with Def Leppard, Styx, and Tesla
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA
September 20, 2015
Writing and photography by TourBusLive.com
In the summer of 1980, when I first saw DEF LEPPARD opening for The Scorpions and Ted Nugent (you know, back when that guy played music more than he talked), I had no idea that this relatively unknown (and under-local-drinking-age) UK band would be rocking my world for more than three decades. But Sunday night at the Forum in Los Angeles for the KLOS DEFTEMBER JAM with DEF LEPPARD, STYX, and TESLA, all the bands were proving that this truly IS the Rock of Ages! They were STILL ROLLIN’, Rock n’ Rollin’!
After a brief introduction by KLOS’s morning show hunk FRANK KRAMER (Heidi-less for the evening), our northern neighbor Sacramento’s own hometown band TESLA opened the show. Original members Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass), and Troy Luccketta (drums), along with newcomer (and resident ‘young guy’) Dave Rude on guitar, rocked the Forum crowd with a short (45-minute) but thorough (8-song) set that included their original hit “Love Song” and their breakthrough cover of the Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs”. And although they were billed first on this epic tour, TESLA’s entire band – and especially Jeff Keith on vocals – put everything they had into their performance, regardless of the partially-filled seats during this early set (it was Sunday, people! There was no rush-hour traffic!). Their infectious energy got the audience members who DID show up on time to get on their feet for their entire set. That kind of undying dedication is what keeps this band pulling in their old fans, and making many new ones, night after night.
Brought up next by KLOS DJs GARY MOORE and BOB COBURN, and giving their own stellar and energetic performance, was none other than STYX – probably the hardest working band in rock and roll! It’s true! They usually begin their year with an early pre-NAMM appearance somewhere in the southland, and then continue to tour year-round – seldom on much of a break before hitting the road again. Original member James “JY” Young (guitar/vocals) and nearly-original member Tommy Shaw (guitar/vocals) were joined on stage by original member Chuck Panozzo (bass) – who was celebrating his 67th birthday on this very night! And although Chuck only plays a few songs on the set as his health and energy permit, he’s covered by long-time STYX bassist Ricky Phillips (formerly of The Babys and Bad English). And rounding out the lineup are long-time members Todd Sucherman (drums) and Lawrence Gowan (keyboards/vocals). STYX’s set had the Forum’s capacity 17,500+ crowd (who finally got to their seats by then) on their feet with the first notes of opening song “The Grand Illusion” – the inspirational title track from their notable 1977 album. As STYX made their way through their 9-song set (or 10, if you count Gowan’s snippet-fest of rock classics when he leads the audience on a sing-along that proves he is a virtuoso on the keys), the fans were lucky to hear some of the best of the immense STYX catalogue – including the fun “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”, and the quintessential STYX song (and borderline prog-rock classic) “Come Sail Away”! By the time the band closed with their most popular hit “Renegade”, it was enough of a set to satisfy any hardcore STYX fan. And watching Tommy Shaw’s parade of beautiful guitars alone was enough to satisfy THIS fan.
Finally, closing out this amazing evening, was headliner DEF LEPPARD. After the entire band spent the earlier part of the evening standing in front of a backdrop for at least 45 minutes to meet and greet the throngs of eager fans who purchased VIP tickets, the guys hit the stage and proceeded to knock the socks off any naysayers who think this group isn’t still on top of their game.
From the opening notes of “Rock Rock Til You Drop”, singer Joe Elliott (whose mature voice still hits every note perfectly), bassist Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen, guitarist (and undeniably the best shirtless vegan on stage anywhere) Phil Collen, and guitarist Vivian Campbell (recently deemed cancer-free!) proved why they remain so popular – even 35 years after the release of their first album. It’s no wonder they’ve sold more than 100 million records and continue to sell out arenas across the globe, tour after tour.
Watching the band triumphantly work their way up and down the catwalk (which was obviously ‘off limits’ to the two opening bands) reminded me of their heyday – when arena rock bands were the kings of the world. As proficient and energetic as they ever were, DEF LEPPARD glided (and in Collen’s case – glistened) through most of their classics, including “Animal”, “Love Bites”, and “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, a song just perfect for all the slithering and pantomime-stripping I saw going on all around me! One highlight that surely stood out, however, wasn’t even an original Leppard song! Instead, bassist Rick Savage stepped out onto the catwalk under the spotlight and broke into a kick-ass bass line that began the David Essex cover “Rock On’! Every bit of that song did just that!!
By the time the band finished with their signature song “Rock of Ages” (followed by
“Photograph”), it was clear that the song’s simple lyrics indeed said it all: Long Live Rock n’ Roll.
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD:
Newswoman Lisa Ling, and Dexter’s poison-loving murderous girlfriend Hannah McKay (actress Yvonne Strahovski), who was spotted in line for her own Meet & Greet photo with the boys in Def Leppard. That was pretty cool.