Vivian Campbell Says Poison Fued Is “Much Ado About Nothing”


August 7, 2008

David Schmeichel of the Winnipeg Sun reports that it turns out staging a successful rock concert is a lot like making a killer mix-tape: It’s all about the songs you choose and the order in which you choose to play ’em.

At least, so says arena-show veteran Vivian Campbell, who should know — after all, he’s been slinging an axe for Def Leppard for the last 16 years.

But while you’d assume the hard rockers would have little trouble keeping their fans entertained — given the scores of album and radio hits they’ve racked up since the late ’70s — Campbell says sequencing is still a tricky business.

“It’s a tough thing for us, and we’re kind of between a rock and a hard place,” says Campbell, who also logged time with Dio and Whitesnake before signing on with Def Leppard. “As artists, you keep wanting to move forward and play your new material, but you’re kind of beholden to your success of the past. We’re fortunate, in that we have a truckload of bona fide Top 20 hits, but the other side of the equation is that’s all our audience wants to hear.”

Which of course makes it difficult to showcase tunes from your latest album — in Def Leppard’s case, the recent Songs from the Sparkle Lounge — without prompting a mass exodus for the beer line.

“We try to sneak in a couple new songs as we go, but you can really tell the majority of the audience doesn’t know them, because there’s a collective, ‘Uhh,’ ” Campbell quips. “You can put a new song in the first two or three — or even start with it — because while the audience is there and you have everyone’s attention, they’ll indulge you. But from then on, it gets difficult. You’ve got to pick the right (new) song to play, and even then, assume maybe 10 people in the audience are going to know it out of 10,000.

“Running order is very important, especially for a band like us, because our show is very physical, and it’s very up, and we don’t like to bring it down.”

Campbell says the band has learned “from experience” how to strike that balance between fan favourites and labours of love. But they still experience hiccups, as they did back in 2002, the last time they had new material to hawk.

“We started off the tour playing six songs from the new album, and that very quickly became five songs, and then four, and then one — the single,” he recalls. “That can even happen with what you’d hope would be familiar material, like this one tour where we started the show by playing the entire Side 1 of the High and Dry album. About 30% of the audience went mad for it, but the rest of them were like, ‘This isn’t Pour Some Sugar On Me.’ Then we realized that wasn’t the biggest album for fans, and it would’ve been different if we’d opened with Hysteria. So you can’t be too clever.”

Hopefully fans will recognize a few of the tracks from Sparkle (which features a duet with country star Tim McGraw), especially now that they’ve had a little extra time to familiarize themselves with the disc.

Def Leppard were supposed to play Winnipeg back in April, but had to reschedule their show when frontman Joe Elliott came down with what Campbell jokingly refers to as “a sniffle.”

“It was actually an upper respiratory tract infection, which was very unpleasant,” he explains, noting doctors told the band to “nip it in the bud,” otherwise they’d have to scrap the next eight months of touring. “We’ve all been on tour and gotten ill and managed to pull through, but with this, it got to the point where Joe would open his mouth and nothing would come out. Which for Joe Elliott is very strange. That man is in love with the sound of his own voice.”

For proof, one need look no further than the recent mini-controversy Elliott stirred up by daring to suggest that glam bands like Poison and Motley Crue “totally missed the point.”

“You know, we live in a time where you can’t say or do anything,” says Campbell with a laugh. “And where do people find the time? I have two small children and three dogs, and I don’t even have the time to go to the dentist, let alone sit on the Internet chatting about this s– for hours. It’s much ado about nothing.”

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