For almost 40 years, Def Leppard has graced stages around the world. The band has sold millions upon millions of records worldwide and has had numerous hit singles. The group’s name and sound has become synonymous with the word “rock,” and its power over audiences transcends generations.
For Joe Elliott, lead singer of Def Leppard, that power is something he has never underestimated.
“If I knew the answer to that, I would bottle it and sell it,” Elliott said when asked what it is about Def Leppard that appeals to all ages.
“If you catch people at a certain age and don’t mess up, you can keep them forever. Like Bowie had me forever. Mott the Hoople had me forever. Queen, T. Rex — all these bands that I caught when I was 12 or 13. You know, they were my bands. And all you can hope for is that we were the same for the generation down from us and that we were one of the bands that they clinged on to,” Elliott said.
Def Leppard will take the stage as part of the Machias Savings Bank Concert Series on Friday, June 24, at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, and Elliott said that audiences can expect to have a great time.
“For those who have never been, they can expect a highly visual, highly aural show. We like to put on a show where people go, ‘Wow, that’s the best show I’ve seen all year.’ We play all the songs that everybody expects to hear, we play songs they won’t expect to hear, and with our new album out, we’ll play some new songs,” Elliott said, referencing Def Leppard’s newest self-titled album, which was released in October 2015.
Elliott and Def Leppard last played in Bangor in 2012 with Poison and Lita Ford, but this time, the band is touring with REO Speedwagon and Tesla.
Elliott, who was battling illness in January and having trouble with his voice, is back to performing and said that his voice is “getting stronger over time.”
“You have to wait it out and get yourself back up again,” Elliott said.
For Def Leppard, this recent challenge was one among many that the group has faced over the years.
“The fact that we’ve actually managed to stay together without beating the crap out of each other is miraculous,” Elliott said with a laugh. “We’ve had plenty of things put in our way. It gives you perspective. When your first guitarist is kind of sacked, or asked to leave, because he has an enormous drinking problem, your other guitarist eventually dies of [an addiction], and your drummer, in between, loses an arm … those kinds of things that would split lesser bands, or lesser incidents that would split even better bands — we don’t really take them as seriously as most people would, because when you’ve had those obstacles, they kind of pull you together and give you perspective. We’re really fortunate that we’ve been on the same page, pretty much every day since we’ve been together. We’ve wanted to be as positive and uplifting as we can and make music that makes people smile.”
It’s that perspective, along with the group’s unique take on music, that has helped the band endure over the years.
“With us, it’s like pop rock, and I say that for all the best reasons, because we’re a rock band and we’ve done pop hit singles,” Elliott said of the band’s style.
“At the peak of our power, we were rubbing shoulders with the likes of Janet and Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Celine Dion. We were the sore thumb in the top five. I thought that was fantastic, because we were representing rock in a pop environment. That meant that our music was more accessible than most rock bands and that’s because we were embracing more than rock,” Elliott said.
“Most rock bands just listen to rock music, but we were listening to everything from the Beach Boys to Kate Bush to Tom Waits to R&B and Motown. We grew up just liking songs. I think that’s why we gravitated toward each other. We were never afraid to really like that song by Jackson 5 or by Marvin Gaye. … That’s all part of why we are who we are.”
For Def Leppard, Elliott said that entertaining is where they shine, and is what they have come to pride themselves on over the years.
“We just want to entertain and have fun with it. It’s just where we came from. Our upbringing led us in that direction, and there’s no shame in that. There’s no harm in having a band that entertains. That’s what people want to see,” Elliott said.