After three decades of waiting for a live album from Def Leppard, the U.K. quintet has delivered back to back live releases only two years apart. While 2011’s “Mirrorball” was a long time coming and an incredible record, it lacked the visual element and oomph that “Viva! Hysteria” packs.
“Viva! Hysteria”is a 2CD/1 DVD set that was recorded earlier this spring during the band’s 11 day residency at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The heart of this set is the band’s complete performance of their iconic 1987 album, “Hysteria”. After a four-year absence to follow their breakout 1983 classic, “Pyromania”, the band returned with what is arguably its seminal album: “Hysteria” spawned seven hit singles including six in the Top 10, and has sold more than 20 million copies to make it one of the highest selling albums of all time.
While a complete live rendering of “Hysteria” is spectacular in its own right, diehard fans will find the second half of the album to be the true gem of this package. Each night prior to Def Leppard’s regular set, the band performed a set under the name Ded Flatbird (the world’s greatest Def Leppard cover band). The sets featured tracks that go back to their early albums and EPs through their most recent studio single, “Undefeated”.
Included among the Ded Flatbird sets are; “Good Morning Freedom”, a single that predates their debut album and has only previously appeared in demo or EP form; “Wasted” and “Rock Brigade” from their 1980 debut album, “On Through the Night” (which vocalist Joe Elliott likes to pretend does not exist); seven tracks from their 1981 sophomore album “High ‘n’ Dry”; and rare live cuts like “Stagefright”, “Slang”, and “Action”. The DVD even includes the three song acoustic set; “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”, and “Two Steps Behind”.
In all, “Viva! Hysteria” includes 29 audio tracks and over 150 minutes of music on two CDs, as well as the complete DVD of the full live performances plus an acoustic set, and a photo montage.
Soundwise the performances are exceptional. Def Leppard has always been an amazingly tight live band, but their years of cumulative touring really shine here. At the center of it all, guitarist Phil Collen remains the band’s intangible spark of sonic charisma. He is one of rock’s most underrated guitarists, but his play is so stellar and inspired it almost makes it easy to forget the band has a second six-string hero in Vivian Campbell, who is a star in his own right. Elliott’s voice sounds better than it has in years. Co-founder and bassist Rick Savage along with his rhythmic battery mate, drummer Rick Allen, set a foundation on which this rock and roll circus plays out.
If I could find a singular flaw with this album it would be the absence of any songs from their wonderful 2002 album, “X”, which was also not represented on “Mirrorball”.
“Viva! Hysteria” is an auditory and visual explosion that paints the history of one of music’s most noted practitioners of melodic hard rock. This package offers amazing production and performances delivered in spectacular fashion which demonstrate in no uncertain terms why Def Leppard belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a must own set for casual and diehard fans alike.