It’s difficult for me to write about AC/DC without being autobiographical. At the age of 9, my only exposure to popular music was Wham! and dancing to Howard Jones with my sister. We’d recently moved house to a new area, and I got in with the local crowd of greasy youths, who were into some strange music that I’d never heard of before. My cultural consciousness was ripening and I was ready to belong, to something, to anything. So when one of those listless youths played me AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock…We Salute You (and, incidentally, Iron Maiden‘s 2 Minutes to Midnight) my brain lit up like a torch – I was infected.
Years later I still rate that track as the greatest piece of rock ever recorded. I mean seriously, it’s got a 21 gun salute! In recent years it became an ambition of mine to see it played live. What more spectacular event could there be? A culmination of a lifetime of love of the rock and roll art form.
Before this year I’d never seen AC/DC live – never managed to experience the movable rock and roll mecca that is For Those About To Rock… live. They’d not been to these shores for many years and many expected that they would never return. So as you can imagine, when they announced the tour I snapped up tickets as fast as Ticketmaster could get me through the booking process (which is actually quite fast – there’s a nerve pummeling time limit, it’s like being on the Crystal Maze).
I actually bought 2 lots of tickets, one for the 02 gig and one for Wembley – I wasn’t going to miss this, no siree! But, it was seeing this spectacle in a stadium that was really my dream, and could imagine that I was seeing it at Monsters of Rock. So it was all building up to last night.
The O2 gig was fabulous. The set was solid, but the set list was published in the paper the previous day, which removed some of the flavour of proceedings (see also my rant on predictability in live shows), but all in all it was fist in the air rock and roll fest.
Now, on to the review of last night’s gig. First thing’s first – the set list was the same as the O2 gig, exactly the same. To all intents and purposes I saw the same gig, just with more people watching it. The predictability, however, was largely balanced out by the atmosphere, which to use a hackneyed but appropriate term, was electric.
This is all the more impressive given that the very evening before, Michael Jackson had keeled over and died. There’s some interesting juxtapositioning here; according to Jackson’s lawyer, Jackson died of a heart attack brought on by an overdose of painkillers. Jackson was abusing these pharmaceuticals to calm feelings of anxiety over the 50, I repeat 50 consecutive gigs he was to play at London’s O2 arena. I challenge even a spring chicken like Miley Cyrus to pull off such a feat, let alone a 50 year old with mental health issues.
AC/DC, somewhat Jackson’s senior, didn’t go for the trendy option of a residency at the O2, they did a standard tour with a few stadium dates, but seeing them up on stage you can imagine them being able to do what Jackson clearly couldn’t. They may look old (Young’s thinning hair was painfully apparent) but they don’t act it. What’s more ironic is that whereas Jackson is clearly deranged, Angus Young, who on stage would appear deranged, almost certainly leads a understated suburban existence in one of Sydney’s leafier suburbs and is as well balanced as they come.
The previous night’s events hadn’t dampened the crowds thirst for rock and roll. A set that confidently lifted several tracks from their phenomenally well timed new album Black Ice didn’t skimp on the classics either. The fact that everyone knew that AC/DC would play their most well known and loved song Back in Black 3rd in in the set didn’t spoil anyone’s night. Young’s extended guitar thrash-outs didn’t bore anyone, they knew what to expect, cheered at the right time and marveled at his ability to make an increasingly discordant and evil noise with his guitar. There were explosions, which are always cool, and a giant lady pleasuring herself against a train. Nice.
The classics were rolled out exactly as they should be. The energetic stage act is played out exactly as it should be. Angus excreted exactly 7 gallons of sweat, exactly as he always does, and his brother and the other bloke stay at the back where they belong.
Everything in it’s right place. Just as it should be. That’s what rock and rolls about, right?
Actually no. No it’s not. The most rock and roll thing I saw all night was the drummer playing with a fag drooping from the corner of his mouth.
I’m not saying that it wasn’t an immensely enjoyable gig; it was – like being at a party with 50,000 of your mates who all like the same songs. Hearing that many people hollering the chorus to You Shook Me All Night Long is a wonderful thing. AC/DC should be celebrated, and this may be the last time any of us get to do that. But that’s just what is was – a celebration. Not a night that you will remember and cherish, something spontaneous, one in a million, “were you there when…?”. Perfectly executed, passionately delivered, meticulously rehearsed and continuously repeated.
So, back to the culmination of my rock and roll loving life. I was about to rock. I was quite drunk. I was suitably boisterous. When the encores arrived, I was excited. Then it came.
How could it ever live up to my expectations? The crowd weren’t waiting with bated breath for this singular spectacle. They knew it was coming. They’d seen it before and were thinking about how to get to the loo and still stay ahead of the crowd to get on the train. The guns weren’t very big and there weren’t 21 of them (6 to be precise). It all finished too quickly, and was punctuated by sweaty daddies squeezing past me to leave the stadium.
Disappointed? Only in myself. At my age I should know better. Thank you AC/DC for 25 years worth of pleasure and for the countless more moments of pleasure you provide via my iPod. For that, I salute you.
1. Rock N’ Roll Train
2. Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
3. Back in Black
4. Big Jack
5. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
6. Shot Down in Flames
8. Black Ice
9. The Jack
10. Hells Bells
11. Shoot to Thrill
12. War Machine
13. Dog Eat Dog
14. Anything Goes
15. You Shook Me All Night Long
17. Whole Lotta Rosie
18. Let There Be Rock
19. Highway to Hell
20. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)