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music review

Kiss, Def Leppard deliver showmanship

7.4.709909633_LIfestyle_04kiss The American rock band KISS performs at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass., Friday, August 1, 2014. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe

Kiss performed at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield.

A solid decade separates the heydays of Kiss and Def Leppard, but both bands served a similar role for a certain type of person’s teenage years. So even though there may have been a full pop-music generation separating the coheadlining bands’ fanbases Friday at the Xfinity Center, it didn’t matter. Everyone had the same inner 15-year-old coming out to party, regardless of which band they called theirs.

With only one lineup change since their breakthrough “Pyromania” — out of necessity when guitarist Steve Clark died in 1991; they didn’t even replace their drummer when he lost an arm – the members of Def Leppard are nothing if not loyal to the band. They’re in it for the long haul, which may be why their approach didn’t seem to have changed since 1988. There was no attempt to switch things up, save an acoustic “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” that became the familiar full-electric version by the end anyway.

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That meant that the anodized harmonies and precision-sculpted guitar parts of “Photograph” and “Hysteria” remained intact. So, too, did the genial idiocy hits like “Let’s Get Rocked.” But at its best, like with “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” idiocy was irrelevant. All they needed was a dead-simple, utterly indelible riff, a thunderous beat, and a guitar break that was practically holy writ by now. Def Leppard made no attempt to vary it.

In one of its signature songs, Kiss directly equates thunder and rock ‘n’ roll, which explains plenty about the sludgy bulldozer thud powering most of its set. The band could be tight and even funny with “Rock And Roll All Nite” and “Calling Dr. Love,” but “Hotter Than Hell,” “Lick It Up,” and many others were merely crude riffage attached to cruder songwriting.

But even with mostly uninspired material, Kiss was never, ever boring. Songs were simply delivery systems for showmanship, as when Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer prowled the stage worshipfully as Gene Simmons, hoisted atop the spider-shaped rigging, raged “God Of Thunder” from on high. And while Kiss drew mainly from the same box of tricks it’s had for decades, there were all the explosions, spark-spitting guitars, and blood- and fire-spitting (and microphone-licking) bassists anyone could hope for.

Kobra And The Lotus’s opening set offered operatic metal marked by singer Kobra Paige’s throaty, well-supported vibrato and a tech crew that kept admirably to the schedule by dismantling the drums and amps before the band was finished playing them.

7.4.709909633_LIfestyle_04kiss The British rock band Def Leppard with lead vocalist Joe Elliott performs at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass., Friday, August 1, 2014. (Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe

Def Leppard with lead vocalist Joe Elliott at the Xfinity Center.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at officialmarc@gmail.com or on Twitter @spacecitymarc.
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