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Concert Reviews:
Def Leppard, Journey Rock The Ages At DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Def Leppard sang "Let's Get Rocked" and the sold-out crowd at the DTE Energy Music Theatre did on Monday night, to the double-pronged attack of hit-filled sets from the British rock veterans and its similarly long-in-the-tooth tour partner Journey.

It was in some ways a case study of how the right summer pairing can be more than the sum of its parts. Both groups are well past their commercial primes of the '70s and '80s -- when this kind of double-bill would have been a stadium-sized affair -- but together they represent solid value and a strong hit-to-dollar ratio, even with top pavilion prices at $88.

And let's not forget the nostalgia factor for all those younger end baby boomers who were ushered into the arena rock world by Journey's "Wheel in the Sky" or Def Leppard's "Bringin' on the Heartbreak."

But in 2006 both bands stand in defiant opposition to anyone who suspects they've become broken-down dinosaurs. Both quintets were trim and tight, more than capable of delivering their sets with an energy similar to their heydays. There wasn't a song from later than 1992 played during the entire evening, but that clearly didn't matter to the fist-pumping, arm-waving fans who clearly didn't come to see either band re-invent themselves.

Journey, however, continued the campaign it started several years ago to reclaim its stature as a rock band. Though its 16-song set featured a few of the heart-wringing ballads -- particularly "Open Arms" and "Faithfully," sung by drummer Dean Castronovo -- that made the group a critical whipping post during the '80s, it mostly focused on harder rocking fare highlighting Neal Schon's guitar solos, ranging from hits ("Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," "Separate Ways," "Stone in Love," "Don't Stop Believin' ") to early '80s album cuts such as "Edge of the Blade," "Keep on Runnin'," "Escape" and "Dead or Alive."

The band, a longtime Detroit favorite, was also bolstered by frontman Jeff Scott Soto, standing in for an ailing Steve Augeri. Not quite the clone of former Journey singer Steve Perry that Augeri is, Soto instilled a more soulful grit to the songs but still hewing close enough to their original sound.

Going on after dark, Def Leppard was able to employ a light show to give its performance some added flash, but the British group's melodic, hooky brand of hard rock accomplished that as well. Opening with Sweet's "Hellraiser," one of three songs the group played from its new covers album, "Yeah!," Def Lep chugged through anthems such as "Let's Get Rocked," "Let it Go," and "Foolin'," with only a couple of stumbles -- an over-mannered version of David Essex's "Rock On" and an over-extended rendition of its own "Rocket" -- to slow the pace.

But the group bounced back with a flowing triple play of "Photograph," "Armageddon It" and "Animal" leading into a crashing rendition of "Rock of Ages" -- an appropriate summation of what both bands gave its audience on Monday.



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