Q&A: Joe Elliott
This month Def Leppard joins the elite ranks of acts that found so much success with a modern Las Vegas residency, an encore was necessary. Def Leppard Hits Vegas: The Sin City Residency opens Aug. 14 at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood, putting some icing on the cake for a band that has already had a tremendous 2019. Frontman Joe Elliott made some time to talk to Las Vegas Magazine during the group’s summer tour in Europe to shed some light on the new residency, how it will be bigger and bolder than the 2013 Vegas run and what it’s like to be a hall-of-famer.
How do you feel about the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year?
The more time passes, the more I find out about facts I never thought about. I guess that as of now, there are only 330 artists in the whole thing. Someone told me there were only 77 when Def Leppard first got together. To be one of them, it’s just like, yeah, right. It’s unbelievable. It’s been a hell of a ride. We were never avoiding it, we were just sort of oblivious to it because we never thought we’d be invited. We did get the impression over the years it was sort of the exclusive club for the cool kids and just got on with our careers. Then we heard about the fan vote and that made a huge difference because we knew if fans were involved, who we consider the real people, that puts a whole new twist on it.
In your induction speech you said the album Pyromania introduced you to “our new boss.” That’s a fun way to talk about your fans.
At the end of the day, they are. We are our own bosses, a five-way equal split co-operative. There’s nobody in charge of this band. There are captains of certain divisions, if you like, because they are good at it. And the real boss is the song, but after that it’s the fans because without them we haven’t got anything. But it’s up to us to get those songs across. One of the reasons our fan base has been strong for so long is that we actually did come up with strong material, for the kind of music we make. Not that I’m blowing our own trumpet, but there’s quality to what we’ve done, a lot of hard work going into what appears to be three-minute, four-chord rock.
Why is this the right time to come back to Las Vegas for a new residency?
Last year our tour was an enormous commitment. We went out and did 60 shows in stadiums and giant arenas (across the country) and you just can’t come back a year later and expect to do the same thing. But we didn’t want to disappear, so this is the perfect year. We started with the Hall of Fame, then played in Europe and Canada.
And this residency is very different from the 2013 shows at the Hard Rock Hotel, right?
We’re not doing the same show. In fact we may not do the same show twice on this one. We’ve got a ton of songs we’ve not played for a long time and others we’ve never played live, so we’re mixing those in with the ones that we couldn’t get out of the room if we didn’t play. We’ve never been scared of our hits. If you can’t handle the responsibility of a hit, then don’t write it. And we get such a kick out of doing them in front of an audience. We’ll never get bored of that.
Did you learn something new from the previous residency that changed the way you think about Las Vegas?
We’d always done Vegas the same way we do New York, L.A. and San Francisco, in and out. As Brits who didn’t set foot in America until we were 21, we were aware of Vegas through TV and its reputation: the original Ocean’s 11 with Dean Martin and Sammy and Sinatra, Wayne Newton, people like that. For us, it’s really nice to be part of the new Vegas, where we’ve seen residencies like Prince and Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe, and other solo artists like J. Lo and Britney. Rock is more accepted (as a residency show) and that’s cool, and it feels like a whole new Vegas, more modern and digital and swanky. I like that a lot, and that on my day off I can go see stuff you can only dream about.