Just as the heavens threatened to open on what was a muggy Sunday evening, the most evangelical preachers of the devil’s music graced Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, commencing what was to be two hours of loud, balls-to-the-wall, rock ‘n’ roll.
Since AC/DC last shook Australia’s foundations on their Black Ice World Tour in 2010, there have been two line-up changes. Founding member, songwriter and rhythm guitarist (as well as the most under-rated guitarist of all time in this reviewer’s humble opinion) Malcolm Young has stepped down after being diagnosed with dementia in 2014, dutifully replaced by Stevie Young, Malcolm and Angus’ 58 year old nephew. The last Australian-born member, drummer Phil Rudd, has also departed the group (due to, amongst other things, allegedly ordering a hit on someone). He is replaced again by Chris Slade, the former drummer for the group’s 1990 album The Razor’s Edge and subsequent world tour. However, despite these line-up changes the band is as raw as ever.
Their set-list spanned 40 years, ranging from their first Australian top ten hit, 1975’s High Voltage, right up to Play Ball, Rock or Bust and Baptism of Fire, all from last year’s Rock or Bust album, their most recent studio offering. While it’s clear that the more modern numbers don’t match-up to their predecessors, each of the last five decades was represented by songs that sent the crowd into a head-banging, air-guitaring frenzy, followed by rapturous applause. AC/DC’s consistency and their longevity were both evident.
A similar story could be told of the crowd. Each of (at least) the last five decades was well-represented. with punters of all ages and cultures coming together to practice the only religion that mattered to them that night. Their preachers, a five-piece standing at an average age of 64, delivered the sermon with a power and energy unrivalled by other artists even one-third(!) their age. All were encapsulated. The passage of time was marked only by the sweat line descending on Brian Johnson’s t-shirt.
For those that had seen AC/DC before, there was a familiarity about the show. Much like their music, AC/DC’s live sets are not about pushing boundaries or self-reinvention. They have a recipe, they stick to it, and “hey, presto” they sell out a 50 000 seat stadium on a Sunday night in Melbourne.
There was Angus Young’s epic guitar solo during Let There Be Rock, complete with convulsing tantrum on the floor. All in his trade-mark school uniform of course.
There was the large, scantily-clad inflatable woman “erected” for Whole Lotta Rosie.
There were the six cannons discharged upon Brian Johnson’s command during the night’s “sure-fire” closer, For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).
Safe to say, you know what you are going to get. But by the looks of things, this doesn’t bother their fans one bit, and nor should it.
The band isn’t what it was. Black Ice was no Back In Black, and Rock or Bust contains nothing befitting an AC/DC Greatest Hits. Perhaps only Volume Two at best. But with what AC/DC continually serves up at their live shows, fans have every reason to keep the faith and they have.
Sure there have been calls for the band to give it away. But when your two options are retire or play in front of 50 000 people, what would you choose? People are voting with their feet, and they are voting for AC/DC.
Review written by Elepsis