DEF LEPPARD – “The Stadium Tour Has Been Spectacular, This Kind Of Boyhood Dream”

August 9, 2022, a month ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock def leppard the stadium tour

DEF LEPPARD – “The Stadium Tour Has Been Spectacular, This Kind Of Boyhood Dream”

After a two-year delay due to the pandemic, The Stadium Tour – featuring Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Joan Jett, and Classless Act – finally kicked off on June 16 in Atlanta, GA. The first leg, comprised of 18 shows, ran until July 21. After a two-week break, the second leg, again comprised of 18 shows, began August 5 in Boston, MA. Speaking exclusively with BraveWords, guitarist Phil Collen has difficulty picking a personal highlight or favorite city.

“All of it actually,” beams Collen from his hotel room. “Obviously the first one was Atlanta, which was amazing, cause we hadn’t done a show for – we did The Whisky in L.A. (an invitation only show for SiriusXM listeners on May 26) – but we hadn’t done a proper show in nearly three years. So that was spectacular! All of it’s been spectacular, this kind of boyhood dream. When you first start playing guitar, you actually imagine that – a stadium full of people and it being amazing. And that’s exactly what it’s been every single night. We’ve been blessed, everyone. We’re having a blast!”

Totally different genres of music, but parallels do exist between The Big 4 – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, and The Stadium Tour – Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Joan Jett, and Classless Act. In 2010, when The Big 4 filmed their DVD live in Sofia, Bulgaria, members from all four bands came together on stage to jam a cover of “Am I Evil?”, originally by Diamond Head. It hasn’t happened thus far, but any chance that members of Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Joan Jett, and Classless Act may participate in an all-star on-stage jam, perhaps at the final show September 9 in Las Vegas, NV? 

“Absolutely not! We ain’t that kind of band,” states Phil without a moment’s hesitation. “Everyone can jam, and they can do all that stuff, but we don’t really do that. I remember we were touring with Journey, and one of the guys said, ‘Why don’t you guys stretch out and do jam parts?’ I said, ‘We want to get extra songs in.’ We already don’t have enough time to do as many songs as we want. When you do stuff like that, it’s all fine and dandy, but you actually sacrifice some of your art, your production. So, we’d rather do another one of our songs than jump into that. It’s all fun, it’s great and everything, but we’re a different kind of band really.”

It's no secret that Def Leppard has cameras on the road. Fans have been treated to lots of Behind The Stadium Tour YouTube clips and updates. Will there be a Blu-ray filmed on The Stadium Tour? “Good point actually. Not as of yet, but we have all the content. The great thing – we’ve done this before with live albums – we record every single night, everything. And obviously it’s all on digital, so you can do anything. It’s great having the content. At the turn of a dime – okay, we’ve got this coming out. So yeah, very cool.”

There’s no tour dates listed on after September 9 – the final date of The Stadium Tour. What does the rest of 2022 hold? “The rest of the world, actually. We’re still promoting a new album (Diamond Star Halos, which was released May 27), so that’s it. I get calls and emails all the time – when are you coming to South America, Japan, Australia, England? It’s like, oh my god! So, we have to do all of those things. Those dates, we’re kind of ticking them off, getting there. They have to route the whole thing, but it’s the rest of the world.”

Will that be a Def Leppard headline tour, or some configuration of The Stadium Tour? “I think it’s going to be some configuration of this. I don’t know whether everyone can make it, but I think us and Mötley definitely would be on that. Hopefully it’s the whole thing, but if not, then a version of it, I guess.”

The aforementioned new album, Diamond Star Halos, is Def Leppard’s twelfth studio album. When speaking about writing and recording the new songs, Phil previously stated, “We’re still discovering so much about ourselves.” He now elaborates upon that statement: “I think what we really discovered is the era that had the most impact on our lives. Me and Joe (Elliott – vocalist) would use the phrase ‘Hubcap diamond star halo’, which is a Marc Bolan line out of ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’ to describe that period of time. My first band I saw live was Deep Purple, and I just pestered my Mum and Dad for a guitar for two years. When I was 14, I also saw David Bowie on Top Of The Pops – it changed my life! I was a sponge. Me and Joe have always used that phrase to sum up that feeling. We were writing all these songs, not really for an album. We were excited about writing together, mainly me and Joe actually. We discovered that we were celebrating that era, hence why we called the album Diamond Star Halos. It was very significant, like the moment you get baptized into music and the reasons that you do. I’m from London, so I got to see Bowie at Earl’s Court on the Aladdin Sane tour. I got to see Roxy Music, and a host of others. It was just fantastic! It was us reliving that moment, we got to do it ourselves, actually on a bit bigger scale.”

Looking at the cover artwork for Diamond Star Halos, in the center of the piece, hiding in plain view is the diver from High ‘n’ Dry, as well as the target sight from Pyromania. Before hearing the music contained within, those appeared to be clues as to the direction of the new songs. In actuality, the music is mainly ‘70s influenced which the title alludes to, and Phil just explained. “Yeah, we wanted to tie it in because we’re all inclusive. There’s obviously a little bit of Pyromania in there, a little bit of Hysteria, and other stuff. It was the label (Mercury Records) that suggested the artists. So, the combination and the teamwork was amazing. We loved all of the artwork, especially the Anton Corbijn photos.”

Diamond Star Halos was written during quarantine, predominantly through file-sharing across different parts of the world. Joe was in Ireland, Sav was in England, and the rest of the band in The United States. However, guitarist Vivian Campbell did not write anything on the new album. “Yeah, not on this one. But I had so much material coming out, literally every other day. And I was doing some songwriting with other songwriters. We wasn’t even writing an album. We were just putting ideas together – mainly me and Joe, like I said. At a certain point, it’s like, let’s get everyone to play on our songs; kind of like Queen used to do. Freddie (Mercury) would write a song, and everyone would play on it. Brian May would write a song, and everyone would give it the Queen treatment. That’s what we did on the album.”

15 songs with a running time of almost a full hour is a long album. Diamond Star Halos contains a lot of music. “Well, it is a double album,” enthuses Collen. “That was the other thing we were really excited about, is actually being like Zeppelin, Prince… some of our idols. We’ve never had a double album that wasn’t live. It was really cool. Going back to the ‘70s, a lot of bands used to do that. But instead of having this stretched-out indulgent thing, we hit it with lots of gems, and that’s the big difference. When Zeppelin did it, lots of different material. The Stones… some of the stuff is kind of debatable whether it was really valid. And it was valid, but when you’re doing it on this album, we think that every song is valid, so it added a different kind of vibe to it.”

The opening track, “Take What You Want” is a solid rock song. “Well, ‘Take What You Want’ is a Rick Savage song, and it’s a throwback to Pyromania kind of style. It starts off with the classic intro; it’s a great song to play live, it’s really fun.” If you could take anything, what would it be? “I’m actually living the dream, this is great! Everything that I’ve ever wanted to do, I’m doing. I’m having a blast.”

“SOS Emergency” – despite its title is really an uplifting, happy song. “It is,” agrees Phil. “When I first started, cause I had the demo for that in 2015, I sent it to Joe. I had a chorus, and all this other stuff… I was trying to make it sound like a cross between The Police and The Foo Fighters, if you can imagine that. When we started writing the songs on the new album, Joe said, ‘Oh! I’ve got to finish the lyric on that song SOS.’ So, he finished it, and before you knew it, it had a thrilling vibe to it. Then when Sav and Vivian and Rick, when their parts went on, it just elevated it into something else.”

The collaboration with Alison Krauss on two songs, “This Guitar” and “Lifeless” was certainly unexpected. Now that the album’s been out for a while, what’s the fan feedback to that pair of songs been like? “I’ve got some friends who’ve said, “‘This Guitar” made me cry.’ I wrote that song over 17 years ago with my friend C.J. Vanston. We actually wrote ‘All About Believing’, which is another Def Leppard song that we did (one of three new studio tracks on Mirror Ball – Live & More, released in 2011). We constantly write together. How that came about – Joe was talking to Robert Plant, who tours with Alison Krauss, they have two albums out. Robert asked Joe what we were doing? Joe said, we’re doing an album. Robert said, ‘Alison will be pleased to hear about that; she loves you guys.’ From that, it kind of got suggested that she sings the odd line if she’s up for it. We sent her two songs and she said, ‘I can’t choose. Can I do something on both of them?’ She’d done all these vocals; we kept it all in. That was amazing. She’s incredible, I love her voice, her vibe, everything about her. She’s an angel, and it sounds like it. We hadn’t really planned that; it just came about. She wanted to do the two songs – yeah, let’s do it!”

Given the time span between Def Leppard studio albums – Songs From The Sparkle Lounge was released in 2008, the self-titled Def Leppard in 2015, and now Diamond Star Halos in 2022 – and the amount of upcoming touring the band has planned, was there ever any consideration given to the notion that this might be the last Def Leppard studio album? “Not even slightly. Honestly, I think we’re only getting started. I just watched a Stones documentary called Being A Rolling Stone. And The Stones didn’t really kick in until the ‘70s. Obviously they were massive in the ‘60s and everything. But they didn’t really start being valid, in their minds, until sometime in the ‘70s when they weren’t getting ripped off, and they weren’t being pushed all the time. When they actually decided to do it themselves. It’s almost like when Ronnie Wood joined, all of a sudden, they go – this is what we want to do. And I think that’s how we are right now. If you take the mid ‘70s Stones thing as a marker, that’s where we are right now. They’re still going, so that’s really inspiring for us.”

Looking ahead to next year, on March 7, 2023 Genesis Publications will issue a 240-page hardcover book, Definitely: The Official Story Of Def Leppard. “It’s all fine and dandy writing about it, but the interesting part – for me – is the photographs, that pretty much says it all. I don’t write a diary on tour; I take photos on my phone. I’m not really on Instagram, I do have an account. A lot of it is just me in Brazil taking pictures of whatever’s interesting. I think with this book, it’s more like that. A history done through photos. It does have text and you can read about it, but for me, it’s the photographs cause they go right through the career.”

(Photos by Anton Corbijn)

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