By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK (Reuters) - British rockers Def Leppard are hitting the road this summer to support their first ever live album which aims to cement the band's reputation as one of rock's top touring acts 34 years into its career.
"It's the first time we've taken stock of what we've done and delivered the live album fans have been asking for, for years," lead singer Joe Elliott told Reuters.
Best known for 1980's smash hits like "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard chose the tracks for its new "Mirrorball" from among 45 shows on its 2008-09 tour to support recent studio album, "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge."
Def Leppard, whose upcoming tour begins June 7 in Belfast and includes at least 42 U.S. dates, said the record shows how much tighter they've become since joining the ranks of rock superstars in 1983 with the diamond certified "Pyromania."
"We couldn't sing back then," guitarist Phil Collen said.
The band is known for its obsessive perfectionism and long recording process in the studio -- it took 3 1-2 years to make 1987's "Hysteria." Yet, for "Mirrorball" the members decided to include songs that had some imperfections to keep a feeling of "live" authenticity.
While it is billed as a live album, "Mirrorball" slips in three new studio songs: "Undefeated," which Elliott called a "classic arena rock anthem," "It's All About Believin'" and "Kings of the World." The new album's release date has yet to be determined, but will be available before the tour starts.
CATALOG ON ITUNES?
"Mirrorball" also will be sold on iTunes even though Def Leppard has yet to agree with the influential music website over most of the rest of its catalog, including the top-selling "Hysteria" and "Pyromania."
"If they give us a poster the same size as the Beatles got, then yeah," Elliott joked, referring to a several stories-high poster of the Fab Four on a midtown Manhattan building after that band reached a deal with iTunes parent company, Apple.
Elliott said that on the upcoming tour, the band's fans could expect more elaborate staging than in recent live shows, saying the new stage act has some "Cirque du Soleil"-like elements and elaborate lighting.
In keeping with its recent tours, Def Leppard is playing with another major veteran rock act, Heart, which is known for 1970's classics like "Barracuda" and "Magic Man."
On recent tours, classic rock bands such as Styx, Foreigner and Journey have opened for Def Leppard, increasing the band's box office draw by luring fans of the other groups.
"One and one makes three, it's no slight on the headliner when you do this" Elliott said.
Def Leppard plans an album of new material, likely in 2012, and expects to tour Europe in 2012. They also have a coffee table book of photography by Ross Halfin coming out in May.
Elliott knows the band is unlikely to ever return to its multi-platinum days -- it has sold a total of 65 million albums worldwide since forming in Sheffield, England in 1977 -- but he said playing live on major tours is reward enough.
"Everybody's record sales are down, it doesn't matter who you are," Elliott said. "As soon as you see the way fans react to you playing every night, you want to do it again tomorrow."
(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)