Def Leppard Leadmill review: Sheffield welcomes home its greatest rock stars with intimate celebration show

Def Leppard was welcomed home to Sheffield last night in an intimate show with its most ardent, loving fans at the Leadmill.
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It’s been 46 years since the original line-up made their first tentative rehearsals in the old Portland Works Spoon Factory off Bramall Lane, but these iconic rock legends have gone from Tapton secondary school to their massive North American tour last year. Now, they’ve come home to Sheffield to kick off their world tour across 2023 with fellow rock legends Mötley Crüe.

It was something Joe Elliott touchingly reminisced about on stage at The Leadmill on Friday (May 19), surrounded by 800 of the group's most adoring fans. “Wow,” the vocalist remarked, casting his arms across the crowd. “To be playing The Leadmill. We once dreamed of this in 1975, while we were just a couple of miles down the road in the spoon factory, dreaming of being rockstars.”

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Having wrapped up the first leg which took in South America over February and March this year, the band returned for this one-of-a-kind intimate gig before continuing their world tour with a twenty-date run encompassing Europe/UK. But not before Monday’s sold out show Bramall Lane Stadium – poetically, where they will be just 200m from their old spoon factory.

Sheffield's greatest rockstars returned to home The Leadmill last night where Def Leppard treated 800 of their most ardent fans to a celebration of their 40 year career.Sheffield's greatest rockstars returned to home The Leadmill last night where Def Leppard treated 800 of their most ardent fans to a celebration of their 40 year career.
Sheffield's greatest rockstars returned to home The Leadmill last night where Def Leppard treated 800 of their most ardent fans to a celebration of their 40 year career.

Friday’s Leadmill gig, in support of Music Venue Trust, provided the 850 strong, sold-out show with a one-off, never-to-be-repeated setlist of songs from the band’s extensive discography. Adoring fans from as far as Arizona and California packed the venue, and for a brief night it must have felt like a return to the close-knit, ‘still on our way up’ shows of the late 70s.

The boys showed they’ve still got it. Def Leppard’s staying power comes from remaining a precise, brotherly team playing like clockwork, grinning at each other onstage at how much fun they’re having. It’s touching to see Phil Collen still close his eyes and lose himself in his licks, or see Rick thrash his head around as he batters his drumkit. And Joe, whose voice is as clear and ringing after 40 years, can still whip a whole crowd to get their hands in the air.

There was no room for the full orchestra that accompanies their new album, so instead the five focused on a rollercoaster celebration of the past four decades. ‘Intimate’ does not mean a more mature evening – this was a rip-roaring, power hour of their whole career. It must have been a trip for the evening’s lifelong fans to hear powerful hits like Action (2013), Let It Go, (1981) and Excitable (1987) and be gripped by how far they’ve come… only for the boys to bring the house down with Switch 626, Hysteria, and Sugar in one blistering finish, followed by Wasted for the encore.

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The boys didn’t make it a political evening by mentioning the elephant in the room of The Leadmill team’s upcoming eviction. But they and so many other Sheffield bands have sworn fealty to the outgoing team, and it's almost certain intimate experiences like this could soon be just a fantasy. For this one night at least, the Steel City got to host one of the most electric, trueborn Sheffield shows possible.

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