Def Leppard / Journey / Columbia, SC / 11-02-2006

Judging by the crowd at Columbia’s Colonial Center, it’s hard to belive it’s 2006. It’s amazing that the Journey/Def Leppard paring would be one of the top concerts of ’06. It’s incredible that it was almost a capacity crowd. Who would have thought it? Despite all of this, the two bands put on incredible sets of classic material that had the audience going crazy from beginning to end.

After a short opening act by Stoll Vaughn (which featured members of Journey on a few songs), guitarist wizard Neal Schon came out and opened with a blistering solo version of the Star Spangled Banner before launching head first into “Stone in Love.” Temporary replacement singer Jeff Scott Soto owned the material. He has the range and the charisma to lead this band. He ran the stage and had the ladies in the front rows swooning. As a frontman, he’s a better fit for Journey than Steve Augeri. Since this was a co-headline gig, the set was mainly a greatest hits collection. It’s obvious that this is exactly what the crowd wanted. They sang and slow dance to all the mid 80’s rock radio staples. It was simply one hit after another.

Def Leppard came out with “Let’s Get Rocked” and didn’t let up. Their set WAS a greatest hits collection. I’d forgotten how many hits this band had in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The only detour of the hits package was the inclusion of the recent cover of “20th Century Boy.” Of course, even that one is well known. Singer Joe Elliot ran the stage and contrary to other reports, he sounded good. The vocals were a little low in the mix, but it’s clear that Elliot still has it. Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collin traded guitar solos while Rick Savage raced around every inch of the elaborate stage. After celebrating his birthday a day earlier, drummer Rick Allin was all smiles and just looked happy to be there. In fact, the entire band genuinely looked like they were having fun. The crowd was intense and the energy fed to the band really showed. Elliot promised a return to Columbia. Seeing the audience size and reaction, I’ve got a feeling he meant it.

With the back catalog that these bands have as well as the number of hits, I suppose it only makes sense that this tour is one of the year’s biggest. It was a fun night of two veteran bands that know exactly what they’re doing. They know how to put on a quality, fun rock and roll show.