With a homecoming show to end their current tour, Joe Elliot brought his Down 'n' Outz to Dublin, battling vocal issues, the Christmas rush, and gig goer apathy.
Photo: Darren McLoughlin
With a love of 1970’s glam rock, Def Leppard leader Joe Elliott has never been shy about waxing lyrical about his favourite bands, paying homage to the like of T-Rex, Elton John and of course Mott The Hoople. As revealed in a recent Uber Rock interview, he might not think of Down ‘n’ Outz as a labour of love, but that’s clearly what it is. As a Mott (and associated acts) covers band, featuring a Leppard, a Dragon, a fistful of Quireboys and now a Vixen, Down ‘n’ Outz are a curious beast. It’s difficult to know who exactly the band are aimed at, however, regardless, tonight in Dublin on the last night of a ten-date UK tour, they were in celebratory form, bringing to an end the touring cycle in support of latest album ‘The Further Adventures of…’.
With a sense of excitement in the air, not to mention a little festive cheer, tonight’s gig should have been the perfect place for rock fans to kick off their Christmas celebrations. However, disappointingly numbers in attendance were noticeably low. Perhaps it was the Christmas rush, the present buying credit crunch, or live music oversaturation (this week alone will see Machine Head, Kreator and Arch Enemy also play shows at this very same venue), but the Academy was sparsely populated to the point of threating to kill any atmosphere that may have been brewing. Still those present weren’t going to let it spoil their night, and as tunes by the likes of The Faces and David Bowie suitably blasted from the in-house sound system, a sense of anticipation filled the air.
Taking to the stage with minimal fanfare, the six-piece burst into life, with a surprising brace of Elton John numbers opening the show. With Elliott unusually seated stage right at the piano, providing additional instrumentation, the protracted Funeral For a Friend’ led into a rollicking ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ which saw the Leppard main-man take up his more usual role, front and centre stage on vocal duties. “Welcome to the Down ‘n’ Outz Christmas Party!” he exclaimed, switching to guitar before launching into Mott’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen’. With things kicking up a gear, and the band in a solid groove, ‘Drivin’ Sister’ followed, highlighting just how much the band have benefitted from the addition of Share Ross on bass and in particular backing vocals. With the storming ‘Whizz Kid’ meanwhile cementing the glam rock buzz, inside The Academy it felt like it was 1976 all over again, and disco, punk, new wave, new romantic, and even nu metal never happened. All that was missing was for Noddy Holder to exclaim ‘It’s Christmas!’ and the illusion would have been complete. Built on the rock ‘n’ roll guitars of the Quireboys’ Guy Bailey and Paul Geurin, and anchored by the powerhouse drumming of former Tokyo Dragon Phil Martini, Down ‘n’ Outz are a formidable force. It is however, a rare treat to see the instrumental skills of Elliot on display. He knows his way around the fret board, and he’s no slouch on the piano either, even when sparring against Down ‘n’ Out’s full-time keys-man Keith Weir. As a unit, the band really gel together, none more so than on single ‘One Of The Boys’. With the song’s video filmed just around the corner from The Academy, the track was one of the high points of the night, greeted ecstatically, not least by the pair of ladies in the front row who Joe later explained had been to every date on the tour.
It had thus far been a great show, however halfway through the set it was apparent that something was not right, and although Elliott’s glittery guitar and mike stand sparkled, unfortunately his voice was beginning to do less so. Admitting to coming down with a bronchial infection, the effects of the onset of illness were all too obvious, especially when speaking to the crowd between songs. It was difficult not to feel sorry for the singer, as he explained that he was at pains as weather or not to actually cancel tonight’s performance. His voice may be wavering, but his musically encyclopaedic mind was as sharp as ever. Joe Elliot is proudly a music nerd of the highest order, and he demonstrated this by giving a Wikipedia worthy history lesson on Mott’s ‘Shouting and Pointing’, before the band launched into a combustible rendition of the track. It was followed by recently released single ‘Sea Diver’, with the understated ballad offering a welcome change of pace. Virtually a solo piece, with Elliott once again seated at the piano, his voice seemed desperate to break through, and admirably very nearly did.
The odds may have been against him, but the show wasn’t over yet, and bringing the main set to a close, ‘Violence’ saw tour manager and violinist Sinead Madden taking to the stage to add colour to the song with some stunning soloing. All that was left was a rousing encore of ‘Good Times’, which brought the night to an end on a high note. With its chorus of “we’re gonna have a good time tonight, rock ‘n’ roll music gonna play all night” it was a particularly fitting finale.
It may have been an intimate affair, and the onset of illness may have prevented the band from reaching their glorious best, however those present tonight were treated to an enduring performance, from a band giving it their all. Those absent missed out on something rather special. For Joe Elliot and band, it was a case of down but not out. Here’s to further adventures.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 23 December 2014.