For my ninth rock n roll roadtrip of 2018 I splurged and bought a VIP Meet and Greet package with Def Leppard. I was going solo to this show so I thought, why not? Everyone knows what a huge Vivian Campbell fan I am and that I co-admin a Riverdogs Fanpage (www.facebook.com/groups/RiverdogsBand/). I have met Viv quite a few times but never have I done a fan meet and greet with Def Leppard even though I had met the band before. I am a member of a few fan pages and one of the questions that gets asked a lot is what is a meet and greet like? So in this post I am going to talk about my experience at the Def Leppard show in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 5, 2018.
I left for Raleigh mid morning driving an uneventful three hour and forty minutes from Virginia. I checked into my hotel and got changed. I had bought a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse with the Union Jack on them and also had my vintage Def Leppard "women" shirt that I had purchased at my first Def Leppard show in 1988 when I was just 13 years old. I arrived at the PNC Arena about 30 minutes before the scheduled meet and greet time, which was 4:45. I parked close by under a tree (it was a scorcher) and proceeded to tailgate with a couple who was seeing Def Leppard for the first time in over 35 years! At 4:35 I walked over to the appointed meeting place and got in line. It was well organized and they began to let us in early. One thing that you should know is that you have to have ID and be the purchaser on record to be able to pick up your meet and greet packages. After I got my swag bag, ticket to the show and lanyard pass, we were let into the lobby area where we were allowed to shop the merch. What I loved is that Def Leppard was doing soundcheck at this time. So, while we couldn't get a peek at them, we were able to hear them play. The VIP package included a set of vintage postcards, a luggage tag, a passport holder, a signed Hysteria poster and a large canvas tote. It was a lot of loot! And NO, you can't leave to take it to your car. Once you are in, you are in for the night!
After some time in the lobby listening to soundcheck, checking out the merch, meeting other fans and ordering beverages, we were let into the main floor of the arena in order to get group photos taken. This was fun and everyone was very excited. I would imagine that there were about 60-70 people who were doing the meet and greet at this show. They took about 15 people at a time up on the stage to take a photo in front of Rick Allen's Drum Kit. The first group photo was a serious pose and the other was a fun rock star pose! On the way down from the stage I managed to get a shot of Vivian's guitars in their case.
After the group photo we were led to an area in the back of the arena. This was the working part of the arena. I even caught a glimpse of Vivian Campbell's guitar tech Wolfie! While waiting backstage there was a raffle for all the VIP Meet and Greet people (we were all given a raffle ticket with our merch) and the winner was a lovely lady and her friend. They got to sit side stage for the first two songs of the show! The crowd was very excited and chatty while waiting. It was like a group of old friends who had come together for a visit! While in line I also saw Phil Collen's two youngest daughter's with their Mom hanging out backstage.
Both the PNC Arena and Def Leppard staff were amazing. There was a young man who was watching our purses and merch so that we didn't have to carry them into the photo. He was funny and kind to a bunch of nervous nellies. Finally it was my turn. I walked around the corner and Rick Savage was there. I was a bit tongue tied but said Hi Sav and shook his hand. Next to him stood Vivian who was smiling and said Hi to me. I leaned in and got a hug from him. Next was Joe. I showed them all my shoes and told them that I had bought my shirt thirty years ago. I shook hands and said Hi to Phil and Rick while still talking about my shirt with Joe. Joe kept talking even while we were getting the picture taken. He told me how well the shirt had held up all these years and I said something like yeah, almost as good as all of us. The meet and greet goes by fast, but I did not feel rushed at all. Def Leppard has a wonderful photographer, Valerie, who takes the photos. They are then posted for you about a week after the show. The photos are good quality.
After the meet and greet was over, I went and found a Def Leppard beer (which was only on tap in Raleigh) and my seat. I realized that the woman sitting in front of me was familiar and so I introduced myself. It turns out we know each other from the Riverdogs Fan Page and another fan page that I am on. We are in the group photo together as well! It was good to meet you Kelpie! It is always good to meet people from our online support groups! I also got to see my other concert friends Liz, Cat and Louise. One of the perks of doing the meet and greet is that my seat was in the second row. I was on Vivian's side of the stage, right in front of him. I changed into my Riverdogs tank so that I didn't get my vintage Lep shirt all sweaty.
The Concert was amazing as always. Viv tossed me a guitar pick (or three, haha). He is always good to me like that. The next day my friend sent me a message to check out Journey's Instagram account (they are on tour with Lep right now and played after Lep did). Low and behold there I was! Entranced by the music from the looks of it.
Journey played a great set to close out the night. After the show I headed to the local McDonald's for a night cap and made it back to my hotel in one piece. The next day I was still on my concert high as I made my way home to Virginia. It was another great rock n roll roadtrip!
Shoot me a message if you have any questions about the meet and greet! I am happy to share my experience!
A few months ago I was contacted by Los Angeles based photographer Astor Morgan www.astormorgan.com and asked to write an essay on a photograph of Vivian Campbell that he had taken in Los Angeles at the Riverdogs reunion show on December 2, 2017. The original post is on his Instagram Page which is a set of photo essays called "Between sets by Astor Morgan".
Below is my essay, unedited. Thank you to Astor Morgan for allowing me this opportunity.
By Lori Jackson Black
"Last year I got to live out every fan’s dream when I was invited to California to attend the Riverdogs last rehearsal before their first show in 14 years. Some nine months before I had heard my favorite guitarist Vivian Campbell on the radio doing an interview about how he felt Riverdogs was some of his best work that no one had ever heard. I decided to use my social media skills to promote a band I love. Social media connected me with Riverdogs in a way I never dreamed of.
I arrived at the rehearsal studio that Thursday night and the first person I see is Vivian Campbell in the parking lot. I had to pinch myself. Was this even real? It was not my first meeting with Vivian but this was different. The rehearsal studio was not large and a small group of fans, friends and family were there. It was intimate and special for all of us. As the band ran through the set I was standing mere feet in front of Vivian. I got to see the Les Paul that started it all, 72987537 and the guitar that Pete Townshend so lovingly scratched his name into up close. Vivian is not the typical rock star. He is talented beyond compare, but to us fans he is kind and approachable. That night I was able to talk to Vivian in a social setting far different from the meet and greets of the past. It was something special, an evening where many friendships were made.
Saturday night arrived, as had Riverdogs fans from all around the world. There were fans from as far away as Australia & The Netherlands and all across the United States. We met in the parking lot, some of us meeting for the first time, some of us old concert friends. We are rock and roll family. The venue was small and intimate, nothing like the arenas and stadiums that Vivian is used to playing with Def Leppard. I had a spot next to the stage, a little off to the side of Vivian. From that vantage point I got to watch the show from a technical standpoint. That night I witnessed Vivian’s passion for playing, the ease and grace in his flipping of switches and the manipulation of foot pedals. I could feel the bond of the band on stage, the genuine friendships that make Riverdogs something special. I was in awe of it all.
That night was not about Vivian Campbell, guitar hero, it was about the music, it was about Riverdogs. It was about the fans. We use these musical moments to forget about the tough things in life. We forget Vivian has cancer. We forget our own troubles. We become a family for that one night. The music is our connector. The music is what drives us. The music is what save us and for that I am grateful."
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Riverdogs manager Paul Liszewski and lead singer Rob Lamothe for inviting me to the rehearsal. It really was a dream come true!
Riverdogs Website: http://riverdogsmusic.com/
Riverdogs Facebook: www.facebook.com/riverdogsband/
Riverdogs Facebook Fanpage: www.facebook.com/groups/RiverdogsBand/
Below is a photo gallery from the two nights. Enjoy!