Joe Elliott’s deep cut guilt
Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott believes his band have no option but to play a set of hits on tour – and he sometimes feels guilty about it.
Yet every time he tries to address the issue by changing the setlist around, it winds up backfiring.
The Sheffield giants are preparing to tour the US with Poison and Lita Ford, and the frontman vows to give fans what the want – as long as the fans keep letting the band have their own way from time to time.
Elliott tells KFAB: “People come to hear what they know. The only place people go psychologically prepared for an hour of brand-new music is an open mic night in some little bar.
“You don’t go to Madison Square Garden expecting to hear two hours of brand new Paul McCartney, Def Leppard, Roger Waters or the Who. You go to see Quadrophenia, something you’ve owned for 40 years. That’s what these gigs are.”
But he knows that’s not enough for some fans. “There’s always a little thread on the website: ‘They never changed the set,’” he says. “But you change the set and 99% of the audience start to moan they didn’t hear the hits.
“You can’t cater to the minority. You just can’t. But occasionally you get these pangs of guilt where you do.
“You throw in a B-side to make them happy – and 99% of the audience stand there going, ‘What the hell’s that?’ You feel very isolated up there when you don’t get a reaction to a song.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be any new material on the Def Leppard set list, however. Elliott says: “You’ve got to be careful how you do it; make sure you don’t throw too many in at once, because that’s when they start heading to the bar or the t-shirt stand.
“An audience will always indulge an artist a new song or two, otherwise we’d just die. I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life if we weren’t allowed to say the words: ‘here’s a song from our new album’.”
The singer thinks the secret of Def Leppard’s longevity is the band members have an honest and high regard for each other – something you can’t fake on stage.
“You can’t fake eye contact, true friendship,” he insists before adding: “You can fake not being injured. Last year I did half a tour with a torn achilles and nobody knew because I smiled through the pain and gritted my teeth. That’s what you do.
“There’s a lot of love and goodwill with each other. We’re all on the same page. We keep working to the theory that one day we’ll write the best song we’ve ever written. That might sound facetious or big-headed that we could top a Sugar of a Photograph, but as an artist you have to think you can.”