Leppard’s leap to big screen

Viva Hysteria: Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott shows off his Elvis glasses.
Viva Hysteria: Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott shows off his Elvis glasses.

“Sheffield is not the place I left,” reflects Joe Elliott in his hotel suite in what was formerly the education offices.

The Def Leppard frontman is on a flying visit to his home city to launch the band’s concert film, Viva! Hysteria, being released in cinemas on Friday.

“Back then it was still stuck to the end of the Second World War and now it looks like something out of Blade Runner. It’s a beautiful city.

He remarked that walking back to Leopold Square after parking his car he passed four live music venues.”

He remembers the day when music venues in the city centre did not extend much beyond the City Hall, Top Rank and the Limit. He hears from old friends who still play in bands what a lively music scene there is in Sheffield.

“I might not have left if that was going on when I was 17.”

That said, he looks back fondly on the music education the city gave him, in particular Top Rank (now the 02 Academy) on Sunday nights. “No one seems to remember a night called Improvision where I saw so many fabulous acts. It was so easy for us to get on a 52 bus and come into town,” recalls the one-time King Ted’s student.

As a musician, though, it was necessary to move on from Sheffield. Def Leppard, formed with his teenage chums, went on to the worldwide stage and, it was often said, found more popularity in the US than the UK.

A few years ago Elliott observed that while the likes of Paul McCartney and Morrissey get endless media coverage Def Leppard were ignored.

“It was a passing comment that turned into a headline,” he says but it still rankles.

“I heard a BBC 6 Music programme about Sheffield music and we didn’t get a mention alongside Jarvis Cocker and Richard what’s his name and all the rest. It’s a kind of snobbery by programme researchers but we had just played in front of 90,000 in Quebec. I’d like to see even Pulp do that.”

Viva! Hysteria, filmed over two nights of Def Leppard’s 11-night Las Vegas residency in March includes their top-selling album Hysteria in its entirety plus a few other hits. With Vivian Campbell recovering from cancer and Phil Collen suffering a hand injury Def Leppard won’t be able to play live for a while and Elliott plans to focus on his side project, the Down and Outz.

And then there are family commitments now that he has a son. Finlay, three and a half. “It’s a learning curve for me as well as him.”

Visits from Dublin, his home for 29 years, back to Sheffield are infrequent, even to see the Blades. “I used to come back when we were in the Premier League but flying over is complicated and I can’t really raise the enthusiasm to see them play Wycombe Wanderers. I can see the goals on television.”

He had just caught up with the news of theinvestment by the Saudi prince and added “Maybe it won’t be long before we’re back.”