The rock band Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England, in 1977, and within 10 years it had a strong legion of fans around the world. As of 2009, its albums “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” had 12x platinum sales in the U.S. and today the band remains one of the world's best-selling artists with more than 100 million records sold worldwide.
What sweetens Def Leppard's success is that it is still a working, touring band and is currently on the road with another mega-hit monster, KISS. The two groups will perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine on Saturday and the Forum in Inglewood on Tuesday.
“Concerts this day and age in America are about the event, they're not so much about putting really compatible musical acts together,” said guitarist Vivian Campbell.
“We're about appealing to Def Leppard fans, appealing to KISS fans and, most importantly, appealing to marginal fans of both acts.
“It's an interesting tour because we don't try to compete on the production level KISS has. You can't compete with KISS; their show is so over the top.”
It's true that KISS is always ready to up the performance ante. In a recent press conference, KISS vocalist and guitarist Paul Stanley said the band toured Europe with a new stage that he designed.
“We call it the Spider Stage because the lights are actually in the shape of a spider and the legs are actually dangling down onto the stage and they move,” Stanley said.
“We're psyched up for this and we're celebrating our 40th year. We are out there to do a victory lap even though the race isn't over yet. There'll be more races. This is a celebration of everything we've done to today.”
Def Leppard's show may not be as splashy, but the band promises to be just as entertaining.
“The tour for us is about focusing on our strengths,” Campbell said. “Which are our musicality and the fact that we really do play and sing live, which in this day and age unfortunately is not a common occurrence, and the fact that we genuinely do have all these really big hit songs.”
Los Angeles resident Campbell joined Def Leppard in 1992 after the death of guitarist Steve Clark, who had been with the band since 1978. Today's lineup consists of original members vocalist Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage, along with guitarist Phil Collen and drummer Rick Allen.
Campbell grew up in Northern Ireland and has played in bands such as Sweet Savage, Riverdogs, Dio, Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy.
“I'd always been a Def Leppard fan for years and years, like from their very early beginning because we sort of grew up in parallel,” Campbell said.
On a map, Sheffield and Belfast are only a few inches apart, Campbell said, and the members share the same music and cultural references.
Another thing Campbell shares with Def Leppard is tenacity. In 1984, drummer Allen lost his left arm in a car crash. Committed to the band, he had a custom electronic drum kit designed so that his legs could take over the work of his missing arm. Then, in June 2013, Campbell announced he had Hodgkin's lymphoma, but he continued to play all of Def Leppard's tour dates. In November, he announced he was in remission from the disease, but more recently he returned for cancer treatment at City of Hope in Duarte. He has scheduled medical appointments around the current tour schedule.
Campbell also credits Def Leppard's success to hard work.
“Why I think we're successful is the depth and quality of the work. There's real attention to detail in their style,” Campbell said. “The songs endured because they were very well written, and the bottom line is that it's a winning combination.”
Def Leppard members collaborate on new material and often spend months ironing out details as they record an album.
“I'm always the one who says, ‘Guys, please, that was a great take, can we go on to the next thing?' ” Campbell said.
Campbell wanted to be a musician since he was a child and began teaching himself guitar at age 12.
“When I was about 9 or 10, I saw Marc Bolan of T. Rex on a show called ‘The Top of the Pops' on a Thursday night. When I saw T. Rex play and I saw Marc Bolan with the hair and the Les Paul, I said immediately that's what I want to do.
“It wasn't until a couple of years later when I heard Rory Gallagher, another Irish guitar player, when I really got serious about playing the instrument,” Campbell said.
In addition to working with Def Leppard on a new album set for release in 2015, Campbell has several other projects. Last year he reformed the original Dio band that wrote and recorded the first three Dio albums and toured last summer under the moniker Last in Line (Campbell on guitar, Jimmy Bain on bass and drummer Vinny Appice plus keyboardist Claude Schnell and vocalist Andrew Freeman). The group has written new material and has recorded half an album, which the members plan to finish soon. Campbell is also working on a solo effort.
DEF LEPPARD AND KISS
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.
Information: 800-745-3000; www.livenation.com.