Def Leppard’s “Sin City” residency at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas is officially over, and what a great time it was!
It was especially exciting (and refreshing) to hear the band perform some songs live that they hadn’t played in years, if ever.
After seeing the Sin City residency first-hand and thinking over (and over) the songs selected, I’ve felt compelled to revisit and dissect what was Def Leppard’s setlist.
In addition, I decided to take things a step further to propose other song alternatives worthy of Def Leppard setlist consideration, ones which I truly believe would enhance the overall concert experience for fans and the band.
It’s a tall order, I know, and how dare I attempt to tell Def Leppard what their setlist should be! Well, just know it’s coming from a good place, and one I think long-terms fans would at least enjoy pondering.
I think you’ll have a better understanding as you read on…
Take A Setlist, Shake It Up…
I know this post will result in varying degrees of disagreement from some readers, which is fine, but I want to make this clear right off the bat: this is NOT a criticism of Def Leppard’s concerts (or setlists for that matter).
The band absolutely puts on a fantastic show.
I also want to note that this post isn’t about coming up with a “wishlist” of songs I’d want the band to perform solely for my own satisfaction.
I’ve made a very conscious effort to incorporate what I feel many Def Leppard concertgoers are thirsting for, especially those that have seen the band tour over the decades.
That being said, I understand many Def Leppard fans (including yours truly) are content seeing whatever show the band decides to put on.
We know it’s going to be a quality show and a great time…but I also know there are many fans who share a common thought: “I would’ve loved to hear them perform (enter any song title here); I could live without hearing (enter any song title here) again.”
Obviously, not every Def Leppard concertgoer will be pleased, but I truly believe there’s a common ground that can be successfully achieved by “shaking things up” some more.
To Sin City And Beyond!
As mentioned in previous posts, Def Leppard will always feel obligated to perform their most popular songs in concert.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and kudos to the band for accepting the fact that (many) fans attending their shows come to hear “the hits.”
If you recall, the band’s Sin City residency was positioned as “Def Leppard Hits Vegas.”
For instance, the Def Leppard concert experience was coming to Sin City, thus “hitting” Las Vegas…but it’s also a play on the Las Vegas name to highlight the residency would feature the band’s arsenal of “hits.”
In hindsight, both options applied, but (as teased by bandmembers) the residency also included some deep tracks — aka, not necessarily “hits.”
So, did Def Leppard live up to what they teased?
Yes, they did.
But a thought still lingers: the band could have shaken up their setlist even more.
At the least, hopefully, the band realized during this residency that fans are absolutely thirsting to hear more from their extraordinarily deep catalog.
Sure, opening acts and co-headlining tours have their appeal, but at this point in Def Leppard’s career (and ongoing resurgence), a longer show, and one that doesn’t require that they share the stage — and precious concert time — with any other act, is worth serious consideration going forward.
Clearly, this type of approach worked splendidly during the Sin City residency and thus afforded the band more setlist flexibility.
Commencing Def Leppard Setlist Dissection…
Of course, it would be f-f-f-foolish to believe that one particular setlist will appease every Def Leppard fan — it’s simply not (and never will be) possible.
I also know one fan’s favorite Def Leppard song is another’s least favorite and vice versa.
It’s just the way it is; some fans will always feel shortchanged.
And even though I’m saying to shake up the setlist, I’m making a very conscious effort to make sure it’s an approach that’s grounded in REALITY. It’s not about not performing a song like “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” but it’s also not about proposing that they play the majority of songs from their On Through The Night and High ‘n’ Dry albums.
Again, that’s just not realistic.
In all honesty, I’m trying to go about this exercise from the perspective of the band, and how a further refreshed setlist could benefit them artistically and commercially. Conversely, it would be to the delight of Def Leppard fans who would likely embrace (and appreciate) a further revitalized show.
It’s a win-win!
One More Thing…
There’s no doubt that a lot of thought already goes into constructing the band’s setlist for each tour (or residency) to make sure the show has a good flow, slowing down in all the right spots as well as picking up steam when it should.
It’s also important to note all the planning that goes into coordinating the show so that it’s perfectly synced up with the band’s overall stage production.
All of these things must be taken into consideration, no matter the setlist, so I don’t mean to discount any of these important factors.
So, without further ado, “let’s go”…
Sin City Residency Set List
Here’s the general structure of the setlist Def Leppard performed most frequently during the Zappos Theater Sin City residency:
1. Die Hard the Hunter
4. Foolin’ (or Too Late for Love)
6. Billy’s Got a Gun (or Paper Sun)
8. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
9. Switch 625
10. Let Me Be The One
11. We Belong
12. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
13. Two Steps Behind
21. Rock of Ages
The band switched out tracks on (very) rare occasions and added in “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” and “Let It Go” (instead of “Billy’s Got A Gun” or “Paper Sun”).
Some minor tweaking was also done to the encore; more on that when we get to it.
Def Leppard’s Sin City Setlist Dissected
Right off the bat, Def Leppard made a wise choice by removing a couple of songs that had been in heavy concert rotation the past few years: “Rock On” and “Man Enough”
This immediately opened up room for other, more worthy tracks to start shaking things up.
Now, as for what WAS included in the setlist…
Die Hard the Hunter:
A pleasant surprise and a great deep track…but as the show’s opening number? And for every single night of the residency?
Not so sure about that.
Each of Def Leppard’s Sin City residency shows began with the pre-recorded introduction of “Die Hard The Hunter’s” sound effect-filled opening (before the stage curtain opens).
Visually and sonically, it was memorable.
If you’re going to go the bombastic and dramatic route and open with an epic, why not “Gods of War”? (The song certainly has its own iconic, sound effect-filled intro as well!)
Staying on the topic of opening the show with an epic and diving even deeper into the band’s catalog, other very worthy contenders would absolutely wow audiences and give Def Leppard fans something to really savor.
How about opening with moody epics “Desert Song” or “Fractured Love”? The latter option’s tribal, hypnotic drum introduction would definitely make for a pretty amazing opening, even if its extended intro might require some condensing for the sake of the opening slot. Nevertheless, fans would appreciate the additional Retro Active representation.
Another potential opener in the same vein for consideration: “Undefeated”
There are additional options if a more vintage offering is preferred…
Aside from the typical Pyromania fixtures, even opening their show with high-energy rockers “Stagefright” (I said welcome to my show!) or “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” would have been very effective. Not only that, either one of those songs as an opener would harken back to the band’s Hysteria tour days when those tracks were heavily utilized as their concert openers.
Obviously, Pyromania has its share of rock songs, but “Action! Not Words” notably could have worked well as the “deep track” choice opener, more so than “Die Hard The Hunter.” (Again, as a concert opener. We’ll revisit “Die Hard The Hunter” in a few moments.)
I’d even go so far to suggest including the guitar opening/spoken-word introduction from the band’s track “Overture” prior to the stage curtain opening; it would be an ode to the band’s On Through The Night album and a wink and a nod to fans from the band’s earliest era…who would likely find it mind-blowing, if not for just a minute.
Then pick any of the other songs mentioned above as the opener once the curtain drops.
“Animal” is such a quality track that it can work anywhere it’s placed on a Def Leppard setlist.
As the second song performed throughout the residency, it effectively accomplished maintaining the show’s early energy and flow…and it can easily continue to do just that on any future tour.
Def Leppard had been playing “Excitable” in concert previous to the Sin City residency. (Most recently, their Canadian tour with Tesla just prior to the residency).
Is “Excitable” a deep track in concert?
But aside from the Hysteria album’s massive number of hits (aka “setlist must-haves”), does “Excitable” really stand out as the most worthy deep track for setlist inclusion…especially for the Sin City residency?
Not so much.
Why? Well, Def Leppard’s previous residency was “Viva Hysteria” which (obviously) included “Excitable” and took place in…that’s right, Las Vegas.
So to include “Excitable” as one of the deep tracks in yet another Las Vegas residency seemed a bit redundant (even though not everyone might have seen “Viva Hysteria,” at least in person).
I know that “Excitable” is one of Hysteria‘s mid-tempo rockers and part of the reason for its inclusion was to also maintain (at least some of) the concert’s early momentum, but inserting “Gods of War” into the setlist — as an opening number or not — further lessens the need for “Excitable” this time around (and yet another track from the Hysteria album).
Other deep track options ripe for the picking in this particular rock slot range from High ‘n’ Dry‘s “You Got Me Runnin'” or “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” to Pyromania‘s “Comin’ Under Fire” to even Adrenalize‘s “Tear It Down.”
Any of these options would broaden out and diversify the concert (and album) offerings and would do a wonderful job serving their momentum purpose.
Foolin’ / Too Late For Love:
“Foolin'” is a classic that’s been in heavy concert rotation for decades — all the more reason why “Too Late For Love” freshened up the setlist when the band chose to periodically switch it out.
There’s nothing wrong with either track; both work well, but going a different route and throwing in some Songs from the Sparkle Lounge representation courtesy of “C’mon, C’mon” would have been a much fresher, solid addition.
“C’mon, C’mon” is practically made for arena performances, especially for a Las Vegas crowd! (“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose…”)
A worthy track for setlist reinsertion.
Not only an underrated song from the Euphoria album but one that’s been underutilized in concert over the years. It was nice to have it back.
Billy’s Got a Gun 2002 / Paper Sun:
Both tracks worked well in this slot, especially the resurrection of “Billy’s Got a Gun.”
“Paper Sun” went over well, too, but this slower, “epic” track slot could have just as well utilized “Gods of War” or “Die Hard The Hunter” (as opposed to “Die Hard The Hunter” being used as the concert’s opener).
Another epic alternative: “White Lightning”
That said, some more Slang album representation could have been very effective here too — specifically, “Blood Runs Cold.” It’s another moody epic that would no doubt hold its own at this point in the show.
Speaking of Slang representation, the song “Slang” might not be the most essential track (or deep track) to include off of the album, but the band’s live version always adds a whole new energy to the song.
It’s fun, plays to the crowd and complements the concert’s overall party atmosphere effectively.
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak / Switch 625:
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” is practically a given on any Def Leppard setlist, no matter the tour.
The only thing about this song’s inclusion that surprised me during the Sin City residency was when Joe Elliott mentioned it was Saturday night (it was a Saturday show) and that they would be playing a track off of the High ‘n’ Dry album.
I assumed he was setting up the song “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night),” which would have been quite fitting, but, alas, it was “Heartbreak.”
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” along with “Switch 625” always wrapped up the first portion of Def Leppard’s residency show (before the band segued to their acoustic segment).
Now, should “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” have been included in the residency’s setlist? Sure, but I’ll throw in a caveat: it could have worked just as well, if not better, as part of the show’s acoustic segment.
With that said, let’s revisit “Switch 625” for a moment: Yes, it’s a wonderful tribute to Steve Clark (though I have opinions about that too), but, realistically, performing the track live also provides Joe Elliott with a well-needed break. While the band plays on, Joe leaves the stage for several minutes.
Keeping that in mind, it would have been more of a refreshing shake-up if the band played one of their other “deep track” ballads to wrap up the first part of their electric portion.
How about the raw, emotion-filled “Love” off of Songs from the Sparkle Lounge? It’s an underrated, nearly epic track PLUS its second half is mostly comprised of the band jamming (i.e. without Joe Elliott).
The lead vocal only returns for the song’s final moments. Case in point, Joe still gets his break.
It could all wrap up nicely leading into the show’s next portion.
Let Me Be The One:
A pleasant surprise to debut “Let Me Be The One” during the residency.
Was it a “hit”? No, not even a single, which makes its inclusion even more noteworthy.
The song satisfyingly led off the segment, but could another Def Leppard gem have worked just as well — if not, better?
“Where Does Love Go When It Dies” could have been an unforgettable acoustic opener — not only a rarity live but one of Def Leppard’s most underrated and grossly overlooked tracks.
So glad Def Leppard finally added this track to their setlist.
Having each bandmember sing lead vocals live makes it all the more special.
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad:
As one of the band’s most successful power ballads, this Adrenalize track warranted return placement, even as an acoustic number.
Giving “When Love and Hate Collide” a bit of a rest also made sense.
Two Steps Behind:
This track unfailingly inspires audience sing-alongs and has been performed acoustically for years. And years. And. Years.
Yes, it goes over well live, but “Two Steps Behind” has also become more of an obligatory inclusion for acoustic segments.
Giving the song a rest wouldn’t hurt. If not, shaking it up and performing Retro Active‘s alternative “electric version” would even be a nice change of pace.
But a more drastic change would likely be further relished — how about an acoustic rendition of one of Def Leppard’s best-written compositions “All I Want Is Everything” in this slot? That would surely be a magnificent, emotion-filled way to wrap up the acoustic portion.
If not, I defer to my earlier recommendation: going the route of performing “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” acoustically — it would surely win over the crowd and be just as effective sing-along-wise as “Two Steps Behind.”
No matter the song choice, the main point here is that some — or any — variation during the acoustic segment would have been welcomed.
Putting aside the fact that many fans saw multiple dates, if I were to ask anyone who attended ANY of the Sin City residency shows what the band played during the acoustic set of THEIR show, everyone would have the same exact answer…because it never changed.
Alternating a couple of different acoustic songs on various nights would have made the experience even more special — and personal — to that show’s particular audience.
Electric portion returns…
The setlist’s inclusion of “Now” was unexpected and shook things up a bit as the band resumed the show’s electric portion.
Even though “Now” was released as a single in 2002, awareness and interest surrounding the track in 2019 pale in comparison to many other stronger, more potent live candidates.
That’s not to say that “Now” isn’t a solid track off of the X album; it is, but I would equate it to the Slang album’s “Work It Out” — a song which received some radio airplay back in the day, and one that fans are aware of.
But is “Now” a Def Leppard song audiences have been craving to hear in concert for years, if not decades, especially when slots are so limited for deep tracks?
Other more worthy X album contenders, especially to rile up the return of the show’s electric portion could have been either of the excellent tracks “Torn to Shreds” or “Four Letter Word.”
Another option: go way, way back and begin the electric portion with On Through The Night hard rocker “Rock Brigade” for some early era representation.
“Rocket” / “Let’s Get Rocked” / “Hysteria” / “Love Bites” / “Armageddon It” / “Pour Some Sugar on Me” / “Rock of Ages” (Encore) / “Photograph” (Encore)
I’m clumping together the songs from the show’s final portion, because they clearly — and strategically — kick Def Leppard’s concert into overdrive; the audience is bombarded with huge hit after hit.
Now, could a track or two from this batch be removed while still maintaining this section’s potency?
Which song(s) you ask?
Well, I’ll leave that one to you, but I’d like to point out that saying the band should shake things up does not necessarily mean completely replacing some songs.
For example, the band’s encore numbers have “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” countless times.
Now just imagine for a moment a Def Leppard encore that DOESN’T end with — or even include! — “Photograph.”
And it could work out well. Very, very well.
All I’ve Got Is A “Photograph”…?
“Photograph” is a powerhouse of a song and a great final number, but it could easily switch places with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and Def Leppard’s concert would still end on a climactic, high note (no pun intended).
But speaking of high notes, “Photograph” — and the challenging, high vocal registers it requires — is likely one of the most, if not the most, difficult songs to sing (for Joe Elliott, or anyone else for that matter).
On a different note (again, no pun intended), if you recall, during the band’s third residency show, Joe experienced some “Vegas Throat” issues and asked the crowd to sing the band’s encore numbers.
Here’s what he said to the audience before Def Leppard’s encore began:
“I’m coming down with what they call Vegas Throat. And I’m gonna struggle with these next two I’ll be honest with you, I really am. So I want you to sing lead vocals on these two okay?. Can you do that? Help me out, please. Come on Vegas. Can you do that?”
It was unfortunate, but it also goes to show how it’s easy to sometimes take for granted the intense lead vocals necessary — day in and day out — to sing a song like “Photograph” live. Even on a good day, it’s incredibly difficult to sing, “Vegas Throat” or not.
So what’s my point?
There’s no need to (always) save “Photograph” as the show’s last song, especially after two hours of singing.
Moving up its placement on the setlist not only adds a whole new, exciting dynamic to the show’s main portion, it also allows for the encore to be refreshed (while still being just as robust).
Def Leppard Setlist: Encore! Encore!
So, getting back to the “shake it up” theme, how about kicking off the encore with “Hysteria” and then lead into “Pour Some Sugar On Me“?
Simply rearranging the order of some songs already on the setlist could make a big, revitalizing difference.
One final encore thought…
If you’ve attended a Def Leppard concert in recent years, you’re likely aware that once their show officially ends and the house lights turn on for people to exit, the band’s epic (and underrated gem) “Kings of the World” plays over the venue’s sound system.
Well, wouldn’t it be special if Def Leppard ended some of their shows actually performing “Kings of the World”?
If ever there was a third encore number to consider once again, that would be a winner.
It would definitely be a memorable way to end their show: I can already envision the lighters (ok, smartphones) illuminating the arena as the crowd sings along.
No doubt it would be an unforgettable concert moment that’s greater than the seven seas and mightier than Hercules. (Rimshot, please.)
Def Leppard Setlist Shake-Up: Final Thoughts
So there you have it, some setlist food for thought. Yes, there’s much to chew on.
To dissect a Def Leppard setlist can be quite challenging, especially when there’s such a deep catalog of songs to work from when considering alternatives.
In truth, this post was originally going to be much shorter, highlighting observations about the band’s Sin City residency setlist along with some subjective recommendations.
Obviously, that’s not how it turned out. Instead, it became an exponentially larger, in-depth mental exercise the more I recollected and contemplated the band’s setlists over the years.
I have no doubt there will be disagreements with at least some suggestions made within, but I think it only exemplifies the many options Def Leppard have at their disposal IF they were to pursue further shaking up their setlist.
Hopefully, they will the next time they tour and hit your town.
And there will be a next time…