Def Leppard / REO Speedwagon / Tesla



Veterans Memorial Coliseum : Madison, WI

Although I was attending this concert in 2016 to see Tesla, REO Speedwagon and Def Leppard, it sure felt like 1980-something. Here I was in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to see bands that have had their greatest years in the 80’s. The Coliseum, which probably looks exactly like it did three decades ago, actually felt like a time machine warping me back to the days of excess. Walking past the line of women to use the rest-room was total Dèjá Vu: Long hair, Def Leppard shirts, and some smoking (indoors) as they wait. Yes, the night was filled with nostalgia.

As the house lights went down and the stage lit up, Tesla kicked off their 40 minute set. Many of the songs played were from their debut album, Mechanical Resonance, which just happens to celebrate it’s 30th anniversary this month. The band was tight and they put on a great show even with the little stage room that was provided for them. The biggest crowd reactions came from their classics; ‘Signs’ and ‘Love Song’. Lead singer Jeff Keith looks and sounds just like he did 30 years ago, adding to the nostalgic vibe. Ending with ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, Tesla was off the stage way too soon. This is one band that should have been a lot bigger than they were.

After a quick intermission, REO Speedwagon hit the stage with a slightly slowed down version of ‘Don’t Let Him Go’. I was concerned by this. Does lead singer Kevin Cronin still have what it takes? Many bands that still tour in their golden years often slow down or down-tune songs, making it easier for the singers to perform them. My worries disolved soon after, as both Kevin and the band put on one hell of a show. Although REO has a large staple of hits, several songs played in their hour long set never charted. You wouldn’t have known it by the crowd reaction, but a song like ‘Tough Guys’ was not a big radio single for them. Yet it seemed everyone knew the words and were singing along. They ended with ‘Roll With The Changes’, and left the crowd screaming for more. While some older bands really should hang it up, REO Speedwagon proved they still has some gas left in the tank.

A big banner proclaiming the next band was up long enough for the roadies to set the stage for the 3rd and final act of the night. Suddenly it disappeared and fans were treated to the sights and sounds of Def Leppard. Kicking things off with ‘Let’s Go’ from their latest release, the song had that classic Def Leppard sound. There set contained many crowd favorite such as ‘Animal’, ‘Foolin’, ‘Armageddon It’, and ‘Hysteria’. New songs ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Are You Man Enough’ sounded good, fit with the older songs, and were received well.

The one low point of the show was their cover of ‘Rock On’ half way through their set list, which gave fans time to hit the bathroom or grab another drink. This song is not new for them, and never seems to go over very well. Why they continue to perform it is beyond me. The two encore songs, ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’, were the obvious choices to close out the night. Over-all, all three bands sounded great and made this concert a must see for the classic rock fan.