PHOENIX — Historic classic rock duo Journey and Def Leppard put on a massively vivacious performance Friday night at their sold-out stop at Talking Stick Resort Arena on the North American tour (2018). It’s been twelve long years since Def Leppard and Journey co-headlined a tour, with rumored signs of an aging sound. On the contrary though, this arena setting was more than fitting, as the show proved to be impressively larger than life.
The crowd continued to pour in by the thousands even as Def Leppard took the stage, erupting in a phantasmal melting-pot of emotions from fans of all ages when their vocalist, Joe Elliott approached the crowd.
With his hands held high, Elliott teased the rippling stadium, loosely conducting the opening instrumentals to “Rocket” with closeups of the band members flashing in-and-out of 2-D televisions seemingly stacked above and behind the stage. Def Leppard’s energy was as contagious as ever, coaxing fans along to hit after hit beneath blaring blankets of velvety light that morphed into everything from hypnotizing geometric patterns to a striking laser show.
Each song seemed to ignite even more elation than the last. Fans sang along to every word of “Animal”, “Foolin’”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, and “Let’s Get Rocked” as the stage transformed again, almost magically, from a wall of vintage neon signs into thick rotating rays of foggy light before turning to a dim, red glow that illuminated the buzzing audience. Elliott could be seen thrusting the mic stand back and forth across the stage as the first few notes of “Armageddon It” rumbled out from beneath the speakers.
Def Leppard’s current and longest-lasting lineup to date also includes Rick Savage (bassist), Rick Allen (drummer), Phil Collen (guitarist), and Vivian Campbell (guitarist); and like Elliott, none of them showed any signs of slowing down. Their British heavy metal style is as alive and well as ever, complete with leather and tight pants, sweat-glistening, guitar shreddin’, and an incredible one-armed drum solo.
Between nostalgic performances of the David Essex cover “Rock On”, “Two Steps Behind”, and “Man Enough”, Elliott introduced each member of the band while offering a small bit of history on each iconic track to follow. “We’ve been touring for 38 years,” he announced, speaking briefly on the group’s English background and how they got their start. “All we ever wanted was to make music.”
Without all the fancy high-tech showmanship, it would have been easy to forget that we were seeing Def Leppard 20 years post multi-platinum success of Hysteria and Pyromania – which ranked at #384 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. “Love Bites”, “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, and “Switch 625” were up next, each accompanied by its own light display and related imagery glowing boldly in the background.
Speaking of multi-platinum, Def Leppard definitely knew what they were doing when they saved “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” for last, but not of course without the explosive encore we’d been dying for – “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”. What more could a Def Leppard fan ask for, right?
After a refreshingly brief set change, it was time for Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer, Journey, to steal the show with their own non-stop marathon of legendary greatest hits. Despite having been noted as “one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time” – No. 96 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time to be exact, Journey’s continued evolution has left some critics wondering how things could ever sound the same.
Current vocalist Arnel Pineda put those rumors to rest with a heart-wrenching opening performance of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” from chart-topping album Frontiers (1983). Despite not being a man of many words, Pineda undeniably uplifted the crowd with his infectious, positive energy as he jumped, kicked, and bounced across the stage. The entire arena followed in suit, immediately pointing their phone flashlights and lighters to the sky and singing along to every word.
Pineda was overflowing with a spectacularly excitable stage presence, making sure to run the full perimeter of the platform while high-fiving everyone within reach during emotional renditions of “Only The Young”, “Escape” and “Stone In Love”. Meanwhile, psychedelic album art filled the towering screens surrounding the stage while flashes of bright white light spliced across the arena. Closeups of Neal Schon (lead guitarist), Ross Valory (bassist), Steve Smith (drummer) and Jonathan Cain (keyboardist) could also be seen rotating in and out, with big smiles on their faces.
Each member boasted their own bit of personal wardrobe style as well. Cain could be seen with an old school Suns jersey peeking out from behind his jacket. Fans belted out the lyrics to the ever-popular tracks “Chain Reaction” and “Be Good To Yourself” before Pineda finally addressed the crowd. “How are you doing Phoenix?!”, he echoed. “Thanks for coming out and seeing us tonight!
Schon stepped into the spotlight to set the mood with a smooth-and-sultry, otherworldly guitar solo before launching into “Lights” with Pineda once again. Time seemed to slip away as listeners lost themselves in the music, rocking out to “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Open Arms”, and “Ask The Lonely”, followed by “La Do Da”, and “Any Way You Want It”. From lovestruck couples to lonesome onlookers, it was clear why Journey’s music has achieved such timeless success.
Schon stepped forward once again to introduce “Wheel In The Sky”, a song he composed along with Robert Fleischman and Diane Valory – wife of bassist Ross Valory. He went on to say, “That’s when I realized we were family. We all love the same way. I’d like to dedicate this song to a man that just had a birthday recently, our vocalist, Mr. Arnel Pineda. And to the fans who stayed over the years.”
As one might have guessed, Journey concluded the night with that one track that hits us all right in the feels – “Don’t Stop Believin’”, which crescendoed to a climax of strobing light, squealing guitar, and eruption of glittering white confetti that combusted into a weightless cloud drifting out over the audience. It was a feeling of total bliss and slight overstimulation, of not wanting the night to end, while also being so incredibly satisfied, overjoyed, impressed, and amazed. That’s the thing about bands like Def Leppard and Journey; they’ve not only carved out a place in our memories, but in the depths of our hearts as well.
Pineda stepped forward to address the crowd for the last time,
“Arizona, you are magic tonight.”
Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
Journey & Def Leppard – Talking Stick Resort Arena 9-7-18
Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved