Phil Collen is living the dream, despite the occasional nightmarish moments.
The guitarist and his band, Def Leppard, are currently on one of North America’s biggest tours – a headlining celebration of ’80s rock decadence with Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett and the Black Hearts.
The Stadium Tour 2022who makes his way through Lucas Oil Stadium August 16 has had a few tough times since the start of June – major storms in Atlanta and Washington, DC, Crüe drummer Tommy Lee limited by broken ribs, Poison singer Bret Michaels was hospitalized before a show in Nashville.
In an interview with IndyStar, Collen recalled having to cancel a show in North Carolina due to a stadium roof exploding after “almost like a mini tornado” blew up.
This all comes after the entire tour was repeatedly postponed due to COVID-19.
Still, Collen said the tour has been an amazing experience so far.
“It’s like a childhood dream, playing in these kinds of venues,” Collen said. “When you start playing guitar, or whatever you do or even a sport, what you imagined in your head is really what we’re experiencing now. So we have fun.”
Collen doesn’t mind the rain, noting that UK and European tours are often full of it. Even still, he can rejoice in the fact that Lucas Oil has a roof over his head.
The genesis of the tour came when Def Leppard were approached with the idea of Mötley Crüe coming out of retirement for something big.
“It ticks all the boxes,” Collen said of the tour. “Everybody’s been starving for live music, and especially us, Mötley, Joan Jett and Poison. It’s like some people’s 80s wet dream or something.”
“But we’re not an act of nostalgia, obviously,” he continued. “We’ve released a new album. We aspire to be the Rolling Stones. They keep going and they’re always releasing new music. That’s the cornerstone, I think, and that’s what we did.”
Def Leppard’s latest album, “Diamond Star Halos”, was inspired by 70s glam rock which motivated Collen and singer Joe Elliott to get into music. The name itself comes from the T. Rex song “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”.
The writing happened organically as the COVID-19 pandemic started rolling in and wasn’t immediately aimed at Def Leppard, Collen said, but more as a celebration of songwriting in general. Collen and Elliott worked on pieces from home.
“I had done this song ‘Kick’, which really sounded like something from the early 70s, like Bowie, T. Rex, Mott the Hoople and almost Queen,” Collen said.
It’s Collen’s favorite Def Leppard album to date, he said, dethroning “Hysteria,” which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary.
“(The years) flew by,” Collen said when told of the anniversary. “I remember sitting in a room recording it.”
Collen recalled quitting drinking the same year before the band’s tour, which at the same time seems like a very long time ago.
Along with “Pyromania,” the album on which Collen joined the band and will celebrate his 40th birthday in January, “Hysteria” propelled Def Leppard into the headlining status of the world stage to which he returned in 2022.
“We actually had a lot of ups and downs,” Collen explained. “We went from that band of multi-platinum, two-diamond albums and ended up playing state fairs and things like that.”
A leadership change in the mid-2000s put the group back on an upward trajectory, Collen said.
Def Leppard has kept busy and seen an increase in reverence following his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, following years of hard fan campaign work.
“The great thing about being in the band is you kind of stay young,” Collen said. “You remain childish, in our case, but you have this wisdom that you have acquired over the years only through experience and all the traveling and meeting really interesting people and traveling around the world.
Indianapolis fans should expect an unusually long rock experience at the next show, with first reports timing the duration of the Stadium Tour show at around seven hours. The show starts at 4pm to accommodate that.
Collen said he met two men in their 40s at the Denver airport who saw the whole show and clocked it at seven.
“I’m like wow, long day?” Collen said. “And they said no. Value for money. They said we were hungry for it.”
However, Collen doesn’t resent any casual fan who shows up for a band or two. It’s also a long day for the bands, who show up early for meet-and-greet events and their usual routines, which in Def Leppard’s case include three hours of vocal warm-ups for Elliott.
“But if you want that value – big bang for your buck – (the Stadium Tour) will keep you going for a while,” he said. “It will scratch the itch.”
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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.