North Little Rock
Jan 28th, 2009
I can tell you from previous experience that going to an AC/DC concert you can pretty much know what to expect ahead of time. You're going to get a lot of anthems. Angus Young will amaze you with his energy level. There will be no ballads. And you will be hugely entertained. Once again, they delivered all this and more.
The lights go down and there's a huge video screen center stage and 2 smaller screens on either side of the stage. An animated video begins, which features a devilish train with the AC/DC logo being guided by guitarist Angus Young (with horns of course). There are lots of sexy ladies on it as well, some doing a few suggestive things (let's just say pleasing Brian Johnson in one of the cars) before the women take over the train and it ends up jumping the tracks. Suddenly a "real" train is on center stage in a ball of smoke and the band is blasting out to "Rock N Roll Train" as the place erupts with a deafening roar of approval. All around the arena people have bought these red, light-up devil horns and when the lights go out you can see just how brilliant the AC/DC merchandising department is as there are hundreds of them. It's a sight to behold.
Brian Johnson looks older (duh, he's 61 now) and a bit like he might be 5 months pregnant, but he sounds just as good as he always did... that is to say sort of like he just gargled some glass backstage as part of his warm-up vocal exercises. As the night goes on he reminds me a bit of that drunken old man at the dive bar that's dancing around and trying to get every one else to as well. All the while the impish Angus is prancing/hopping/parading around in his school boy outfit like a brat on Red Bull blasting out classic riffs that everybody on the planet recognizes. The rest of the band is pretty locked in to their positions, except to step up the mics for the background vocals (which really weren't that necessary since the entire arena was matching them on every song except a couple of the new ones). Drummer Phil Rudd didn't miss a beat and every time he was shown on the big screen he had a cigarette dangling from his lips.
They're not just bringing the head-banging either, but there are a lot of whistles and bells to keep people entertained. There are lights, explosions, smoke, fire, cannons, blow-up dolls, lifts, videos... all for your entertainment value.
After opening with the latest single, they launch into "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" followed by a little chatter from Brian about being back before the place erupts again hearing the opening riffs of "Back in Black". Next is another new song, "Big Jack", and then a major sing-a-long with "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". Speaking of sing-a-longs, they followed that with the jock-rock anthem "Thunderstruck" before finally letting everybody settle down for that beer run or potty break with the new title track "Black Ice". Next they played probably one of the better songs ever written about V.D., "The Jack", and Angus did a hilarious "strip tease" that back in the day ended with him mooning the crowd but on this tour mercifully ends with him exposing his AC/DC labeled boxers instead of his old man ass. By the time things were settling down from Angus' entertainment, a giant AC/DC labeled bell was lowered for Brian to swing on while "Hells Bells" began with the tone of the giant gonging... and we're rocking again. Next came the well-received "Shoot To Thrill" followed by back-to-back new tracks "War Machine" and "Anything Goes".
They made it clear that it's a tour that is supporting a new CD, playing 5 new tracks from it, as opposed to just a greatest hits/nostalgia type tour. There were plenty of classics of course, but room for plenty more and left lot of great songs sitting on the shelf collecting dust. I'll cover that at the end.
The 2 back-to-back new tracks may have settled everybody down a bit, but the next track caused jet-level decibels of noise as the first notes for "You Shook Me All Night Long" hit and I swear everybody was singing along so loud I never heard a single vocal from Brian's mouth. "TNT" followed that and everybody got to yell the "Oi-Oi-Oi!" part whilst pumping the party fists in the air. Next a MASSIVE blow-up doll of a "large" lady with "very large" knockers suddenly appeared riding the train behind the drum kit and tapping her foot to the tune of "Whole Lotta Rosie" as Angus and Brian play off each other. I guess we now know what Rosie looks like, and it's not pretty, but it's sure entertaining. Following that was "Let There Be Rock" and a video played with some career retrospective in the form of album covers and pictures then Angus went all the way to the end of the ramp through the crowd to the middle of the arena and was elevated 20 feet in the air for solo full of energy and the shredding of his Gibson guitar. He finished the solo on stage behind the drum riser (the train had been pulled back and replaced with 2 giants screens after Rosie's appearance) and once the licks stopped, they said good night and the lights dropped.
But oh hell no, you know they're coming back for some more and a few minutes later to a roar of the crowd they did just that with "Highway To Hell" and the rafters of Alltel Arena threatened to collapse. The final song of the night was "For Those About To Rock" and by this time massive cannons had been rolled up to the back of the stage behind the drum kits. You know what's coming, and you know when it's coming, but those cannons going off at their designated time just adds a bit to the fist-pumping anthem. Suddenly I'm 12-years-old again and pointing and screaming "CANNONS!"
So any complaints? Well you know I have to mention some songs omitted, and since they played 5 new tracks of the 18, that only leaves 13 spots for classics. I personally think they could easily add another 2 songs and give 10 more minutes or just drop at least 1 new song, but what the hell do I know? I'd love to hear "Who Made Who", "Problem Child", "Jailbreak", "If You Want Blood (You Got It)", "High Voltage" or "Rock 'N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution." I think my favorite song they ever did is probably "Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock n Roll)", and it was left off. But when you have a catalog of tracks like these guys there's going to be a lot of great tracks left on the shelf, unless they play a 4 hour show.
What an awesome concert. An AC/DC show is still exactly what a rock n roll show should be; it's loud, it's raunchy, it's rowdy, it's campish, it's cartoonish, it's fun and it's sure as hell entertaining. It's full of classics, devil horns and rib-crunching riffs. These old men will still kick your ass for a night and you'll like so much you'll wish it continued for another hour or more.
Rock n Roll Train
Hell Ain't a Bad Place To be
Back In Black
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
The Jack (Angus strip tease)
Shoot to Thrill
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock (Angus solo at the end)
Highway To Hell
For Those About To Rock