If you didn’t catch the Tesla, REO Speedwagon and Def Leppard on Saturday at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, you missed one of the biggest bangs for your bucks.
The summer season always brings about some of the best package shows and Saturday night’s offering was no exception. Normally, the package shows are designed for “sheds” (amphitheaters) but arena rock is designed for a big arena and this Smoothie King Center show delivered.
Tesla is one of the most-underrated rock bands.
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They hit the stage at straight up 7 p.m. and played a hit-filled 45-minute set.
Vocalist Jeff Keith is still a great rock singer and his voice sounded top notch on songs such as “Little Susie” and “Love Song.”
REO Speedwagon — dubbed “Biloxi’s house band” by singer Kevin Cronin because of the number of times the group plays the IP Casino Resort in any given year — is one of the best live bands going.
Sure, they put on great shows at the IP, but there’s also something about seeing them on a big stage in front of about 15,000 people that really resonates with me.
From the opening thump of “Don’t Let Him Go” to the ending chorus of the gospel-tinged “Roll With the Changes,” REO pull their show off effortlessly.
I had the chance to visit with Cronin after the show.
We were having a nice chat — REO will be at the IP again in March — when I heard the opening sounds of Def Leppard’s “Let’s Go” fill the arena.
“Man, you don’t want to miss this,” Cronin said.
And he was correct.
I first heard Def Leppard when I was 12 in 1983 and “Pyromania” was released. I loved that album and listened to it constantly until Van Halen released “1984.”
Then, Def Leppard launched the biggest comeback in music history. The band was at the height of its success with “Pyromania” when drummer Rick Allen was injured in an automobile accident. The wreck left him without a left arm.
Instead of giving up or replacing Allen, Def Leppard joined with producer Mutt Lange and released “Hysteria,” which was one of the biggest albums of the 1980s, selling more than 25 million copies.
The imprint of “Hysteria” was all over the band’s New Orleans show. From “Animal,” the second song of the set, to “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” the last song before the encore, Def Leppard played six of the album’s seven singles with “Women” being the only one omitted.
It was great to see Vivian Campbell back rocking with the band — happy, healthy and cancer-free.
Def Leppard delivered a perfect set of what are now rock standards. If you haven’t heard the show-closing “Photograph” performed live, you’re missing out on hearing one of rock’s greatest and biggest songs made even bigger in an arena.