There is no element of surprise going in to an AC/DC show. Still, AC/DC live is sheer awe, the pinnacle of the form. AC/DC, the rock’n’roll monolith, has been functioning for 40-plus years, enduring ostensibly seismic shifts that end up presented as a fresh lick of paint within scale. Last year the unit experienced their greatest shift since the passing of Bon Scott in 1980, with the veritable engine of the group, Malcolm Young, permanently retired. Nephew Stevie Young serviceably arms himself with a Gretsch with one pickup gouged out, marching in unison with bassist Cliff Williams to belt out the chorus (more often than not, the song title). It’s a thing of beauty, still.
There are variations on the theme tonight. AC/DC tours are a genre unto themselves: the inflatable Rosie straddling the stage, the cannons sending off For Those About To Rock, the elevated platform for Angus’s marathon Let There Be Rock solo, Angus scowling “but you ain’t got the guts” during Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Each tour for the past decade or so sticks to a regimented setlist, with no variation from first to closing leg.
This time around, longstanding ode to STIs The Jack is jettisoned, as is Angus’ trademark striptease (instead, a new move involving a solo played with his schoolboy tie is introduced during Sin City). The inclusion of Have A Drink On Me is perhaps Back In Black overload. It’s a deep cut in relation to the staple hits of the album, and there’s stronger deep cuts to be found from the Bon Scott era. High Voltage included shout outs to Malcolm and Bon, the only instance of sentimentality for the night. But we’re not here for sentimentality, are we. Rock Or Bust gets three showings: the set-opening title track, the serviceable lead single Play Ball, and the rollicking excellence of Baptism By Fire.
Brian Johnson is agile – maybe not agile enough to ring Hell’s bell himself anymore, but agile enough to lead a party. Angus still darts across stage with impossible energy, scissor-walking while his guitar screams like a jet-fighter during Shot Down In Flames. There are slight indications of weariness – the setlist spaced with stage-darkened moments to catch breath, though still roaring back with insurmountable power into each successive song; the catwalk has shrinkage compared to last tour. But these are minor symptoms, totalling to something far more insignificant than logic deems possible. AC/DC, still, are the greatest band on the planet.
Steven Tyler declared an AC/DC power chord “the second most satisfying surge that can run through your body.” Much like the first most satisfying, it’s advisable to experience AC/DC live as often as possible, while you still can. But forget the hearse – AC/DC will never die.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Photo by Ian Laidlaw
Loved: Powerage represented with Sin City.
Hated: Being seated in a position where Rosie was obscured out of sight.
Drank: Forget about the cheque, we’ll get hell to pay.