In need of a little more sweetness
Def Leppard will always hold a special place in their heart for Donington. Their appearance at the Monsters of Rock Festival in 1986 was a meaningful occasion, marking the return of drummer Rick Allen after the tragic accident in which he lost his left arm. Returning in 2009, twenty three years later to headline Download Festival was also an emotional night, with the band finally feeling that they had come full circle. The return of any headlining band just two years after their last appearance would feel premature, but with 2009 having taken the limelight, there was just simply no sense of occasion going into the first night of Download Festival 2011.
Following an incredible set from The Darkness, nothing but the very best would suffice. As Def Leppard commenced with new track 'Undefeated,' hopes drastically fell. Will a plethora of classic and beloved hits, why gamble before the show has even had the chance to get going? If the band were performing to an arena full of Def Leppard fans, this would have been less of an issue, but in a festival scenario where attendees are not necessarily huge fans in the first place, this was not a wise move.
The five-piece do still sound great, led by 51-year-old frontman Joe Elliott whose voice shows no real signs of aging. Supported by an aesthetically-pleasing backdrop of vivid lighting and visual screens, the Def Leppard show was not only easy on the ears, but pleasing to the eyes. And with the extravagant lighting of Pendulum's show to compete with on the second stage, this was no bad thing. However, it was only towards the end of the set that the Def Leppard vehicle had finally begun cruising in a convincingly comfortable gear, knocking out ever-wonderful tracks like 'Animal' and 'Pour Some Sugar On Me'. 'Two Steps Behind' and 'Bringin' On the Heartbreak' had both functioned as a welcome change of pace, the acoustic sounds gently drifting out into the drizzly Donington night, but they understandably hindered the excitement levels from rising higher.
Leaving the Donington site, it seemed that second stage headliners Pendulum had won the popularity contest, drawing a more impressive crowd than the 80s rockers. The selection of Def Leppard as a main stage headliner in 2009 was acceptable, but to invite them to return so quickly was a very poor decision. The quintet still provides an enjoyable, fan-pleasing show, but this instance undoubtedly did support the notion that variety is the spice of life.