Do You Wanna Get Rocked?

It’s been 23 years since Def Leppard stepped onto a stage at Donington and in that time a lot of things have changed, most notably the festival’s name. One thing has remained consistent throughout; Def Leppard’s ability to rock and as the headliners of what’s been dubbed Classic Sunday take to the stage, its clear that’s something that will never alter.

With Union Jack’s flying both across the field and on the screens behind them, it’s almost like a hero’s return that welcomes the Sheffield band as ‘Rocket’ greets the awaiting masses. Strangely sticking to their newer material to start, tracks like ‘C’Mon, C’Mon’ and ‘Nine Lives’ help to bring Leppard’s vast back catalogue up to date but it’s the classics such as ‘Photograph’ and ‘Love Bites’ that ignites the crowd, the latter receiving a hearty sing along that commands arms to sway in the air whilst the visual collage of circus scenes that accompany ‘Animal’ on the screens is matched only by the wave of “woo oahs” that the crowd throw back at the Sheffield quintet.

Tonight was always going to be an emotional affair for the British band whose success in America has somewhat paled in significance on their own turf. Monsters Of Rock marked the resurrection of the band following drummer Rick Allen’s horrific car crash and subsequent loss of his arm back in 1984, it was there at Donington that the band played their first gig together again, something singer Joe Elliot isn’t going to let go unnoticed tonight. As the last bursts of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ thump across the field, Elliot pauses to reflect on that moment, asking the crowd to applaud Allen, a gesture that soon has the sticks man overcome with emotion. It’s a moving moment for all, the crowd offering him a standing ovation eclipsed only by the cheering that seems endless as Allen stands for the crowd, clearly overcome by the adoration he is receiving. Eventually it’s left to Elliot to bring a halt to proceedings, apologising to his band mate for leaving him “blubbing over his cymbals” before the band plough through an almost greatest hits of a finale. Banging and strutting with attitude, ‘Rock Of Ages’ stomps and stamps with added confidence that is only hushed by the lighter in the air sensitivity of ‘When Love And Hate Collide’ (and yes it was lighters, no mobiles as this was old school!). In the end though only one song could bring Download to a conclusion and as Elliot’s irremovable grin amazingly gets wider, he jokingly asks “do you wanna get rocked?”, resulting in a rush of euphoria engulfing the crowd as the anthem for every teenage rocker transforms the masses into adolescents once more.

Some of the audience weren’t even born the last time Def Leppard graced the Donington stage and yet 23 years down the line, they still manage to pull a diverse crowd from the young kids whose weekend was supposed to revolve around Slipknot’s slot to the rock veterans who witnessed it all those years ago. It was a set to unite the age gaps, a set to cement Leppard in the British rock chronicles and it was a set that didn’t fail. Sure, Slipknot may have used up everyone’s energy quota the night before, but Leppard were able to fittingly bring the festival to a close. After all, don’t we all just wanna get rocked?