(by Erik Ofgang)
Backstage at a Def Leppard concert is not quite what you’d expect.
Instead of groupies, drugs and alcohol, there are band members wives, young children and worst of all a juicer. That’s because Def Leppard has always been more about the music than wild offstage antics said Vivian Campbell, the band’s guitarist for the last two decades. But don’t worry the family friendly living hasn’t dampened the power of the group’s live shows which still blast with epic head-banging guitar God glory.
The hard rock super group known for such mammoth hits as “Photograph,” “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, “Hysteria” and “Love Bites” will perform a Las Vegas show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Sept. 4. In a recent phone interview, Campbell talked about some of the misconceptions about the band and what it’s like performing in Vegas.
What is the current show like?
VC: Any Def Leppard show is always going to be dictated by the hit songs. We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of genuine hit songs. Most people coming to the show are going to expect to hear them so it is going to feature those hot chestnuts. We do try to make it a little bit different from previous shows both musically and in terms of the physical presentation. We have a different stage set from last time, we have a different video presentation.
Do you ever get tired of playing the classics over and over again?
VC: To be honest, yeah, it would be great to go out and do obscure stuff. Instead of playing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” every show it would be more fun for us to go out and play an album cut from the “High ‘n’ Dry” album or something. Having said that every time that we go on stage we’re playing in front of a different audience so the audience becomes like the sixth member of the group and it’s exciting for the audience because even though we’ve played “Photograph” a million times before that might be their first time hearing it. There’s an energy that the audience brings to a show that’s really, really vital to what it is that we give back. We do require that from our audience and we’re very fortunate that we seem to always get it. There’s also the part of us that still genuinely enjoys what we’re doing. We realize that this is all we ever wanted to do since we were kids. We feel privileged to be able to do this and actually make a living at it. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
How did you start playing in the group?
VC: I am the new guy. It’s almost 20 years now, I am the Ronnie Wood of Def Leppard. Steve Clark the original guitar player died in 1991 while the band was recording the “Adrenalize” album. Joe Elliott (the band’s lead singer) called me and I joined the band. It’s an interesting thing because I had been in a bunch of other bands prior to that and I’d just about given up on wanting to be in a band. When Joe called me I was actually working on doing a solo record and I thought I was going to have to go it alone because I’d been in a couple of major bands and I’d been fired from both. Def Leppard’s a very, very unique band. The band’s that I’d been fired from were basically singers and whoever they wanted to work with for that particular year or whatever.
You guys obviously have some real hard core fans. What’s the craziest thing a fan’s ever done either at a show or when they’ve seen you on the street?
VC: Nothing too crazy has gone on with us. We do have very, very devoted fans and very committed fans and we have a lot of fans that have been with the band since the start. Aside from that we’re very fortunate that we seem to be picking up newer generations of fans as we go. We’ve also been the kind of band that more or less keeps our head down and focuses on our work. We’re not a celebrity band. We’re not like Motley Crue where you read about people getting arrested, or marrying models or getting divorced from actresses. We’ve always been more like an AC/DC if you would. I think because of that we’ve never kind of really had any major incidents that are newsworthy and that’s fine with us, that kind of suits our personalities and how we were brought up. We all got into this because we had a love of music and we wanted to play the instruments – we didn’t want to work in factories.
Are there any misconceptions about you guys?
VC: As far as off stage shenanigans we’re probably one of the dullest band’s ever. People always want to come backstage, I swear to God you go backstage at a Def Leppard show we have a juicer, an espresso machine, a message therapist, a personal trainer. Today if you saw the backstage area Joe Elliott’s son is here, he’s a year and half old. Rick Allen’s 14-year-old daughter is here as is his one-year-old daughter. The wives are here. One of my daughters was just out visiting. It’s not what people think and granted it wasn’t always like this back in the day things were a little bit different but still Leppard’s never been a celebrity tabloid band and we’ve never wanted to be.
You’ve played in Vegas before. Any thoughts on Vegas as a city and your past shows here?
VC: It’s a good looking audience I’ll give it that. It’s always fun to look out at a sea of beautiful people. It’s an unusual time, there’s no city in the world like Vegas and we always find that we’ve been well appreciated there.
Thanks for answering our questions Vivian!