Pyromania and Ridin’ the Storm Out played Vamp’d on Saturday, August 5, 2023.
August 5 at Vamp’d saw the arrival of two tributes to great classic rock bands – Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon! Despite being a fan of both bands, I’d never seen either tribute, and was certainly curious to see them rock the stage at Vamp’d, long one of my favorite venues for live music in the Las Vegas Valley.
Ridin’ the Storm Out started the evening off. I do love the music of REO Speedwagon, but I’ve never heard a dedicated band perform their music live before, not even the “real” band. So getting to see a tribute to them at Vamp’d was certainly something I didn’t want to pass up. Everyone knows these guys had some massive hits in the late 70s and early 80s, including “Take It On the Run,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Keep On Loving You,” “Time for Me to Fly,” and “Roll With the Changes,” all of which were of course included in this set. But I was happy to see the group didn’t only go the obvious route, digging deeper into the band’s back catalogue, including the underrated gem “Golden Country” from the band’s sophomore album, REO/TWO (also the first with Kevin Cronin) and “157 Riverside Avenue” from the band’s 1971 self-titled debut album (which originally featured future Starcastle lead vocalist Terry Luttrell, but became more popular when performed live in concert with Cronin’s vocals). The namesake of the band, “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” was unsurprisingly performed as well. This is how to do a setlist right, combining deep cuts and hits in a good balance.
The members of the band were all more than up for the task at hand, clearly having chemistry with one another and being in good humor. If you can tell musicians are enjoying their time on stage and actually like one another, it makes the show that much better for everyone, and that showed through every second of this great rock set. I had my fears that, since these guys were opening the evening, they’d only get an abbreviated set time, but their set was quite full, filled with good performances of many classic REO tunes, popular and deep alike. It was my first time seeing these guys, and I don’t plan on it being the last.
We then come to Def Leppard music! Pyromania is a tribute band that’s played Vamp’d in the past over the years, but this was my first time seeing them live (quite surprising given how big a Def Leppard fan I am). We got an added bonus for this evening in that the group was fronted by someone who’s become a go-to guy in the music business for many a band -Andrew Freeman! I first became aware of Freeman when he was performing in RAIDING THE ROCK VAULT here in Vegas (his fellow former ROCK VAULT performer Paul Shortino was also in the house hanging out), but these days he’s probably best known for fronting Last in Line, featuring former Dio band members Vinny Appice and Vivian Campbell (who’s been in the real Def Leppard for the last 30+ years now). I wasn’t entirely clear from the advertising of Freeman was the new vocalist, or if he was just filling in for the one gig. Either way, I was excited.
Def Leppard has a catalogue spanning over 40 years, so choosing a setlist is certainly no easy task. I didn’t quite know what to expect for the gig. Would it be mostly hits from the band’s classic three albums produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange? Some early underrated deep cuts? Some tracks from the band’s post-80s years? Unsurprisingly, it was mostly a “hits” setlist, primarily featuring the hit songs from PYROMANIA and HYSTERIA, although I was pleasantly surprised to hear a few of the deeper cuts and minor hits from HIGH N DRY, the band’s 1981 sophomore album and the first to be produced by Mutt. Every song in the set came from these three albums, although the group did make one exception and throw in “Let’s Get Rocked” from 1992’s ADRENALIZE, the first album release after the death of guitarist Steve Clark, and their only effort as a four-piece band. While this was a good setlist, I would’ve liked to see a little more diversity. Seeing no songs from THE DEF LEPPARD EP or my favorite album (of all time, not just from Def Leppard), 1980’s Tom Allom-produced ON THROUGH THE NIGHT, was truly disappointing. “Ride Into the Sun,” “Hello America,” “Rock Brigade,” “Wasted,” and “Rocks Off” are all solid enough cuts from this era that would’ve made great additions to the setlist. It would’ve also been nice to get some of the songs Def Leppard has covered over the years, or cuts from albums like RETRO-ACTIVE, SLANG OR EUPHORIA, which really don’t get talked about enough.
And how about the band? Having Andrew Freeman in your band is a double-edged sword. It’s great because this guy has unrivaled on-stage energy, chemistry with other musicians, a powerful voice most musicians would kill to have, and a true appreciation and knowledge of the material he’s performing, whether it’s old or new. There’s a reason so many bands recruit him, on permanent and temporary bases alike. The downside, however, is every single musician has to keep up with him, and very few are up to the task. Fortunately, the musicians in Pyromania do a solid enough job, and more than competently brought this material to life on a live stage. The members don’t exactly physically resemble the members of the real Def Leppard (their bass player looks more like Steve Clark than either of the guitarists), but it’s musicianship that counts, and these guys have what it takes and then some.
This was a great night with two solid tributes who didn’t fail to please in the least. The music of REO Speedwagon and Def Leppard was brought to life by fantastic musicians who clearly appreciate the bands and their material. You owe it to yourself to catch either if you’re a fan of the music.
All photos other than event advert by the author.