Given the hypothetical question of, “Rock or bust?” – AC/DC didn’t give themselves or their audience a second to choose. It was rock, full on – and it was spectacular. After a few choice cuts from the Rolling Stones’ catalog played out through the house PA, the music stopped abruptly and the lights from inside the stadium went black. With a crackle of what sounded like a transistor radio emitting through the band’s sound system, concert goers heard NASA’s ground control begin a dialog with CGI astronauts and satellite imagery that would soon appear across three giant LED screens. For a few minutes, the crowd was taken on a journey from outer space on the tail of a flaming meteor, blazing down upon mother earth. Whispers of AC/DC’s hits and iconic album cover and other related imagery reared their heads before the red hot meteor came crashing down, just as the first few blistering pyrotechnic displays were ignited from the stage. Pyro blasted from all sides of the stage and the scaffolding – built in the shape of burnt out, devil-horned dome. Just as the smoke started to clear, standing dead center of the enormous stage, emerged lead guitarist Angus Young – dressed in his iconic red schoolboy outfit, complete with a black cap with a red letter A.
Young started the set by laying into his black SG for the opening chords to the title track of the band’s new album Rock Or Bust. Singer, Brian Johnson, dressed in black from head to toe – followed Young out to the front of the stage while spewing out the song’s lyrics like a fire breathing dragon. The rest of the band, bassist Cliff Williams, drummer Chris Slade, and guitarist Stevie Young (nephew of Malcolm) bolstered the lineup allowing Brian and Angus to run, stomp and posture where they pleased. After a quick “Thank you!” from Johnson, the band then went straight into “Shoot To Thrill”, a classic from their most successful album to date – Back In Black. The audience went ballistic. Angus’ engine was already in 5th gear as he strutted back and forth across the stage, whipping out riffs and fills before rocketing into, “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”.
As expected, the night was full of the Australian band’s biggest hits with a few lesser-known tunes sprinkled in for good measure. Bright spots of the set included the monster hits, “Back In Black”, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Thunderstruck” with Young’s iconic one-handed tapping intro. There was very little chitchat on stage as Brian Johnson and Co. truly let the music do the talking. Mid set, it got quiet for a short minute as a twelve-foot tall bell was lowered from the rafters above the center of the stage. Its image was matched on the two large LED screens towering over the sides of the stage. It was obvious that AC/DC’s fans would be treated to another favorite, “Hell’s Bells”. After several chimes, the simple, haunting intro rang out – though much faster than what one is used to hearing on the studio track. This was just another sign that the show was not going to slow down.
As the set rolled on with the rockers “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Have A Drink On Me” and “T.N.T.” the summer air swirling in the stadium became infused with a heavy dose of Mother Nature and it was a party for 65,000. As the end of the first set came to a close, AC/DC cracked the whip and slayed the audience with a sizzling combo of “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Let There Be Rock”. It was euphoric and as the band left the stage for another short minute, the die hard fans who hadn’t left for the parking lot were blessed with two more of the band’s best known anthems. The first of which, “Highway To Hell”, featured an amped up Angus Young wearing glowing red and orange horns. And the second and last song of the encore “For Those About To Rock” showcased more pyro, including a series of shots fired from military style canons spread across the second floor of the stage.
For close to two hours, the Aussie rockers brought pure, loud and fun rock & roll to their fans. The turmoil that the band has experienced as of late with their former drummer Phil Rudd being arrested and the unfortunate health concerns of Angus’ brother Malcolm – did not seem to put any kinks in the band’s performance. Having one of their former drummers step back behind the kit and having Malcolm’s nephew play through his regular touring rig certainly helped. The rhythm section was solid as a rock and Brian Johnson kept the festivities going and never seemed to miss a beat. But, of course – the real show came down to the surprisingly spry Angus Young. He quite literally never stopped moving and played his guitar with the stamina of a raging bull. This will certainly be recorded as one of the best stadium tours of the summer.