Band relives days of Eighties hysteria on film in Las Vegas

Joe Elliott performs with the band Def Leppard
Joe Elliott performs with the band Def Leppard
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If you were around in 1987 it was hard to miss Sheffield rockers Def Leppard as their album Hysteria soared up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

But such immense success can be a double-edged sword and, as the band’s appeal waned, so they had to fight off calls to perform the album live in their concerts.

All that changed when 
they accepted a residency at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Nine shows quickly sold out. Two more were added.

And to give the band the chance to explore their back catalogue they created a faux tribute act, Ded Flatbird, aka themselves in disguise, which opened the first half of the concert.

Vocalist Joe Elliott was back in Sheffield earlier this month for a preview of Def Leppard Viva! HYSTERIA, a new film of the Vegas shows.

He recalled how acts like The Who and Elton John had made it cool for Leppard to follow suit.

“For years we turned down doing Hysteria,” says the 54-year-old. “They’d always asked when we were promoting another record.

“We just knew that the albatross that it is would overshadow any new 
work.

“We weren’t going to play an entire version of an album that is obviously our most commercial record ever because then people would forget that we had a new record out. So we always 
said no.

“So the fact that they actually asked for Hysteria was one of the reasons that we ended up saying ‘yes’.

“We would have gone to Dubai, it could have been New York, but residencies only seem to happen in Vegas. Or maybe Blackpool. But they didn’t ask so they didn’t get it.”

Spoofing themselves in 
Ded Flatbird – Elliott renamed himself Booty Reuben by stealing random words 
from the covers of Rolling Stone magazines – allowed the Leppard quintet to drift 
back over its 30-plus-years history.

“We opened the first night of the 11 shows with Good Morning Freedom. It’s the B-side of Hello America. We haven’t played it live in 33 years,” Elliott reveals. “We dug so deep into the back catalogue, hardly played any of the hits.”

How did the fans react? “People started buying into it. And we’d do all these crazy songs that half the audience had been crying out for.

“The thing about our set
 list is that the people that moan and groan are such a minority in a crowd that they are only a majority on a website or a forum.”

Having completed half of the gig as doppelgangers Ded Flatbird, Elliott and his bandmates took the stage again as Def Leppard.

That’s when the standards appeared – songs like 
Animal and Pour Some Sugar on Me. Songs they 
can play in their sleep. Is it difficult not to become complacent?

“Complacency is something that’s never, ever happened to us,” says Elliott flatly.

“We’ve all got too much respect for each other. 
So you bust your chops 
every night you go out 
there and you bleed for every chord.

“All I’m interested in is when I say ‘Guys! I’ve had this great idea!’ If their eyes light up and their creative spark is banging off in a room it’s like being 16 still.”

So, still 16 at heart? Elliott smiles. “Oh, full on. Full on.”

Def Leppard VIVA! Hysteria is on DVD now.