Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, and Tesla – Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, Bangor, Maine June 25th, 2016

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Well, well, well, it is a beautiful thing, and as Joe Elliot sings, ‘Let it rock, let it roll, let it go…’ Bangor’s own Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion was packed clear to that pretty new fence Friday night when three of the biggest selling, and most beloved, rock and roll bands of the 1980s – Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, and Tesla – came to town to set the noise complaint hotline jingling. (I wonder if you get to speak to Bangor PD’s Duck of Justice. Probably not. I think he was at the show, actually.) This was a big week for the venue with three major summer tours coming through – lots of great music, lots of beer sales, and lots of singing and dancing – proving that if you put up a big old stage the fans will come.

Tesla opened the show. While Jeff Keith may have been a bit under the weather, the band’s performance was not. And honestly, Keith’s “under the weather” is still pretty energetic, and his captivating growl was solid. For those casual fans who think of Tesla’s famous “Signs” as their signature sound, this show straightened out that misconception – Tesla is a hard rock, screaming, heavy guitar act. Lead by the mighty Frank Hannon and Dave Rude on guitars, the fans were given a sweet ride through several of the band’s hits, including “Love Song” and “Little Suzi.” These two are amazing and lean out over the crowd, sharing the love. Brian Wheat, on bass, and Troy Lucckette, on drums, create tremendous power. Tesla is always a great rock show.

It was REO Speedwagon’s second time on The Waterfront stage. While their previous performance, with Ted Nugent and Styx, included several deep cuts from their vast catalog, Friday’s setlist was wall to wall fan favorites and hits. Starting with “Don’t Let Him Go,” REO nailed song after song and had the crowd on their feet, hands in the air, singing every word. Every Word! You know the songs – “Take it on the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” and all the rest they made famous. Kevin Cronin’s energy carries the show as he engages the fans, smiling and telling stories. Neal Doughty, keyboards, and Bruce Hall, bass, are lively and tight, Bryan Hitt, drums, holds everything together like a champ, and Dave Amato, lead guitarist since ’89, is amazing as he brings every single indelible riff to the fans. REO gave Hall’s “Back on the Road Again” special treatment with a sizable intro and a kick ass performance – this was a highlight of the show, in my opinion.

Def Leppard, also returning to The Waterfront stage for their second performance, gave fans one hell of a show. Starting off with “Let’s Go” and moving straight into “Animal,” the band had a stage show full of lights, video, and drama. This performance felt better than the last time Def Leppard came to town. Not only was Joe Elliot healthy and his vocals stronger, but the tone of the band’s performance was more about the rock and roll and less about the celebrity. Don’t get me wrong – these guys still strut the stage like the rock stars they are! Speaking of that, the stage video work was spot on delivering the guitar work of both Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen. I love to see the riffs as they are created by some of the best musicians in the business. Rick Savage, on bass, looks like he stepped out of a time capsule set at 1987 – he is so fun to watch. Rick Allen, largely hidden behind the drum kit, was on target and strong. Def Leppard’s sixteen song set was great – hit after hit with new material mixed in – and the fans were thrilled. Ending the main set with “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” the band gave an encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” before shutting down the speakers and the lights for the night.

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