Def Leppard made a somewhat unusual choice with their opening act for residency at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, going with a relatively obscure English group, the self-described “best fucking cover band in the world,” Ded Flatbird.
If you are lucky enough to have tickets to the Viva Hysteria! residency and/ or are one of those people who says to yourself “It’s okay if we miss the opening act,” do yourself a favor. Do NOT miss this opening act. They really just might be the best fucking cover band in the world– unless there’s a previously undiscovered cover band lurking in the Amazon rain forest that can rock your socks off and cure cancer. (And if you’re not lucky enough to have tickets to these shows yet, what are you waiting for?)
Picture this: the pre-show music is playing on the PA system, the lights go down, and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” comes on. The crowd goes wild, because we all know what’s going to happen next. The song plays through to the long solo. The curtains open to reveal the band in front of the largest Union Jack ever, and lead vocalist Booty Ruben introduces himself with Roger Daltrey’s iconic “YEAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!” (Ruben was already wearing sunglasses.) The band joins in, they finish the first song, and it is on.
It’s easy to see how Def Leppard would have looked at this hardworking, rag-tag bunch of guys and seen something of themselves in this band. They’ve got the same kind of background, and the same influences are evident– the Ded Flatbird look and sound is all about late 70s British glam. Ruben and his hat would be very much at home at a Mott the Hoople reunion.
And they’ve both got the same big sound, showcasing dual guitars– that’s Linkin Twain on stage left and Chingy Chapman, looking dapper in a shirt and vest, on stage right– and the kind of power drumming you might have thought only Rick Allen capable of, until you hear Flatbird drummer Camp Out. Fleetwood Beck rounds out the lineup on bass.
The Ded Flatbird setlist on the night DGT&G attended the show featured a lot of tracks from the headlining band’s back catalog, as they tore through “Rock Brigade” off On Through the Night, and later tracks like “When Love and Hate Collide,” “Promises,” and “Undefeated.” Really, had we not known better, we’d have thought Ded Flatbird was Def Leppard based on this performance.
Maybe that was the problem, the two bands were just too much alike, and maybe the guys in Def Leppard didn’t like these upstarts ultimately moving in on their territory. Nobody in either band has made a secret of the conflict between them. Just days before we arrived in Vegas, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell was taking shots at Flatbird on facebook, criticizing their use of the ramp from the stage out into the audience.
The animosity has clearly been mutual. Even as Ruben worked the crowd like a master– it seems instinctual, like he’s spent decades playing arenas and large venues instead of fronting a cover band– he wasn’t above throwing a few barbs Joe Elliott’s way in his banter with the crowd.
As a sad coda, even as we here at DGT&G were returning from Vegas on Monday, Ded Flatbird announced their intention to break up after the residency ends on April 13, citing the pressures stemming from their conflict with their headliners as a primary cause. It’s really too bad, because we all thought this band had a big future ahead. So get yourselves to Vegas and catch them while you still can.
Yes, we get the joke– they’re all Def Leppard. Stay tuned for the review of the main event.
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