I had the opportunity to see the Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Poison tour when it came through Salt Lake City, Utah on August 24, 2009. Cheap Trick is one of my favorite bands of all time and I’ve never had a chance to see them perform live. So I was extremely excited to see Cheap Trick perform. Def Leppard is also one of my favorite live bands so I was really excited to see them even though I’ve seen them twice before. As for Poison, well, I like C.C. DeVille but I don’t particularly like Bret Michaels singing.
The show was held at Usana Amphitheater in Salt Lake City and the traffic and parking is atrocious there. Every time I see a show at Usana I swear I will never go see another one there. The grass seating is only passable and the sound tends to be very mid-range heavy. This show was no exception although the sound was better than usual. Def Leppard’s sound was very good. Will I go back to see another show at Usana? Maybe…but it sure does suck in terms of traffic and parking.
For some stupid reason, Cheap Trick opened the show instead of Poison. Now by my count, Cheap Trick has been touring for four decades straight and had a couple of multi-platinum albums in the process. They’ve also had a #1 single and many high charting singles as well. So why are they opening for a s0-s0 80’s glam metal band like Poison? Makes no sense to me. But that’s what happened and Cheap Trick took the stage first. Their guitar sound was a bit biting but the drums, bass and singing were glorious!
Rick Neilson’s guitar playing was excellent and the whole band was really nailing it. I love bands that have been playing for a long time and aren’t afraid to lay down some new style to old songs. The standout was singer Robin Zander who sang like he was still a young man. My award for best singer of the evening goes to Robin Zander. Tom Peterson’s 12-string bass sounds amazing in a live show setting. It was really cool to hear him playing the 12-string bass.
The bummer about the Cheap Trick section of the show was that they only played for 1 hour. Their stage show was also slim because they were given a very small place to perform right at the front of the stage. So, if I ever get another chance to see Cheap Trick live, count me in! I want to see them get the kind of treatment they deserve.
Poison followed Cheap Trick and their stage show was considerably larger. They were given more room and had some pyro-technics which were a nice effect. They were joined by the Bass Player from Bon Jovi because their regular bass player fell ill. He did a passable job but I can’t remember his name… C.C. DeVille played brilliantly and his guitar playing has gotten much better over the years. Rikki Rocket has also improved over the years and he really did rock the drums, which brings us to Brett Michaels…
If there is a weak link in Poison, it’s Brett Michaels. I really hate his singing. It’s weak and unremarkable. He can’t sing with real power, he can’t sing really high, he honestly sounds like you might sound singing while driving your car. So why is he fronting a band playing Amphitheaters and touring with Cheap Trick and Def Leppard? Well, he does have a lot of stage presence. He commands the stage and really drives the show. He is a very good front-man. So where he lacks in singing, he makes up for with performance.
Finally Poison finished (after making us suffer through Every Rose Has It’s Thorn) and Def Leppard took the stage. Def Leppard’s stage was huge and beautiful. It was triple-tiered and the two lower steps were fronted with video boards that worked in tandem with a giant video screen behind the band. Def Leppard’s guitarists, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, bass player Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen played beautifully. They even played Switch 625 which is one of my favorite hard rock instrumentals of all time. The band really sounded great and they looked great too. They were all in good shape and very active onstage.
Which brings me to singer, Joe Elliot. I love Joe’s voice and it’s one of the most unique and best hard rock voices all time. That being said, he really struggled with the singing on this night. His voice was hoarse and he really had a hard time hitting the high notes. His voice cracked many times and he did a lot of falsetto singing. He also used the crowd to sing the high choruses on songs like Photograph. I have to give him credit because it was obvious that he was struggling but he made no excuses and did the best he sounded capable of. I’m sure that the constant touring and singing songs that he powered out in his 20’s is hard on his vocal chords. He still put on a very good show.
Overall, Def Leppard sounded and played the best of the night in terms of the music and the mix. How they got their bass frequencies to sound so good at Usana Amphitheater I do not know but it really sounded great and I felt it rattle my chest. My awards for the night are: Best singer – Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, Best Guitarist – C.C. DeVille of Poison, Best Overall Show and Production – Def Leppard!