If you would have caught Andy Hoots and I driving through the mean streets of Rector, Arkansas in 1980, there is a 97.8% probability that we would have been blasting an 8-track of Highway to Hell or Back in Black at a window shaking volume. At the age of fourteen, I didn’t need to hear geo-political essays set to music or existential angst anthems. Songs about drinking and sex and juvenile delinquency satisfied my junior high school soul. There has always been an admirable stone age simplicity to AC/DC’s riff oriented, high decibel rock. Since neither the band nor I are getting any (Angus) younger, I thought it was time to finally check out their live show. It was loud. Very, very loud.
From a visual standpoint, it’s basically a two person show. Bassist Cliff Williams and guitarist Stevie Young stand next to drummer Chris Slade as though their feet are glued to the floor until it’s time to scream a few backing vocals. That trio creates a thundering foundational din that Angus cuts through with his high pitched riffs and solos. Angus still sprints across the stage, duck walks, and has the same open-mouthed, idiot savant demeanor that he’s always had. His playing is excessive, but he is the main focal point of the show. At the end of the regular set, he played a solo that must have been five minutes, but seemed longer than a PBS documentary on Scandinavian horseradish pesticides. I’m not sure the best way to explain the quality of the solo, but the word masturbatory just appeared in this sentence.
OK, let’s get to the main problem. I’ve never thought that Brian Johnson could lace Bon Scott’s tennis shoes, let alone wear Bon’s puke speckled sneakers. Johnson is not one of rock ‘n’ roll’s great singers. In fact, it would be more appropriate to call his vocals “hernia belching” than “singing.” He growled, he barked, he made grand gestures, but his fundamental inability to project over the music sprayed dung mist over the entire proceedings. There was no transitory momentum within the songs, because the chorus sounded just as sludgy as the verses. If I would have closed my eyes and listened to “Given a Dog a Bone” without any context, I would have thought I was listening to a grunge band.
There are some AC/DC riffs that are so encased within my DNA that they were a pleasure to hear in a live environment and there are plenty of arena rock stage theatrics in the presentation. However, the show was too long given the repetitive nature of the material and lacked any real emotional impact. I would have absolutely loved to have come to a different conclusion, but in 2016, AC/DC are selling arena rock nostalgia by peddling volume over quality.
Grade – C+
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Given the Dog a Bone
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – August 1975 (Volume 7, Number 3)
If I did fifty shows I’d get the money from one
a growling, prowling slap pump and just another all American
a 28 song full, full blown reggae rasta brilliance
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1975 (Volume 7, Number 2)
the boundary breaking shock rocker of the decade
Harry seems to have it sewn up
a superb songwriter who can fill an album with excellent country mainstreamers
lovely tribute to her single mom
a classical guitarist and composer and has released more than 30 solo albums
“The song is about a mental institution”
Freakout Records Announce The 10th Annual Freakout Festival Taking Place on November 10-13 in Ballard (Seattle, WA)
a diverse arrangement of voices and sounds