Def Leppard’s Phil Collen Performs at World Music Show
There was plenty of “hysteria” generated at the University of Laverne outside of Los Angeles on Aug. 17 when Def Leppard lead guitarist Phil Collen joined internationally acclaimed cultural artist Yukiko Matsuyama.
It was a program entitled “World Music, Rhythm and Blues and a Little Funk” and featured a wildly eclectic evening of music that was punctuated by some classic Collen riffing. The diverse concert started when Matsuyama took the stage and led a jazz-based band through a series of interpretive musical works that she played on a number of kotos (7th-century, 13-stringed Japanese instruments) set across the stage.
The soft-spoken, traditionally dressed musician brought Collen out early in the evening. He was joined by noted gospel/soul singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook, and the pair dueted on the early-70s Bill Withers classic, ‘Use Me.’ Interestingly, the drummer for the evening was James Gadson, a legendary funk and soul stick man that actually played with Withers on the original performance of the song.
Collen and Blackwell-Cook returned throughout the night, sprinkled in among the other performances, which included more classic Koto playing along with some tuneful jazz riffing from the rest of the band.
But you knew it was all going to dovetail into a Def Leppard moment and the full group did not disappoint, closing the evening with a rousing rendition of ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ The intimate and historic 1927 college theater was rocking hard by the end of the tune, which capped an intriguing evening that wove together many musical styles.
“I was just so excited about this,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock after the show. “Yukiko is just a lovely player and it was a real challenge to blend my guitar playing with her koto playing. I’ve played a sitar before but never a koto, which is very different. But it’s a beautiful sound and I think we played well together. Playing with Debbie of course is something I always enjoy and since she and I will be recording some things soon this was a good chance to get on stage and work together in a live setting. And I have to say that playing with James Gadson is a real thrill of my musical career. Getting ready for this performance I’ve been looking at clips of him on YouTube with Bill Withers, just pinching myself that I was actually going to be playing with him. This was just a fantastic night and it was an honor to have been included.”
Collen, who returned recently from some seriously triumphant shows in Europe, Canada and the U.S., will be having minor hand surgery in September to correct an injury he suffered while on tour. That said, his playing on this night was brilliant, as tasteful and intense as we’ve gotten used to over the years. All in all, a very satisfying and one-of-a-kind show.