The titans of British metal do their best to save the Leadmill by playing their biggest small gig in years
On Monday 22 May 2023, Def Leppard will be playing to 32,000 people at Sheffield’s Bramall Lane stadium. Three days before, they were stuck to the sticky floor of a little club around the corner, playing to just a few hundred. After being under threat of closing for over a year now, the Leadmill has pulled out all the stops to try and stay afloat. Now calling in a favour from the biggest local name in their old contact book, the historic club is now the first stop on one of the most anticipated tours of the summer.
The atmosphere is as thick as soup. A sweaty mess of young and old pile in together, drinks are spilled and all eyes are on the stage as the lights dim and Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ begins playing through beer-soaked speakers. Silhouettes spotted, phone screens come up and cries of “Yorkshire” hit the roof. It’s the loudest the Leadmill has ever been, but it’s about to get a whole lot louder.
Delivering a perfectly executed 60-minutes of classic rock, Def Leppard feel as timeless as ever. Not a solo goes out of tune; each beat is on point and every vocal pitch perfect. The crowd are immersed and engaged for every second, drunken mimicry of riffs for the likes of ‘Kick’, ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’ and ‘Hysteria’ fill the room with cheers that threaten to drown out the band.
In between tracks, lead singer Joe Elliott takes to the mic to thank everyone for coming from different corners of the country to see them. He notes the good cause for the gig and reflects on the rehearsal space the band used to have just down the road. Starting out playing in a tiny room near Sheffield Train Station, small venues like the Leadmill were key to Leppard’s huge success long before they were filling stadiums, and Elliott doesn’t forget it.
Naturally, the classics are left until the end. ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and ‘Wasted’ see the band out, the singing from the crowd now overpowering the speakers to the point the band hardly need to play at all. As the lights go up after the last song, everyone stays still for a moment… “can you believe we just saw that?”.
Two huge music legacies found each other in Sheffield tonight – the city’s biggest band on its most important stage. This is worth fighting for.
Photo credits: Kevin Nixon