Classic rock legends Def Leppard and The Scorpions make an eagerly anticipated arrival in Auckland.
This was a double-bill not to ignore, and while there were a couple of disappointed arenas in Melbourne and Sydney due to Klaus Meine losing his voice, by the time we got to the venue in Auckland on Monday afternoon, there were still no messages saying they would not be playing.
As a rock fan who started going to shows in 1977, and with a preference for classic and heavy rock, you would have thought that this writer would, of course, have seen The Scorpions live at least once, but this was a band I had failed to see in concert, so it was definitely a bucket-list experience. The Auckland crowd had turned out early, and the arena was pretty well full when the Scorpion logo went up on the screen, and their first ever show in NZ got underway.
This was very much a greatest hits show, kicking off with Going Out With A Bang, Make It Real and the pulsating The Zoo, before the wonderful Coast to Coast and then the band gave more value for money by running a medley of classic hits such as Steamrock Fever, Speedy’s Coming and Catch Your Train. A great light show and stage set, although there is some irony in the fact that the 16 Marshall stacks lining the back of the stage for a couple of songs were actually part of the projections rather than real backline.
Klaus is an engaging frontman, while the twin-guitars of Matthias Jabs and Rudolph Schenker deliver the crunching riffs and tasty licks from either side of the stage. A revelation up on the drum riser is the mighty Mikkey Dee, who never stops smiling as he pounds the kit through the new song We Built This House On A Rock before we get the much-loved whistling that opens Winds of Change, generating a sea of mobile phone lights instead of the lighters I remember. Tease Me Please leads into a good old-fashioned drum solo, before the rest of the band blast into Blackout, Big City Nights and the mighty Rock You Like a Hurricane to close the set.
Def Leppard is a band I have seen a few times, from opening up for Sammy Hagar in 1980 through Pyromania and Hysteria to Slang and beyond, and this was a show to rival the amazing shows of their heyday, including the incredible concerts they did In The Round. Hysteria is now 31 years old, but the songs sound as fresh and exciting today as they did when they changed a part of rock music’s perceptions on the first release. We got the whole album in order – with Phil Collen cranking out the opening riff to Women, Rick Allen kicking off the intro to Rocket, and the guitars duelling solos through Animal. Joe Elliot’s voice has continued to improve over the years and really came to the fore for the power-ballad, Love Bites, with an epic laser display to complement the lights.
Pour Some Sugar on Me blew the roof off the arena, and then it was Vivian Campbell’s turn to front the catwalk for the mighty Armageddon It opening.
They had brought the whole AV show to town, with enormous screens behind and above the stage showing graphics, old footage and photos, and the Auckland crowd throughout the set – including a moving bit of technical wizardry to bring Steve Clark into the mix for the epic Gods of War, which is just a huge-sounding track from start to finish.
Don’t Shoot Shotgun was perhaps my least-liked tracks off the album, but the band really make it work live, and then we get the rare live rendition of Run Riot, always one of my particular favourites, and they killed it here. The title track is delivered next, and Hysteria generates just that in the crowd, with both guitarists shining in the harmony solos, before Excitable runs into the album closer Love and Affection, and we all wonder where that last 65 minutes just went.
After a short break, the band are back for a short set of the other hits, “from before….and after” as Joe puts it – including the 1981 cracker Let It Go, and the surprise inclusion of another ballad in When Love And Hate Collide. The question “Do You Wanna Get Rocked?” lifts the crowd to another level for Let’s Get Rocked, and then Rick Allen does his little intro piece for the immense Rock Of Ages. The set close in another track that is an all-time fave of mine, and the two-edged riff that opens up Photograph was spot on, and then that was it.
This show had everything – great songs, performed by a band that has now been together for 26 years in this format, with a top-notch stage production and sound that made it all hard to fault.
Words & Photos: Peter Coates
Event Date: 12-Nov-2018