Over 140 Years of Rock and Roll in New Orleans

13:15 August 23, 2016
By: Steve Hatley

It’s pretty hard to believe but the collective years playing for Alice Cooper, REO Speedwagon, and Def Leppard spans over 140 years.  Shock rocker Allice Cooper’s beginnings started out in Phoenix, Arizona in 1963, REO Speedwagon started off in 1967, and England’s Def Leppard came to be in 1977.  One thing at the core of each of these bands is their uncanny way to overcome adversity and strive. 

Alice Cooper recently enlisted to help of Nina Strauss (Iron Maidens, Femme Fatal) to play guitar in his latest touring expedition.  Her playing is a force to be reckoned with and was highlighted several times during his show at the Saenger Theater.  When going into a Cooper show, moreover than a concert, you know completely what you are going to expect.  Bells and whistles are cornerstones of his performance.  The show ran almost like acts of a play, where Cooper embodies several different personas throughout the night.  The set was a romp throughout his entire musical catalogue and centered on several of his greatest hits.  The cover set was dedicated to some of his fallen hero’s Moon, Bowie, and Lemmy.  The set was introduced as Cooper magically survives the guillotine.   The end of the set was pretty inevitable with “I’m Eighteen” and “Schools Out” which features Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2.”  Since it an election year, Alice came back to the stage to perform “Elected.”  While not one of my favorite events of the evening, the song did manage to pack a visual punch.

Tesla, REO Speedwagon, and Def Leppard came through town Saturday and played the Smoothie King Center.  While the show wasn’t as theatrical as the Cooper one, the LED visuals and lights were more than adequate to keep the crowd entertained.  Sadly, I missed Tesla’s set but was more than happy to catch REO Speedwagon.  The band only has one original member left, keyboardist Neil Doughty, and coming in a close second, vocalist and guitarist Kevin Cronin, who joined the band in 1972.  The ten-song set was chalked with a mass of sing-along anthems.  Even though the set was short by means in comparison the main event, the audience didn’t seem to care.  It was the perfect warm up.  The end of their set marked a thirty-minute intermission/set change. 

Def Leppard has been through quite hard times and Joe Elliott (vocals) and Rick Savage (bass) were there from the beginning adding drummer Rick Allen a year later.  Elliott spoke of the band's rocky history while drawing comparisons to Louisiana’s ability to get through the most devastating of events.  It may have come off a bit odd, comparing the bands struggles to the floods, but I could see where he was trying to go. 

It’s been five years since Def Leppard has played New Orleans, same venue, just a different name.  The evening was a hit parade, to say the least, focusing on five of their eleven albums and a fun cover of David Essex’s “Rock On.”  Six of the tracks played, to no real surprise, were off the 10x Platinum album Hysteria.  The evening was the definition of what an arena rock show should be.  While there was no pyro, the visuals all made up for it.  Each song had its feel and the live camera feeds, just brought the audience in even more.  The main set was highlighted by one of the band’s biggest hits “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and followed by an amazing two song encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”  140 years of rock in a matter of days and three more off of my dad's bucket list.

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