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Def Defying

Forget all those inspirational, made-for-TV tales of athletes overcoming hardship on their way to Olympic glory. For a real understanding of grit and perseverance, consider instead the 15-year-plus odyssey of Def Leppard.

At last count, England's platinum-caliber stadium rockers were leading most living bands in the hardship race. They've lost two guitarists to the bottle, among them longtime lead strummer Steve Clark, whose rampant alcohol consumption finally killed him in 1991. Drummer Rick Allen has been missing an arm since rolling his car in 1984 (and, of late, has taken to beating his mate with the remaining appendage). Singer Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen have recently endured ugly divorces. That's just about everyone, except for Def Leppard's most recent addition, guitarist Vivian Campbell. And since the group shows no signs of disbanding, he has plenty of time to take his own ride on the tragedy train.

It was after the phenomenal success of 1983's Pyromania and radio-tailored singles such as "Photograph" and "Foolin'" that Def Leppard's troubles started. Fate had it in for them; every time they prepared to move forward, they were beset with yet another problem. Spin even made it official one year by creating a "Things Could've Been Worse, Look at Def Leppard" music award category. Some criticized Leppard for its long breaks between CDs, but this is a band with more of an excuse than most for tardiness. The four years the group consumed between Pyromania and its even more popular 1987 follow-up, Hysteria, had just as much to do with Allen having to learn to play the drums with one arm as it did with the band's well-publicized perfectionism in the studio. As for the five-year gap between Hysteria and 1992's Adrenalize, that may have had something to do with the untimely death of Clark and the search for his replacement.

But through it all, Def Leppard has somehow prevailed. Though it's less of a commercial factor than it used to be, it's still reliably cranking out the sort of larger-than-life power ballads and Bazooka Joe riffs that can carry a career comfortably into its twilight. The stats support the band's case for greatness in the face of adversity. If nothing else, Def Leppard has outlasted a slew of its progeny. (Anyone remember Poison, Great White, White Lion?) Granted, the recent release Slang, Def Leppard's first all-new studio effort since Adrenalize, unnerved some fans a bit with its tinges of rap and Chili Pepper-ized funk. But this is one Leppard that has wisely declined to change its spots for good, opting to retain all those deliciously bombastic oldies on its current tour -- and probably on the tours that will undoubtedly follow.

-- Greg Barr
Def Leppard performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, August 4, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Tripping Daisy opens. Tickets are $20.50, $28 and $38. For info, call 629-3700.

Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds -- Although Barton's odd mix of theater, music and art has been evolving for decades, the few attempts to record his lunacy for posterity have gotten bogged down in the oleo and been beset by gars. Still, despite the fact that future generations have never done a thing for the Bi-Peds, the properly proportioned band for all seasons has decided to debut some new songs while the tape machine is running. The thought of a Beans Barton CD is a scary one -- people might listen to it until they understand what Barton is trying to say, and if that happened, we'd have to feed them to the Karankawas to keep the secret -- but it's a thought whose time has come. More than usual amounts of Barton's artwork will be on display during the show, and no doubt Velveteena will lure the seed breeder out of hiding, one of the Paco Bells will slap Paco and call him a bastard and Sue-Bob will make an absolute feetnik out of herself. If any of this makes sense, get your medication adjusted before the performance. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, at 9 p.m. Thursday, August 1. Tickets are $5. 869-COOL. (Jim Sherman)

Chubby Carrier -- He may not be the best of zydeco's new breed, but upon inspection, it's hard to deny Chubby Carrier the first-place prize as its most engrossing showoff. Carrier and his Bayou Swamp Band were placed on this earth to entertain, and the classic blues-based party music they play is a potent inducement to dance and carry on feverishly. True to zydeco's geographic tradition, the 29-year-old Carrier hails from just next door in Louisiana, and, as far as he's concerned, Clifton Chenier is the closest a man has come to God east or west of the Mississippi. Lafayette-raised and from a family of musicians, Carrier has his grandfather to thank for hooking him on zydeco, and his father, the well-respected Roy Carrier, to thank for teaching him the accordion (Chubby started as a drummer). Apart with the blues, Carrier incorporates elements of New Orleans funk, gospel, soul and doo-wop into his highly flammable bayou-boogie stew, which is captured in part on his new Blind Pig release, Who Stole the Hot Sauce? The lively recording is an adequate complement to -- but hardly a fitting substitute for -- Carrier and his band holding court in a steamy nightclub teeming with frenzied revelers. The proper recommendation? See Chubby, then worry about the CD. At Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond Avenue, at 9 p.m. Friday, August 2. Tickets are $11. 266-9294. (Hobart Rowland

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