Just about every major rock act eventually goes the covers album route—so the only surprising thing about Yeah!, Def Leppard’s just-released tribute to the 1970s pop and glam-rock artists they grew up on, should be that it took them 26 years to get around to it. But it turns out that Yeah! is full of surprises, featuring creative song selections from formative influences like David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, Mott the Hoople and T. Rex, including a few tunes that will be new to most American ears.
Now the mighty Lep—singer Joe Elliott, bass player Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell—have teamed with fellow classic-rock survivors Journey for a co-headlining tour that comes to the Starwood Amphitheatre on Sunday, July 16. Campbell called in from his native Ireland, where he was visiting his parents during a couple of rare days off.
Scene: Have you spent much time in Nashville?
Campbell: On and off I have. I’ve had three different friends move there in the last year or so, so I’m really looking forward to that gig.
Scene: What can we expect from the show?
Campbell: This tour will be on the biggest scale we’ve done since the early ’90s. We’re actually going out with a big stage set and a huge light rig and all sorts of shenanigans, sort of upping the ante. During the ’90s, in the grunge rock era, it wouldn’t have done us any favors to go out with a huge production, so we stripped it back and went out with a straightforward rock show. We’ve done that for a few tours, so now it’s time to dip into our pockets and spend some money on the production to entertain the folks.
Scene: And you’re touring with Journey.
Campbell: It’s an interesting package. These package things never have anything to do with acts, by the way. People always ask, “Why did you decide to go with Journey?” We don’t decide anything! (laughs) We’re asked what we think, obviously, but the idea came from our manager. It’ll be good to catch up with them. [Journey guitarist] Neal Schon is an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for many, many years, so it’ll be good to get up there and share the stage with him. I’m looking to steal something from him, because he’s a much better guitar player than I am.
Scene: How did you guys pick which songs you’d cover on the new album?
Campbell: Like anything else in Leppard, it involves a healthy amount of debate. Even if we decide what we’re having for lunch, a lot of discussion goes on. You get five guys in a room, and everybody has an opinion.
Scene: Has it ever come to violence?
Campbell: No! (laughs) The voices get raised. So the short answer is, Joe Elliott gets his way a lot, because he’s got the loudest voice. That’s why he’s the singer.