I’ve been a fan of the Sheffield lads since they were at the forefront of the NWOBHM in 1979. Back then they were still considered metal. It wasn’t until their early 80’s aural homogenization that the turned into what they refer to as a “light alloy” band. In that three plus decades I have been waiting patiently for a live Def Leppard album. Buying bootlegs here and there, and cobbling together loose tracks randomly. It become something of a hobby. So one might think I would be thrilled that the boys finally antied up after all these years to give their diehard fans what they’ve been waiting for. Uh, not so much.
The first time I saw the band live was in Salt Lake City, Utah (part of Mirror Ball was recorded there) on their High ‘N Dry tour, 1981. They played with Blackfoot, and I waited in line all day long to get the front row. They played much of their first and second albums. But none of that is represented on Mirror Ball.
Def Leppard fans, especially the casual ones, will be quite happy to add this new triple disc set (the third disc is a DVD with behind the scenes footage and a couple of Songs From The Sparkle Lounge videos), because it’s primarily a greatest hits live package, with three new studio songs. And if this were twenty years ago, that would have been fine. But thirty years on, it’s a bit of a disappointment. We deserved better. We deserved more. We’ve earned it through our years of loyalty. Some deep cuts, something.
Don’t get me wrong, Mirror Ball is an excellent live album, and shows off just how proficient and talented these guys are on stage. Having seen them a couple dozen times over the years I can tell you they are not a studio fabrication. The dissatisfaction with this record is what they left off. While I’m completely aware that they can’t please everyone with their song choices and they have limited space, there’s simply no reason that after 30 years they couldn’t represent each of their dozen albums with at least one song.
We’ve known for years that vocalist Joe Elliott is not a fan of the band’s debut album, On Through The Night, though for many fans, it’s among our favorites, and the record that started it all for us. To not represent is at all here is a slap in the face to those fans who have been there since the start. “Wasted” should have been on this record, and though Joe hates it, I know guitarist Phil Collen loves the song and would likely have loved to include it.
From their sophomore album, High ‘n Dry, the first produced by Mutt Lange, the band did throw in “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” and “Switch 625”. But it sure would have been nice to hear something more rocking than the hit ballad.
Of course the band’s three multi-platinum 80’s beasts, Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize are all handily covered here. They make up 13 of the 19 live regular tracks. Def Leppard also slipped in three songs from their latest studio album, 2008’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge;“C’mon, C’mon”, “Nine Lives” and a bonus track, “Bad Actress”.
In all, eight of the band’s 12 records are covered, but aside from 1979’s On Through The Night, they left out the three albums that represented two decades of their career, the experimental Slang, Euphoria, and X. The latter two in particular contained some of the band’s best material, and were better in my book than Sparkle Lounge. Hits like “Demolition Man”, “Promises”, “Four Letter Word” and “Now”, are all missing. Twenty years is a good chunk of your career to dismiss.
So there is my sermon from the soapbox. It would have been nice to get an album that covered all 30 plus years in some respect, especially since it’s not likely there will ever be a second live record from Leppard.
The pros of Mirror Ball are obvious. We finally have not just a live comemorative of Def Leppard’s legendary concerts with the guys playing at peak performance. The set is two CDs plus the DVD. The two CD’s contain 21 live tracks plus three new studio recordings, including the new hit, “Undefeated”. As so many of the larger bands are doing these days, Def Leppard is selling the physical set exclusively throughout Wal-mart. The price is under $12. A good deal all around.
On quality, production and price Mirror Ball gets a 9.5, but I have to take a point off for not giving the diehard fans something more after 30 years than a live greatest hits package.