Summerfest Daily Highlights: Tuesday, July 5
Def Leppard, Switchfoot and Wiz Khalifa
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Eighties refugees Def Leppard are not just surviving but thriving midway through their fourth decade. While many of the band's peers have been reduced to playing clubs and state fairs, Def Leppard, having amassed album sales of 65 million, still headlines arenas and amphitheaters. In June, the band released Mirrorball, a live CD/DVD with three new songs. A hefty visual history also has been published, and a career-spanning box set and television cartoon series are said to be in the works.
Two years ago, though, Def Leppard faced rumors of their demise after canceling the last leg of 2009's North American tour. “There wasn't any mystery to it, really,” frontman Joe Elliott, 51, told the United Kingdom's Sheffield Telegraph in 2010. “My wife was pregnant and needed a bit of attention from me, which she wasn't getting. There were a lot of things in our private lives that needed attending to. We're not splitting. Not at all. We often joke, 'What else would we do?' We just can't imagine doing anything else.”
Heart will join Def Leppard in support of Night at Sky Church, a recently released live DVD, and last year's laid-back Red Velvet Car, the first studio album from the Wilson sisters in six years. (Michael Popke)
U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, 10 p.m.
Switchfoot's name derives from surfing jargon, but that's about where their relationship to The Beach Boys or Jack Johnson ends. The San Diego group has been knocking about since 1997, growing from a three-person lineup with a rawer sound to its current quintet format and more sonically layered approach to tuneful, often anthemic, sometimes aggressive alt-rock. Since 2003's The Beautiful Letdown and its pop-radio hits "Dare You to Move" and "Meant to Live," the band has amassed a large audience. Soundtrack appearances on movies including Mandy Moore's A Walk to Remember and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and continued play on commercial modern-rock radio, especially with singles from their 2009 album, Hello Hurricane, have kept their socially and spiritually conscious rock music in high profile. Switchfoot's vocal associations with charities for sufferers of natural disasters, poverty and other misfortunes affirm their do-unto-others bona fides, too. (Jamie Lee Rake)
Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 10 p.m.
With a weed-mellowed flow reminiscent of a more-alert, less-introspective Kid Cudi, Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa has succeeded where most blog rappers have not: translating his early critical acclaim and underground buzz into genuine commercial success. Buoyed by top-shelf production from the Norwegian hit-making duo Stargate, Khalifa's single “Black and Yellow” became one of last year's biggest rap hits, ubiquitous on both urban and pop stations. Released this March on Atlantic, Khalifa's major-label debut, Rolling Papers, followed in the template of that hit, putting the rapper over hooky, pop-leaning productions from I.D. Labs, Jim Jonsin and Bei Maejor. It's a record that's reluctant to mess with a winning formula, hence the “Black and Yellow” follow-up singles “Roll Up” and “Wake Up,” both of which re-teamed Khalifa with Stargate.
Milwaukee rapper Prophetic opens for Khalifa at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse at 8 p.m. This January, Prophetic, along with local rapper Pizzle, scored a local radio hit with “Green and Yellow,” a Packers-cheering spin on Khalifa's pro-Steelers anthem, so expect to hear plenty of reminders about which team took home the Lombardi Trophy this year. (Evan Rytlewski)