We met Def Leppard – the whole band: Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, and Joe Elliott – at our first gig on the KISS 40th Anniversary tour, in Salt Lake City at the USANA amphitheatre. They were just wandering around the stage area when we were doing our sound check and they introduced themselves. They asked how long we had been playing. Phil and his wife Helen were very friendly, meeting everyone, shaking hands, and Phil was showing the guys his guitars. Helen took lots of great photos of us during the tour, and I really enjoyed her company. Joe Elliott is very personable, he came over and shared a story with one day. He told me how in the 80s they were still playing small shows before they had their big break, and that they would come out and people would start throwing bottles of piss at them to get off the stage. They persevered and kept going and now they are here. It was his way of inspiring me. He told me often, to keep going, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel! Def Leppard are amazing entertainers, talented musicians and great performers. They are also very humble, down to earth people, that just want to play music and be there for their fans.
Every show, Rick Allen, the drummer, would warm up his drum kit while we played our set, and his drums were right behind our kit, behind the Def banner which was pulled up just high enough to cover their gear and show the top of the orange triangle in their logo. We could hear him behind the curtain between songs every show, He was always back there smoking a cigarette and tinkering on his drums.
Vivian Campbell was a big thrill for us to meet because all of us in the band loved Dio, and he played a big role in some of Dio’s most epic music. Vivian Campbell swears to this day that he wrote Holy Diver which was pivotal to Dio and his career. Vivian was super inspiring to us, because he was battling cancer the entire tour and was receiving chemo treatments between shows. I would watch him every night come back between songs and sit with his wife; she would dab his forehead, and he would regroup. Some nights I didn’t think he would finish the set, yet every time he pulled through and played the encore! He used his entire life force to play the set and show up for his fans each night. He played 22 of the 23 shows with sunglasses on because the lights were bothering him. On our last show of the tour, we had been off for about a week, some crazy shit must have happened because when we came back, his cancer had gone into remission! His hair had grown a bit, and he had little curls! He wasn’t wearing sunglasses and it was the first time we saw his eyes. He came over with a big smile, and told us to have an awesome show and kick ass! We were like wow what happened, he was going to be okay!
It was very cool meeting them. Surreal really. When I was 16 I worked at a gas bar and a Def Leppard concert was the first concert I ever saved money for so I could buy a ticket. My girlfriend and I drove to Edmonton to see them play. I was sitting super far away from the stage that night. I never imagined that one day we would open for them, 23 times, in amphitheatres across the USA! I hope it’s not the last time either!