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Trifecta of rock — Def Leppard, Poison, Tesla — to play Colorado Springs

May 24, 2017 Updated: May 29, 2017 at 12:40 pm
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Def Leppard performs before an NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, at Wembley Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen is in high spirits the morning after what he describes as an "amazing show" in Green Bay, Wis.

And why shouldn't he be? The 59-year-old guitarist has spent more than three decades in the hugely popular English rock band, which has sold more than 100 million records since 1977. Anybody of a certain age can sing along to much of their triumphant 1987 album "Hysteria," which generated seven hit singles, including "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Love Bites" and "Animal."

But even after all this time and success, Collen sounds humble about his career.

"I don't think we're in the limelight," he said. "I walk around in Laguna Beach and people say, 'Hey, Phil, how's it going?' We have really normal lives. What's been great is the learning curve - I've gained so much experience from doing this and met very interesting people."

Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla will perform a rock trifecta Monday at The Broadmoor World Arena.

Rolling Stone described the band's last album, the 2015 "Def Leppard," as a dogged attempt to release new records and keep their greatness alive.

"The Leps seem uninterested in falling back on old glories, pushing their songwriting in frustratingly inventive and varied directions on the gender-bending disco jammy 'Man Enough,' the dance-pop-flavored 'Energized,' the Led Zep-tinged psychedelic folk-blues 'Battle of My Own' and the Nashville-minded acoustic ballad 'Last Dance,'" wrote critic Jon Dolan that year.

Collen himself had a paradigm shift in terms of songwriting. Once an admittedly shallow rock lyricist, something inside him clicked and writing became an unabashedly joyful form of artistic expression.

"You can do whatever you want - it's a blank canvas," he said. "It's the opposite of hack songwriting, which I'm quite capable of.

"It's most rewarding when the muse catches you and you follow it. Right now is an interesting time in the world. Wherever you go, there's conflict and everyone's scared. You see that and you can adapt that to the songwriting and give it that flavor."

A story about the guitarist wouldn't be complete without a tip of the hat to his anti-rock star lifestyle. The almost 60-year-old still swaggers through concerts minus a shirt, a habit he formed in the early '80s for one simple reason: "I sweat a lot," he said.

It doesn't hurt that his muscles ripple and flex as he plays, putting to shame many a younger rock musician. It's all a result of being a longtime vegetarian and now vegan, along with getting sober three decades earlier.

"I don't think something should die just for the ego of my palate," Collen said. "I found it kind of horrific. My grandmother made me steak and it was bleeding - that was the starting point. As I got older and more experienced and aware of things, it seemed like the contents of Jeffrey Dahmer's fridge - like kidneys. That's pretty much what you get in a regular fridge."

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