Def Leppard talks cancer, concert film

Band had fun as fake Def Leppard cover band Ded Flatbird

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LOS ANGELES — Rocking with Def Leppard between bouts of chemotherapy proved healing for guitarist Vivian Campbell.

The 51-year-old musician relied on his bandmates and the thrill of performing to help him through a diagnosis of Hodgkins lymphoma (he started treatment in April). The band hit the road this summer for a monthlong tour that wrapped in July.

"We've actually been able to work through it," said Campbell. "We did the shows in Europe while I was doing chemo ... and mentally that was a big part of my recovery."

After more than 30 years together, Def Leppard isn't slowing down for cancer -- or anything else.

Fans can see the band at select cineplexes Tuesday in "Def Leppard Viva! Hysteria Concert." Filmed during a Las Vegas residency earlier this year, it shows the quintet doing something unprecedented: performing the 1987 mega-hit album, "Hysteria," live from start to finish.

"It was fun, actually, and a totally different way of doing it," said guitarist Phil Collen. "It was a different dynamic doing the album in full, and it was much more theatrical."

Part of the theatrics came in the form of Ded Flatbird. Singer Joe Elliott suggested the band open for itself during its first-ever Vegas residency, but do it as a fake cover band.

"We would actually go out and pretend to be Ded Flatbird, who were supposedly the greatest Def Leppard cover band in the world," said Campbell. "Joe gave us all aliases. We became different characters, and as the shows progressed, we kind of developed those personalities a little bit more, and that was a fun part of the show ...

"Then, of course, the curtain reveal and it's Def Leppard doing 'Hysteria.'"

Ded Flatbird performed nightly during the nine-show engagement, playing obscure material from the early days of Def Leppard and other tracks apart from the "Hysteria" album. Ded Flatbird's performances are included in the double CD and DVD set, "Viva! Hysteria," out on Oct. 22.

"We were so convincing that a lot of people didn't actually realize it was us," said drummer Rick Allen. "We actually got booed by a few people."