Monday, January 24, 2011

Def Leppard- 1987-1988 Hysteria In the Round

This post is more of a video highlight and less of an in-depth examination.  This will be a regular feature of my blog to highlight tours or stages that deserve a look back upon.
Def Leppard's Hysteria tour was when they were at the height of popularity and they had the budget to put on a show that would impress.   The band decided to put on the concert in the middle of the arena, allowing for all the tickets to be sold in the arena known as in-the-round seating rather then the standard end stage.  With Def Leppard at their prime, this allowed the band to sell 3-5,000 tickets more per show.

 In-the-round dated back to 1914 when it was first used at Columbia University for plays, but it wasn't until 1978 that a rock band took a stage on tour in the round.   Yes developed a rotating stage for its 1978-1979 Tormato tour.  The stage was essentially a large record player.  
Below is rare 8mm footage of the tour, notice the speed at which the stage turns, begging the question if any of the members got sick.

Def Leppard's stage was truly state of the art featuring the album artwork on the floor with different levels and a rotating drum set.  The guitar and instrument techs had their workstations underneath the stage and the stage monitors and guitar amps were not onstage so it had a very uncluttered feel to it. The band would get to the stage by being placed in empty equipment cases and wheeled through the unsuspecting audience to underneath the stage.
In an interview with Jeb Wright for his Rockbrigage podcast which you can listen to here, Def Leppard singer Joe Elliot gave some info on the inspiration: "Peter Mensch our manager at the time. He went to Madison Square Garden and saw Frank Sinatra and Frank was In The Round and he came back. And you know Mensch wasn't much older than us. He's like two years older than me or something. So it's the same kind of generation you know. So he came back all excited, 'I just Frank at the Garden man and he played In The Round. I think you guys should do that.' So we literally did you know. He got it together. We found out all about it."  "Again Phay McMahon whose our production manager now, was our lighting designer at the time. And he was involved in part of that as well. So it all you know, he put it into motion and it just kinda happened. And it was really exciting, I gotta say. It was probably the most fun I've ever had on stage you know because you had to run around. It's something we're actually talking about doing it again at some point."  "Actually you get more people in. No, no you can get a few more people in. No without a doubt, it's great and it's four front rows. So instead of just having, it brings everything closer you know. What would have been a nosebleed is fifty percent closer. So that was the great thing and there's a lot of pluses. I mean very - a lot of hard work. I mean I remember coming off stage feeling like I was 80 years old. You know sometimes we'd do like two and half hour shows. But yeah that was so much fun."
Here singer Joe Elliot gives a brief tour of the stage.

In this clip filmed during a soundcheck you can get a good luck at all the steel grating that the stage was comprised of.   

The stage was hidden from view by a black scrim with the album artwork that was draped all around the stage.

 As seen in this video, the scrim would drop at the beginning of the show giving the audience their first glimpse of the impressive stage.

Here is the song Photograph taken from the officially released concert film:

In this MTV segment, there is some great footage and some fans reactions to the stage:

When the arena's the band would play in were too small to fit the entire in-the-round stage setup they simply setup just half of the stage.   In this clip filmed at the Hollywood Sportatorium, you can see that setup.  This was one of the last ever concerts held at the venue which was notorious for its bad acoustics and fabled rock concerts:

When the band toured American Amphitheaters in the summer of 1988, they used a completely different setup that used pieces of the in-the-round setup but added some stairs on stage left and right and  grated steps up to the drum riser.  You can get a good look at it during a sound check in this video:

 and in concert here:


Sam said...

Very cool site! I've really enjoyed reading this. I saw the Hysteria Tour in 1988 - 20+ years later, still the coolest stage I've seen, although the Stones Bridges to Babylon stage was pretty impressive. If you are taking requests, how about featuring Michael Jackson's Bad Tour stage design? I saw that show as well and remember the stage being very interesting. Keep up the good work!

Sagedrummer said...

Thanks Sam
Glad you enjoyed the post. I didn't see the Hysteria tour but did get to see the Jacksons Victory tour. I am a Michael Jackson fan so will definitely plan on doing a post for one of his tours. Take care

Chris Erickson said...

What ever happened to the stage used on the hysteria tour in 1988?

Sagedrummer said...

Chris Erickson
Unfortunately, like other historic stages, most of it probably got trashed and some pieces may have been re-used for other stages by the company who provided the staging. I would love to see them do a tour on that stage again.

Macnerd said...

This is great. I was local crew for the Def Leppard Hysteria shows (worked for Stage Miracles); I think we did rehearsals in London Docklands (from memory). I remember doing the actual shows they had the whole procedure for getting the band in using the flight cases - Pretty funny.

I am REALLY desperate to see one of these pieces on Maiden's World Slavery tour - That'd be amazing. Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

I saw the "Hysteria" tour in 1987 at the Allentown Fairgrounds ... 5th Row ... Center Stage ... I've seen over 60 concerts and this happens to be the best Stage/Concert show ever .... they rocked for over 2 hours and 3 curtain calls ... Keep rocking boys ...