Def Leppard and Kiss strut their stuff in New Jersey

Kiss guitarists Tommy Thayer (left) and Paul Stanley in action Aug. 3 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Kiss guitarists Tommy Thayer (left) and Paul Stanley are shown in action Aug. 3 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

By Chris M. Junior

Even the most casual fan in attendance had to know what to expect from Def Leppard and Kiss before either one played a single note at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J., on Aug. 3.

With the bands serving as co-headliners, that essentially meant shorter-than-usual sets (about 75 minutes each, as it turned out) loaded with signature songs. But there wasn’t any noticeable dropoff in their respective stage productions, and the Camden crowd constantly expressed its appreciation for the theatrics and graphics that enhanced the music.

Following its live finish to the studio version of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Def Leppard launched into “Let It Go,” the lead track from 1981’s “High ’n’ Dry” album. After that, the band’s focus was mostly huge chart hits and FM rock-radio favorites, among them “Animal,” “Love Bites,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Hysteria” (during which late guitarist Steve Clark was shown in video footage and still photos). The other exception was another “High ’n’ Dry” track, the instrumental “Switch 625,” which Def Leppard seamlessly transitioned to following an impressive acoustic-to-electric rendition of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak.”

Def Leppard's Phil Collen (left) and Joe Elliott exchange smiles during the band's set on Aug. 3. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Def Leppard’s Phil Collen (left) and Joe Elliott exchange smiles during the band’s set on Aug. 3. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Covering all parts of the stage, Joe Elliott provided a crash course in how a frontman should work a crowd: thrusting his microphone forward to encourage fans to sing along (and sometimes clapping in appreciation when they did), employing the tried and true come-over-here index-finger motion along with the I-can’t-hear-you ear-cupping move, even throwing in a raspy insert-state-here crowd acknowledgement (“Whaddaya say, New Jersey?” he said during “Two Steps Behind”). Guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell played with precision, ease and flair, but — like always — they avoided the extensive, gratuitous noodling and comical mugging often associated with hard-rock solos.

Kiss leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are no slouches either when it comes to showmanship. Early in Kiss’ set (kudos to the band’s lighting staff), which began with the one-two punch of “Psycho Circus” and “Deuce,” bassist Simmons customarily flashed the entirety of his reported seven-inch tongue, and guitarist Stanley placed a pick on the tip of his own (considerably shorter) tongue. Later on, sparks flew from the headstock of Tommy Thayer’s guitar, and Simmons spit up fake blood prior to the stomping “God of Thunder.”

Like the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — and by sticking with what works best, Kiss once again satisfied its wide-ranging fan base.

The Def Leppard/Kiss tour continues Aug. 5 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. That show will be followed by 17 more concerts in North America, the last of which is scheduled for Aug. 31 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas.

Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Kiss bassist Gene Simmons (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

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