CD Review: Def Leppard – Mirror Ball (Live and More)

Def Leppard - Mirror Ball

It’s actually hard to believe that Def Leppard has never released a live album in its entire career. There have been hundreds of bonus cuts and live recordings released on EPs and foreign imports, but never one collection on CD. There may be one exception – the home video Live: In the Round, in Your Face, which was released in 1989 and further released on DVD in 2002. The video featured a complete concert from the Hysteria World Tour in 1988 during the band’s absolute peak.

Mirror Ball: Live and More might not find the band as popular as it was during the Hysteria Tour, but it does capture the band’s essence in 2008 and 2009. While the hype might be gone, the performance has gone up quite a bit.

Mostly concentrating on Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize tracks, the 2 CD collection doesn’t dive too far into the history books and subtly avoids most of the post-Adrenalize material. It’s a collection of the band’s popular tracks as they are played now. In fact, the real highlight of Mirror Ball is the new unreleased track Undefeated (one of three new tracks), which sounds as good, or better, than most of the classics on the live portion of the album.

The only obvious difference between the 1989 Leppard and the one on Mirror Ball is that Joe Elliot’s voice has matured from the high pitched metal screamer we first saw belting out Photograph in the popular music video from the 80s. Elliot has developed a coarser voice over the years, which give the tracks new life and new emotion and take the band in a slightly more modern sound.

Another, not as obvious, difference between the two live recordings is that Steve Clark powered the guitar sound of In Your Face. Clark, who was the driving guitarist behind the big hits, had been replaced by Vivian Campbell when he died in 1991 and the duo of Campbell and Phil Collen have held their own ever since. For guitar fans there is a difference, but to music lovers, Campbell and Collen provide a one-two punch that is almost un-noticeable and often under-rated.

Surprisingly, Mirror Ball is a great listen. It sounds complete. It could easily be a killer greatest hits concert. Even though live albums never truly capture the aura and sound of an audience quite like being there, Mirror Ball does a good job balancing the crowd with the music. I can remember seeing Leppard in Saskatoon in a display of one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever heard  and although being there was amazing, it would have probably made an annoying recording.

It’s fun to hear all the Leppard classics in concert, but nothing can beat the real deal when they come to your town.