Talk about your long-awaited encores: When Def Leppard takes the stage at Casino del Sol's AVA on Wednesday, the band will end a 13-year absence from Tucson.
Its last show here was in late 1999 in the converted parking lot of the New West (since long gone) on the northwest side. About 7,000 people turned out that chilly December night to see the England-born band blast through hits like "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Armageddon It," "Animal," "Hysteria" and "Love Bites."
"I guarantee this one will be better," guitarist Vivian Campbell said during a phone call last month from a tour stop near Buffalo, N.Y. "The show is a lot better actually. It's a lot bigger. It's a lot flashier. We've definitely ramped up our production in the last five or six years to make it a little more special year after year."
Since June, Def Leppard has been swinging into cities like Tucson that it hasn't been to in years and cities it's never played in a tour that pairs it with Poison and Lita Ford.
We chatted with Campbell, who first rose to prominence in the early 1980s as the original guitarist for Dio, about the tour, reuniting with his old Dio band mates and turning 50.
Have you ever been part of a package tour in which you didn't jell with the other acts?
"The nature of the industry, in the United States at least, is putting multiple acts together. And we always get along well with whoever we're with. Leppard has always had a very nice working environment … and we do project that vibe to other bands that we work with. We tend to only work with groups that we can kind of coexist with. We're a very touchy-feely kind of band."
It's been so long since we last saw you. What can we expect from your show?
"We still maintain a level of energy in our shows that has always been synonymous with a Def Leppard show. It's pretty high-energy music, so it wouldn't behoove us to go out on stage and sit on stools and play like The Eagles do. We still have that enthusiasm and energy that we bring to our live shows, but it's definitely flashier than it was in 1999."
Do you still perform shirtless?
"I leave that to Phil (guitarist Philip Collen). He sets the bar pretty high. He doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink. He's vegan and he works out two, sometimes three times a day. Phil is actually one small step away from becoming a professional bodybuilder, he is that toned. When you've got that to compete with, I'll keep my shirt on."
Were you nervous about turning 50?
"No. I don't like the sound of it. I would rather it was a four than a five, but there are certain benefits with age just in terms of the way you look at the world. I have less anxiety than I did a few years ago. And everything is good. I have the love of a lovely woman who keeps me young and beautiful children (daughters 11 and 13)."
Is it true that you're reuniting with the original Dio members?
"Yeah, that's very much happening. ... I kind of ran into (Dio bassist) Jimmy Bain and we got to talking and we got together and played and it was great fun. ... We brought in this guy to sing the songs. He doesn't sound like (the late frontman) Ronnie (James) Dio, but he sings great and does it justice. One thing led to another and we thought, why the hell not? This is as much our heritage as it was Ronnie's. That's the way I look at it now. For years it was a painful memory, and now I feel very proud of those records. I wrote those songs; I cut those albums. I feel that that is as much a part of my heritage as it was Ronnie Dio's and I have every right to go out there and play that. ...
"At some point in 2013, I will be out there playing in the band and we'll call it Last in Line, and we'll only play songs from the first two albums, maybe a couple songs from the third album."
Are you still having fun touring with Def Leppard?
"I very much enjoy my work. Playing live in front of an audience is the biggest thrill. ... It's a privilege to be able to do this still and especially at this time in our lives and do it at this level."
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If you go
• What: Def Leppard in concert with Poison and Lita Ford.
• When: 7 p.m. Wednesday.
• Where: Casino del Sol's AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road.
• Tickets: Reserved seats sold out; $60 for lawn at tickets.solcasinos.com