past but Still Rocking

Journey performed at Coors Field on July 21.
Journey performed at Coors Field on July 21. Brandon Thrift
Before Journey and Def Leppard brought the ’80s to a packed house at Coors Field on Saturday, July 21, lines wrapped around the block. Anyone could tell that something special was about to happen.

No doubt fans were excited for a blast of nostalgia: Def Leppard and Journey are two of the best-selling rock bands of all time and still capture the zeitgeist of 1980s arena rock.

Walking into the venue was like stepping into a time capsule full of people with big hair, flashy acid-washed clothing, a cold beer in hand and still listening to vinyl — not as a trend.

Despite the long lines, everybody looked excited for the show. Many in the crowd were couples decked out in matching concert T-shirts from previous tours.

click to enlarge Lines wrap around Coors Field for Journey and Def Leppard. - TRISTAN NISKANEN
Lines wrap around Coors Field for Journey and Def Leppard.
Tristan Niskanen
Journey began its set with a video of a cover of the Police's "Synchronicity II," recorded for the Rock Against Trafficking charity. After the seven-minute video, the band unleashed a powerhouse show.

Arnel Pineda, who replaced Steve Perry as lead singer in 2007, controlled the stage with contagious charisma. Handpicked for his classic-rock covers by Journey's longest-standing member, Neal Schon, Pineda, originally from the Philippines, connected with the audience, brought his heart into the music, and has helped Journey's members pull off this stadium tour, even this late in their careers.

Another highlight of the Saturday night concert was bassist Ross Valory, who looks like a cross between Keith Richards and Billy Idol; his face proved captivating to watch throughout the night as he moved his eyebrows like caterpillars and puckered his lips like he was readying himself for a kiss. When he wasn't joking around with fans, he gave off an air of mystery.

click to enlarge Journey performed at Coors Field on July 21. - BRANDON THRIFT
Journey performed at Coors Field on July 21.
Brandon Thrift
Before the concert, Schon, the band's guitarist, described to Westword his intimate songwriting process and collaborative chemistry with Steve Perry. Despite Perry's absence from the performance, songs like "Patiently" continued to carry that same intimate feeling. Schon knew it. His smile during the performance would make anybody happy, while he played as if these were still Journey's glory days.

When Def Leppard took to the stage, the act embodied the essence of a rock band and made sure the audience knew it. The group sang about rock, rockets, and everything else metamorphic-themed, even yelling "rock" between most songs.

The opening number, "Rocket," was like a roll call. Each member moved around the stage while inviting the audience into the band's world. During the group's performance of "Hysteria," lead singer Joe Elliott sang the lyrics "Out of touch, out of reach" — which unfortunately also described parts of his performance.

It may be fun for those who were around to relive their ’80s memories, but for those of us who weren't there the first time, Def Leppard came off as a dated band, stuck in the past, grasping for yet another multimillion-dollar paycheck.

click to enlarge Def Leppard performed at Coors Field on July 21. - BRANDON THRIFT
Def Leppard performed at Coors Field on July 21.
Brandon Thrift
Still, Def Leppard rocked. To get rocked is to let go, to have the time of your life, maybe even to be shocked.

Some might be shocked that Def Leppard can still play a ninety-minute set without stopping for a break. Or by Rick Savage's pink suit. And having missed the ’80s by almost twenty years, I was shocked at the size of the crowd, how loud the show was, how energetic the performers were and how much fun I had — despite the band's out-of-touch, out-of-reach nostalgia.
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Tristan Niskanen is from Snowmass Village, Colorado and a student at Colgate University, majoring in English creative writing. He is passionate about journalism, music, writing and exploring.
Contact: Tristan Niskanen