It's clearly a good time to be a Def Leppard fan, and there's an air of celebration in the air as the heroes come home. Family, friends, and even original Leppard drummer Tony Kenning are in attendance tonight, making it feel all the more select for the lucky few who've bagged tickets.
It's no understatement to say that the venue is absolutely bursting to its 850 capacity cap, well ahead of the 9pm start. It may hold that many people officially, but with three bars and various nooks, out in front of the stage it's more like half that number, and with all eyes on the simple, non-dressed stage, as showtime approaches, the atmosphere is absolutely electric.
With attendees sipping on special 'One Night Only' Def Leppard IPA, the five-piece casually stroll onto the stage without fanfare. This is as real as it gets with these multi-million selling giants; a rawer, up close and personal experience from a band well versed in the stagecraft of enthralling stadium-sized crowds.
Going right back to their roots, they launch into 'Action', by their idols Sweet, which really sets the tone, kicking things into gear with a bang. When the track reaches its climax, the audience cheer threatens to drown out the band.
"Good evening Sheffield! Welcome to the Leadmill!", declares front man Joe Elliott, somewhat casually. This is anything but, however. Going straight into 'Fire It Up' from 2022's 'Diamond Star Halos', it's followed by early cut 'Let it Go'; the first of four from the fan (and clearly band)-favourite 'High and Dry' album.
What's clear from even this early stage, is just how damn good Def Leppard are. Stripped right back, there's less production enhancement (they go straight into 'Hysteria' deep track 'Excitable' without its "are you excitable?" intro, for example), and this reveals a live act that can really cut it. Joe Elliott is singing better than he has done in years, and eonmusic interviewee Rick Allen in particular is on fire. His outro drum solo in 'Let it Go' is simply jaw-dropping, even prompting Elliott into giving him an "impressive stuff!" nod, as it ends.
Changing pace, the 'Drastic Symphonies' version of 'Too Late For Love', with its slightly altered verse melody, proves an early highlight, in a night that is crammed with them.
If you came looking for rare cuts, you weren't disappointed, as 'Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)' rubbed shoulders with the all too often forgotten 'Slang' (last performed during their 2019 Las Vegas residency).
"We're going to frontload the set with songs we never play because we're playing a big show down the road in a couple of days", reveals Joe at the halfway point; "but here's a few songs you might be familiar with".
Cuing up the title track from their biggest album, 'Hysteria's call and response between singer and audience makes the hairs on the back of necks stand, whilst 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' has the entire audience singing along in unison.
Glances are exchanged between band members and people they know in the crowd, and taking it all in and getting nostalgic for a minute, Joe says; "Here we are in 2023 in the Leadmill. We'd have dreamed of doing this in 1978"
As the all too brief show comes to a close, Elliot recalls the impact of late guitarist Steve Clarke, saying "he stuck a pose that pretty much said "cop this!", ahead of debut album, Clarke-riff-heavy classic 'Wasted'.
It was a short, sharp set that only left the crowd wanting more, which thankfully for them, is only a few days days away, with the kick off of their European stadium jaunt with Mötley Crüe taking place just up the road at Bramall Lane on Monday (22nd May).
Even without the huge staging, the lights and production, not to mention some of their biggest hits, Def Leppard proved just what it was that drove them to becoming one of the biggest acts in the world.