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Tour Preview: Def Leppard Admit "If You Play New Songs, The Audience Walks Out"

March 27, 2008 1:58 PM ET

For the first time in six years, Def Leppard are hitting the road armed with new tunes, and guitarist Phil Collen is pragmatic about how people treat new work from a veteran band. "You'd really like to go out there and play all your new shit off the new record, but you can't do that, because they'd walk out," he says. "It's like when you go and see the Stones and Keith Richards starts doing a couple of songs, and everyone goes and buys a T-shirt."

The tour, which kicks off this week, will serve to warm up audiences for the forthcoming Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, the band's tenth studio album. Collen acknowledges that the album's title — derived from the band's backstage rehearsal area, where the songs were hashed out — doesn't quite have the pop of Pyromania or Hysteria, but it gets the job done. "[The title is] not very rock & roll, but for some reason, we don't really care anymore about that. 'Oh, it has to be cool, this has to be a strong title.' Fuck it. This is very relevant for what it is, and that's why we've done it."

New songs like "Go" and "Nine Lives" (which features Tim McGraw on its studio incarnation) will be sprinkled amongst the stadium staples "Rock of Ages," "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Armageddon It." When it comes to giving the old songs a run-through before the tour, things are decidedly more relaxed than in the early days. "We actually sat around on the couch watching football, and we'd play through tiny little amps and have this little Roland drumkit that would go through speakers, and we'd rehearse the whole set like that," Collen says. "It's a real drag rehearsing these songs we've done a million times, and there's no audience there, so it's a bit like pulling teeth."

As usual, the band's family members will be in tow, including Rory, Collen's eighteen-year-old son. Rory has been on the road with the band since he was born, and went through the standard "my parents embarrass me" phase. "That changed just before high school," Collen says. "All his buddies at school said it was cool because they saw me on Most Metal Moments or something like that on VH1."

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