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AC/DC: Rock or Bust tour review (Sydney)

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AC/DC’s irrepressible guitarist Angus Young turned 60 this year and still fits into his school uniform. I’ve never seen somebody looking so comfortable in a velvet two-piece blazer and shorts ensemble, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody looking so comfortable commanding an audience of 70,000 or so fans using just a Gibson SG.

Young, the only remaining original band member, expelled an extraordinary amount of energy and stagecraft at the first Australian date of the Rock or Bust world tour. He spent the two hour set throwing himself around with abandon, duckstepping across the massive stage and flinging himself to the ground, all the while pouting and playing up to the audience. That his guitar playing remains technically secure while he struts about is quite impressive.

Lead singer Brian Johnson let Young lap up most of the limelight but matched him in terms of energy. His voice has lost a little of its colour, but he still knows how to deliver a lyric with all the attitude and cheek required as he demonstrated in You Shook Me All Night Long, which contains one of rock’s greatest sexual innuendos, “she told me to come but I was already there”.

There are a few new songs on the set list towards the beginning (although unlike many bands of AC/DC’s vintage, their latest album was a commercial success and plenty of fans know the new material) but soon enough the band starts rattling off hit after hit with Back in Black, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and the rock anthem Thunderstruck all showing up pretty early.

Most of the band’s biggest songs share a similar driving beat and percussive rhythm guitar riffs (played here by Stevie Young who replaces his uncle Malcolm Young who retired last year because of his dementia). Although that can make their albums occasionally predictable, it’s exactly what’s required to keep the stadium rocking along at a steadily frantic pace.

This is spectacle on the grandest scale, executed with a surprisingly camp sensibility. AC/DC have long been a voice everywhere for (mostly) men wanting to let loose (although the fact one of the bars in the stadium was only selling light beer probably wouldn’t have helped): the equivalent of a musical stress ball. And yet there’s plenty of artistry gone into the construction of this concert as a theatrical event.

It’s as blokey as a Saturday night piss-up in Broken Hill — during You Shook Me All Night Long the camera pans across the crowd searching for women who might just flash their assets for the big screens — but it’s also a massive production governed by the oldest rules of theatricality and dramatic structure. AC/DC live is one of only a few truly camp experiences which straight men are allowed to fall for.

And while it has a scrappy spirit, there is nothing about this show which hasn’t been finely calibrated and rehearsed to within an inch of its life. The live video work is particularly exciting — and it has to be in a stadium show because you inevitably end up watching the screens more than anything else unless you’re right in front of the stage — capturing all the band members in close-up, with sweeping crane shots and crash-zooms interspersed, on two massive screens either side of the stage.

The stage also features a massive catwalk leading to a platform in the middle of the crowd. That Young and Johnson never make their way down the catwalk until the last 20 minutes of the show is the ultimate tease. When they finally did make their way into the crowd, the opening night audience erupted.

But it wasn’t until the final number of For Those About To Rock when things absolutely exploded. Throughout the song onstage cannons went off in time with the music before a spectacular fireworks display. It was pretty clear by that point that they’d delivered all they needed to. No further encore required.

AC/DC’s Rock or Bust tour continues around Australia with further dates in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. Full details are available here

21 responses to “AC/DC: Rock or Bust tour review (Sydney)

  1. I’m from the UK, am 52 and have just got my tickets to see ACDC in London in June 2016. I can’t wait.
    I’m a latecomer to the ACDC party. I didnt like them when I was younger, preferring the pretty-boy new romantic stuff a la Ultravox, Simple Minds etc. But now I’ve grown up. I appreciate talented musicians and the music they make. I also appreciate good rock tunes that get the adrenalin going. And I also appreciate those who enjoy what they do and are perhaps past ‘making a fast buck’. ACDC fit into all these categories, as does Bruce Springsteen who I was lucky enough to see last year in Cardiff…what a gig that was.
    Its a real shame I won’t get to see what I consider to be the quitessential lineup with Malcolm and Phil R, but the show will still be awesome…of that I have no doubt.
    ACDC are currently – in my opinion – the best rock band out there. I really cannot wait to see them. Australia….you should be proud.

  2. Internet warriors, gotta love ’em.

    AC/DC are the best in the world at what they do. It’s hard to dispute. Argue all you like about whether what they do is your definition of cool, or even music, but as the saying goes, ‘get your hand off it’.

    And the idea that Aussie pub rock is somehow akin to inane shows that they just didn’t get to the pub very much in the late 70’s and early 80’s when Aussie pub rock really hit its straps.

    Don’t know anyone who went who didn’t think it was one of the best shows they had seen in ages.

    And camp? Really. Get your hand off it, again.

  3. I love my serving of Acca Dacca. It will only be after they finally retire that little squirts who criticise them realise they were as good as most of us already know.

    So what if they can play the same song “If you want blood…………….you got it.!”

  4. I’m a bit confused by the use of the word “camp” in this review . Are you implying that because AC/DC can put on some theatrical elements to their live rock show , that this is somehow … camp?

  5. It is obvious from his comment that “ACDC is just inane, pub rock” that Fantomas has a limited experience of live rock n roll in this country. The term pub rock is usually used as a put down by Aussies critics and those who never liked the music to criticise bands of the 70’s without realising that pubs & clubs like the Lifesaver in Sydney and the Bombay Rock in Melbourne were the only places Aussie bands could play in as punters were reluctant to go to venues such as Hordern Pavillion in Sydney to see Aussie bands not because they weren’t up to scratch but because we still had this cringe about Aussie bands not being as good, I still remember the days when Aussie support bands would be booed. I used to see bands sometimes at least 5 nights a week back in 70’s and many were just as exciting and good as any overseas band some even better and not all were playing hard rock, others were playing what was being termed back then as new wave, or garage music etc.
    I first saw AC/DC in 1974 & they always put on an exciting show no matter where they played, they did a memorable concert at the old Paddys Markets in Sydney Haymarket in January 1977 which was usually used to sell fruit and vegies during the day.
    We should be proud of our live music heritage, I presume Fantomas would prefer seeing someone playing electronic ‘music’ on a PC and think that’s music. By the way where do you go to see your live music? Club, pub, bar? So why be so dismissive of AC/DC type of music that originally started playing in pubs

    1. *snort*

      I almost universally detest digital music, and the closest I come to liking it is early world’s end girlfriend, which no doubt absolutely nobody here including the author of the article has heard of. In fact the only reason I comment here at all is kind if to point how exceedingly little the Authors of these articles actually know about good music that has been produced in the last 20 years. There is more out there than blues rock–but none of it is represented here. Ever. It’s like Daily Review just likes to pretend entire movements never happened, and only discuss Australian bands irregardless of whether the ranked among the best outfits in a given genre or not. And that’s why these articles can’t be taken seriously. You have an article about how Silverchair’s frogstomp like it was the jewel in the crown of grunge, when a year earlier earlier Soundgarden had released superunknown, and 4 years prior had released badmotorfinger.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14r7y6rM6zA

      Since you ask, I’ll tell you why I don’t consider ACDC elite: the guitar. If you believe that ACDC’s power chord driven, stupid HPPO riff saturated music can hang with the kind of stuff written by Jimmy Page, for example, you’re deluded. Not in the same ballpark. Not even close. It’s the kind of guitar you’d learn from the back of a box of cereal. I’ll tell you what; have a listen to this and ask yourself if at any point anyone who picked up a guitar in ACDC ever came close to it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfxL8K6wR2I

      If you’re going to do pentatonic, guitar based music, then you’d have better have a killer guitarist. ACDC? no.Just no.

      Secondly, their music is boring, trite and predictable. They are a band that never did anything innovative in any way, but instead just took what was popular about american blues rock outfits, and reduced it to a simplified, boiled-down dumb rock syrup. Their music is brainless, and playing it on guitar for anyone half decent is like washing dishes. They also do not deserve to be associated with early metal, this is absolutely ridiculous. Who do you think really cracked the lid on that–ACDC, or Black sabbath? Even Uriah Heep were more metal than ACDC ever were. Please.

      1. Hi Fantomas. I’m a LedZep fan (lucky enough to see them on their 1972 tour of Australia.). III is their best album, but their performance of the blues is a hit and miss. I’ve also seen some of the blues greats like BB King, Freddie King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy in Australia. If we’re playing one upmanship, back to the original and best games here, LedZep’s turgid performance of Since I’ve Been Loving You doesn’t hold a candle to the best from these guys. Page and Plant would be the first to agree. Hangman and Hats Off to Roy Harper and more authentic blues performances on III.

        1. Pure Blues is a different deal, but on a good day, with reference to pure guitar playing, Jimmy could have hung with most of those guys and could still. Muddy waters is one of my favorite blues men, but I don’t rate him as a great guitarist (for example John Lee Hooker or BB as you’ve pointed out are kind of demigods of blues guitar).He was a killer slide player–one of the best ever, but if you want the gold standard you’d had to look at blind willie Johnson, obviously. I actually have no idea how willie did the vibrato (I mean, physically did it) on ‘dark was the night cold was the ground’. Maybe he had the hands of Sasquatch. Whenever I’ve tried to replicate it it seems impossible. Muddy is however responsible for ‘Feel like goin’ home, which is perfectly realized, pure distilled bayou blues. I can just see him sitting on worn old deck, half a bottle of Hennessy down the tube, a cigar hanging out of his mouth, just watching the Mississippi bob by every time I hear that song.

          I’m incredibly envious you got to see the great man play live. I’d put him up there with Skip James and Robert Johnson–actually, scratch that, Robert Johnson gets his own category simply for having written come in my kitchen. I’m not one to gush, but for me, that’s about the best blues song ever written and encompasses everything that a blues song should be.

          I agree with you on the point that Led Zep’s music isn’t as authentic as the old blues guys–this is because they stole so, so much music from them. Literally stole it. If they did now what they did back then, they would be litigated into oblivion. But fair play to jimmy page, please–he was, and is, a GREAT guitarist in his own right from a technical perspective, if not a creative one.

          Anyway, I’m glad that someone here likes real music. I’m going to leave this here for you. A rare gem I am glad to have discovered. Chances are you haven’t seen it.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZPD0gAe6NM

          1. In a way I agree with you that Muddy was not technically a great guitarist. He relied much on mood and showmanship. His facial expressions as he hit the slide high notes was a great part of the performance. I was listening just yesterday to a live Muddy track, a variation of ‘Bumble Bee’ and a number of other similar songs. It was showmanship rather than technical brilliance of the type say of the three Kings or Buddy Guy.

            I was also lucky enough to see LedZep on their only Australian tour and Page was great, brilliant. He could play the blues, probably better than most rock guitarists including Clapton, but did so with a rock sensibility. He craps all over Angus Young as a guitarist, but Young is a great showman and knows the value of a simple, straight ahead loud rock riff.

            Page certainly ripped off the bluesmen. Watching a Howling Wolf 1964 live track on YouTube the other day I was amused at a comment below it, marvelling at how prescient Wolf was, playing much of the LedZep catalogue years before their formation.

            I agree that Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Dark Was the Night’ is unfathomable in the depth of its feeling and the mystery of its shimmering sound. The nearest attempt to emulate it was made by Ry Cooder. Other great early slide guitar (apart from the obvious R Johnson and imitators) was Blind Willie McTell and his magic 12-string tracks like ‘Motherless Children’. Bukka White (another LedZep ripoff victim) deserves honorable mention.

            Then, there was the incomparable Elmore James.

          2. PS, agree with you about Come on in my Kitchen. I’ve visited Robert Johnson’s grave – both of them. The most evocative one is in a cemetary in the hamlet of Quito. Across the road was a decaying shotgun shack of the kind that poor souterners have lived in for 100 years. As a warm wind rustled the pussy willows, I imagined I could see Robert on the verandah, playing ‘kitchen’. I also love its relative, Elmore’s ‘It Hurts Me Too’.

            Loved the Lightnin Hopkins track.

        1. i agree….like the sounds of their own keyboards….appreciate them whilw they are still here, i just saw acdc for the first time, i was thrilled…i have also recently seen page & plant (brilliant) , Santana, ZZ top, Foo fighters & Tenacious D, & appreciate them all….get over yourselves pseudo experts…know all wikipedia experts

      2. yeah mate thats why they have the second highest selling album of all time and still sell out concerts today after 40 years on tour

    2. Pub rock was great in its day, the 70s and 80s. A cheap night out with simple, accessible, sweaty rock. Does the same music, performed by the ageing musicians to an ageing audience (both desperate to recapture their youth) translate to the arena in the 21st century? Not by my lights.

    3. I saw that concert. I was 21 years old at the time. They were incredible. So loud my ears were ringing for about a week.

  6. I enjoyed it, but thought they were a bit off the boil compared to previous shows – probably down to the new drummer and guitarist. Brian had no banter at all and as you say, didn’t come down the runway (which didn’t stretch very far by AccaDacca standards). Then there was that weird huddle they did between each song, like they were reading the setlist by torchlight or something. Angus was on top of his game, but even he didn’t venture out much from the stage. As usual the sound was fine some of the time, but distorted badly at full tilt. All in all, a bit disappointing.

    1. That’s a bit harsh. They’re 50% Rolling Stones + 50% Chuck Berry, and there isn’t much higher pedigree than that anywhere in rock’n’roll. They also have the 2nd best-selling album of all time and are one of the very few acts that set out to really entertain and mobilise the audience… which they do better than anyone else, now that the original Queen line-up is no more. The riffs are highly memorable, Angus’s tone and phrasing is unique (no small feat) and the songs are catchy, whether you like them or not. If you want inane pub rock then go listen to Coldchisel. AC/DC are quite possibly the very last truly great rock’n’roll band.

      1. Nick there I was agreeing with everything you wrote till you mentioned Chisel as “inane pub rock’. Mate your dead wrong. I used to go see both bands in 70’s & they were both just as exciting and good. Anyway it appears you also have been brainwashed by certain scribes over the years to think pub rock was/is inane without knowing its history?

        1. The 70s was a long time ago now, Con. But so many bands from that era that are still going just recycle their old stuff on stage endlessly. You might as well see their tribute band or save yourself a few hundred bucks by staying home and playing the CDs.

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