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Heart pours it on audience, outplays Def Leppard with long set

Def Leppard. You remember the band, even if you aren't a fan. In my estimation, the band lost its mojo after its second album, "High and Dry." For others, Def Leppard meant nothing until it became renowned for massive, Bon Jovi-esque crossover hits like "Photograph," and later, "Animal" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me."

Regardless, we all know this band, and a healthy enough portion to come close to packing Darien Lake's PAC on a lousy night speckled with thunderstorms still thinks this band is the major stuff.

Are they wrong? Somewhat. Def Leppard turned in a strong, incredibly polished and powerful performance that included the band's biggest '80s hits, selections from its collection of cover songs, and an acoustic mini-set. The crowd ate it up and screamed throughout.

Leppard, led by singer Joe Elliott's throaty roar delivered some serious goods.

Leppard arrived on the stage with a gorgeous light show, a nice multi-tiered stage and some nifty video projections. Tearing into "Undefeated," the band drove its glitzy, glam-inflected metal straight into the craniums of the assembled. Subtlety was not the order of the day, and no one wanted it to be. "Let's Get Rocked" into "Animal" made it clear that one need not be particularly cerebral to grab the attention of a listener. Stacked chorus vocals, huge guitars and a dumb hook will do the trick just fine.

"Animal" became a crowd singalong; "Love Bites" displayed the band's penchant for uber-powerful metal ballads; "Foolin' " was as deep as the band went into its catalog, and had the metal heads in the crowd grooving on its UFO-esque riff.

Elliott sang well, even if he did have considerable help from a soundman who knew exactly when to bathe the singer's efforts in reverb and delay. Guitarists Vivian Campbell -- who played on Dio's "Holy Diver" album, and is therefore a legend, whatever he might've done after -- and Phil Collen offered an incredibly tight twin guitar interplay.

Campbell is the more refined player, as he proved during an extended intro to "Love Bites," but Collen plays fast and looks good with his shirt off -- something he seems eager to prove, since he's played shirtless for almost two decades now -- and seems to be the fan favorite.

Leppard kicked up an enjoyable fuss, and seemed to be plucking the heartstrings of its fans throughout the evening. But having Heart open for you is a risky endeavor. Heart's set was not meant to blow the headliners off the stage, but that is indeed what happened. Heart stole the show, on every musical level. The Wilson sisters -- Ann and guitarist/vocalist Nancy and band -- played an hour-plus set that was simply mind-blowing.

Ann's voice was incredibly agile throughout a set that opened with Led Zeppelin's "Rock 'n' Roll" and closed with that same band's "The Battle of Evermore." In between, we were treated to a lesson in how to age gracefully in the world of rock. This band has never sounded better.



Def Leppard with Heart    

Sunday evening in the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center.

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