060688 Def Leppard/Tesla, Moncton, NB

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What has nine arms and sucks?

About as funny as it is tasteless (and it’s pretty tasteless), to me that joke would have been fighting words back in the 80’s.  Like everyone else in my generation I first became aware of Def Leppard when they released Pyromania and took over FM radio and automobile cassette decks worldwide.  At first my young, unrefined ear thought they sounded quite a bit like AC/DC, then I delved back into their previous two records (High n” Dry and On Through The Night) and realized they had a sound of their own, with some seriously beefed up pop-rock vocal harmonies.

I missed the Pyromania tour, the drummer got into a car accident and lost an arm, the band nobly waited for him to heal and relearn how to drum on a new, custom-built drum kit featuring almost twenty foot pedals, they then released Hysteria, an album that leaned even heavier on the synth-pop vocal sound and toured it.

And surprise, surprise – the tour made a stop in Moncton on June 6th, 1988.

Tesla opened the show, they had a song moving up the charts but my attention was strictly on the headliners.  This was my first time seeing theatre-in-the-round, Def Leppard had their stage set up in the middle of the Moncton Coliseum, with front rows on all four sides.

Before Def Leppard began the stage was draped in curtains on each side.  The lights went down, the band started playing, and the curtains disappeared in an explosion of MTV-style rock & roll.  The hair, the lights, the flair, the tights; it was everything I hate about music now but ate up like candy at the time.  The drummer was perched atop his revolving half-kit in the middle of the stage doing a fantastic job with only half the resources.

With aspirations to become a rock photographer, this was when I started sneaking a pretty serious camera and zoom lens into shows.  Of course it was the pre-digital era so taking a thousand pictures just wasn’t practical.  I took a roll from a half-dozen different vantage points (with flash – what an idiot), moving around after each picture so I wouldn’t get caught.  Some shots came out pretty good compositionally but I still had (have) a lot to learn about light and aperture.

I had a great time at the show, I felt like I was actually living inside one of the eight million videos of theirs I had seen on MuchMusic.  They played all the hits (of course) and did their best to make it a night to remember.  

There was one big hit on Hysteria that they didn’t play, a chorus-drenched ballad called Love Bites.  My girlfriend at the time cut class the next day and managed to meet the band in the lobby of the Hotel Beausejour*.  She asked Joe Elliot why they didn’t play the song and he told her they never played it because he couldn’t sing it.  It’s too high for his voice so in the studio they had to piece together lines from about a dozen tries to create the vocal line.

I always thought it was cool that he told her that instead of making up some lie.

*How is it possible that it has taken until today for me to notice that “beausejour” was just one letter away from being “because-jour”?  That would have made it a lot easier to spell.

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