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Canberra, AIS Arena
25th October 2011

scott adams

I'm not sure what they teach kids in schools these days - my two certainly won't tell me - but, in my day, our English Master, Tony 'backs to the wall, boys' Stafford, used to bang on at length about something called 'suspension of disbelief'. This entailed our enjoyment of certain classic works of literature being enhanced beyond all imagination if only we'd stop putting our hands up in class and saying, "but Sir, that wouldn't happen!".


He was right, of course - you don't get to parade about in a cape and mortar board without at least a modicum of knowledge - so, later on in this review, I'll be investigating and, indeed, applying this principle to tonight's headliners. Of whom, more later. But there are other things to take our attention first, not least the impressive size of the beer queues on both sides of a steadily filling AIS arena, as local (read: Australian) support The Choirboys go about their business.

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Despite being a charmless shed, the AIS at least allows you to drink inside the auditorium, and thousands of like-minded souls are joining your reviewer and confrere, 'big' Allan Sko, in getting as much amber liquid down our throats as is possible before the real entertainment begins. As the final chords of The Choirboys' 'Run To Paradise' decay into the rafters, we hastily gather up as much booze as we can carry and head to our seats, eager not to miss a second of Canadian classic rock titans Heart.

We're glad we made this decision as, for the best part of an hour, Heart, led as ever by sisters Ann (whose voice has somehow maintained its strength and clarity despite the passage of time) and (the very, very lovely) Nancy Wilson, give a poised lesson in high class hard rock.

Heart's 'very, very lovely' Nancy Wilson

It's years since Heart tasted success in the mainstream, of course, but they roll those years back in tremendous style tonight, with stellar versions of radio rock hits 'Alone' and 'Barracuda' vying alongside marvellous renditions of 'Crazy On You' and, improbably, John Farnham's iconic 'You're The Voice', before quitting the stage to a very generous response. Personally, I'd have been happy to have seen the billing reversed tonight and heard more from Heart but, as my good friend Mick Jagger once told me, you can't always get what you want...

And so to Def Leppard, and the suspension of disbelief. Nearly thirty years ago, Dante Bonutto wrote of Lepps singer Joe Elliott in heavy Metal bible Kerrang!, "let's just say some great non-singers have managed to make it to the top" and, for years, the hallmark of many a live Leppard exposition has been its disappointing vocal display.

The Leppard trademark - multi-layered choruses, tracked and multi-tracked to within an inch of their lives in the studio but nigh on impossible to replicate in the live arena - has always conspired to make Elliott sound like a hapless buffoon. Yet here, tonight, he somehow seems to be in good, not to say powerful, voice. How can this be? My disbelief is well and truly strung up and hung out to dry.


Whatever the reasons behind this startling upturn in form, the man is in fine voice tonight. Backed up stage left by guitarist extraordinaire Phil Collen (who is simply unstoppable all night, effortlessly throwing in licks and runs not present on the studio versions of these songs) and to the right by tight-trousered bassist Rick Savage and second guitarist Vivian Campbell (as understatedly efficient as Collen is flamboyantly entertaining), Joe is in excellent humour tonight.

The animated crowd laps up his every utterance as he leads us through a set that is just about untouchable if it's eighties pop-Metal nostalgia you're after. 'Foolin'', 'Armageddon It', 'Animal', 'Let's Get Rocked' - all are here, present and correct, plus a dozen more slabs of the good stuff. Unbelievably good stuff, in fact, delivered with verve and style by a group that continues to set the pace in live production, despite entering its fifth decade in the business.

Believe it.



More Scott Adams right here.


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