Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon & Tesla Rock Jones Beach, NY 7-11-16

Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon & Tesla Rock Jones Beach, NY 7-11-16

Milestones are always fun to celebrate, and that is exactly what English Rock band Def Leppard is doing for the 35th anniversary of one of their best selling albums, High ‘N’ Dry. Released on July 11, 1981, it charted at #38 on the United States Billboard 200 and at #26 on the United Kingdom Albums Chart, eventually reaching double platinum status. The album’s success laid the foundation for many other chart-topping releases as the band attained their greatest commercial success all through the 1980s well into the early 1990s. Through it all, they have been through several trials and tribulations but have persevered, and even excelled, overcoming any obstacle that came their way. So it comes as no surprise that these Rock-n-Roll warriors are going strong nearly four decades later as they spend the summer of 2016 touring North America with REO Speedwagon and special guest Tesla.

A tour that began back in May, it runs well into October with stops coast to coast, and the beautiful evening of Monday, July 11th, the actual anniversary date of High ‘N’ Dry, Def Leppard made their way to the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York. A venue they have a lasting relationship with, Def Leppard seems to make it a regular destination each summer tour. An experience Long Island Rock fans look forward, many were adorned in their concert t-shirts from Def Leppard’s past tours, and being this show was just a little more special, they were ready to celebrate well into the night.

Starting the evening out rocking hard, California’s Tesla took the stage with high energy. Of the five man band, there are four original members – Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass), Troy Luccketta (drums), with the newest member since 2006, Dave Rude (guitar). All in all, Tesla has been on the scene for three decades, taking a hiatus in the late 1990s, then reforming in the early 2000s. Also rather familiar with the setting of Jones Beach, Telsa was welcomed back with open arms as the first band on tap.

Kicking right into high gear, they started their set with “Rock Me to the Top,” from their 1986 debut release, Mechanical Resonance, and kept it moving right along with 1991’s “Edison’s Medicine.” Always a colorful frontman, Keith shouted out, “Hello Long Island! We are glad to be back!” as Metal horns rose in the air and screams returned the greeting. Moving into a couple of songs off of their 1989 release of Great Radio Controversy, “Hang Tough” and “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” acoustic guitars were soon brought on stage for the hit everyone knows well, Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs.”

When the well-known cover concluded, Keith said, “Read that sign, it says Tesla!” With a big smile on his face, he pointed at the backdrop of the stage. Going on to introduce Hannon and Rude, Keith encouraged the audience to show his bandmates some love as they both strapped on acoustic guitars to begin “Love Song.” Soon the band joined in and the remainder of the song was all electric as the audience stood, cheering well into “Little Suzi.” Approaching the end of their set, Keith stated, “We have time for one more song. We hope you have a great night!” rocking the audience with “Modern Day Cowboy.” Thirty years of Rock-n-Roll, Tesla still has it and Long Island still loves it.

During the intermission there was a light breeze with puffy clouds complementing a stunning blue sky, and as more people filed in, the energy level was on the rise for REO Speedwagon. Hailing from the windy city of Chicago, REO Speedwagon formed almost fifty years ago and they have sold over forty million records and charted thirteen Top 40 hits over their career. Darlings of Classic Rock, they have seen several lineup changes over the years, but the music has always stayed strong as they play to packed crowds night after night. Fitting for an arena setting, their dedicated followers patiently awaited for the set to begin.

Coming out on stage was Kevin Cronin (lead vocals/rhythm guitar/piano), Dave Amato (lead guitar/vocals), Bruce Hall (bass/vocals), Bryan Hitt (drums), and long time member, Neal Doughty (keyboards) as they kicked right off with hits “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Take It On The Run,” from their best selling album, 1980’s Hi Infidelity. Filling the air with delightful melodies, before playing any further, Cronin took a moment to talk about “how crazy the world can be” and that people need to be aware of others and “to be good to each other.” Considering the onslaught of bad news in 2016, the audience clearly agreed as they cheered in recognition of what he said.

After the positive message, the Speedwagon let the music do the talking with “Keep Pushin.’” Cronin then spoke about relationships and heartbreak, ending it by saying, “If my heart had never been broken, I never would have been able to write the following song,” and that song would be the radio hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” Playing another hit from Hi Infidelity, “Tough Guys,” they went right into a crowd-favorite in the form of 1978’s “Time for Me to Fly.” Changing it up some, Cronin introduced Hall as the lead singer for “Back on the Road Again” before Cronin took back the lead vocal spotlight for “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

With many standing on their feet, giving the band their full attention, Cronin walked over to the piano and a rush of cheering began as they played another smash hit from Hi Infidelity, “Keep On Loving You.” The vocalist would remained at the piano for the beginning of their finale, “Roll With the Changes,” as fans had their hands in the air cheering madly before Cronin said, “Keep on rolling Jones Beach! What you say?” The audience cheered and hollered as Cronin introduced each band member before ending with “We are REO Speedwagon, we love you New York!” A sentiment New York reciprocates, REO Speedwagon is the perfect band to rock with on a summer night, and they proved so with an amazing set.

The relaxing breeze coming off the bay behind the venue continued to flow as the sun was now almost set with an awesome hue of oranges, pinks and purples filling the sky above. Taking the downtime to refill their drinks, everyone promptly returned to their seats with time to spare for headliners Def Leppard. Creating some curiosity, a large banner hid the stage with the band’s logo on it, as the anticipation grew even stronger. Then, in the flash of a moment, stage lights glowed as the banner was dropped down as Joe Elliott (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar/vocals), Vivian Campbell (guitars/vocals), Rick Savage (bass/vocals), and Rick Allen (drums/vocals) rushed out, provoking everyone to immediately rise from their seats.

Rocking hard, they started the evening off with a song from their latest release, 2015’s Def Leppard, “Let’s Go.” An album many consider one of Def Leppard’s best in some time, it was a well-received opening that led right into “Animal” before Elliott enthusiastically greeted the audience, encouraging them to get louder. Expressing further excitement, Elliott acknowledged it was a special evening as it marked the 35th anniversary of their 1981 High ‘N’ Dry album. A moment that was met with more cheers, it led the way into classic hit “Let It Go” before Elliot stated, “We will play you some old songs and some new, this is from our newest album,” before kicking into the smooth guitar-sounding “Dangerous.”

Taking everyone back in time again, crowd-favorite, 1983’s “Foolin’,” saw Collen take the spotlight during his blistering guitar solo. Keeping the hits coming, “Love Bites” gave fans a treat with Campbell taking center stage for a solo of his own. Both well-accomplished guitarists, the two of them both showed why they deserve back to back showcases. Then “Armageddon It” had the guys rocking and the girls shaking all they had as they danced at their seats. A brief breather from the music, Elliot went on to thank everyone and asked how they were, which was met with a nearly deafening response. Happy to see everyone was doing just fine, Elliot went on to speak about how the band was influenced by the music of the late 1970s as they went into David Essex song “Rock On;” a modern signature in the band’s set since they released a cover of it on 2006’s Yeah!.

Keeping the music fresh, they did another new track, “Man Enough,” before quickly bringing the audience back to the 1980s with “Rocket” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.” During “Switch 625,” Allen dazzled the crowd with his fancy footwork on the drums as he sweat, showing dedication. Performing another crowd pleaser, they offered “Hysteria” before Elliott asked, “Do you wanna rock?” to which audience yelled “Yea!” leading into “Let’s Get Rocked.” Wrapping up 2016’s visit to Long Island, Pop-favorite “Pour Some Sugar On Me” had all singing and on their feet prior to the band’s exit. A brief departure, they soon returned to screaming and adoring fans to play their two-song encore, smash hits “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” before graciously praising the audience for their support.

If one thing is certain, it is that this combination of three bands brings fun, high energy, and a list of hits that would be difficult to top. Each act clearly gave the fans their all with stellar performances, and with so many shows still to come, be sure to catch at least one before this Arena Rock dream dissipates.

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Diane Woodcheke
Diane Woodcheke
[email protected]

Diane has had her eye on a camera viewfinder since she was very young. She specializes in Fine Art, Event, and Concert Photography. She is also a writer of concert and album reviews, as well as contributing various online publications such as CrypticRock.

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