It certainly was a long way to the top for AC/DC. I remember the band posters displayed up and down President Ave in Sutherland in 1974. Even then they were building their army of fans. Students would talk about the ‘amazing guitarist in the school uniform’. AC/DC quickly became one of Sydney’s most popular bands. Little did we know that this quirky group of Sydney larrikins would one day take over the world.
40 years on, AC/DC is the second biggest act in the world. The Stones still hold that title and there is good reason for that which I’ll allude to through this review.
When you compare this AC/DC show to previous AC/DC shows or this AC/DC show to a Stones show the ‘Rock Or Bust’ tour looses points for effort. AC/DC were musically brilliant but emotionally detached. Apart from a Melbourne greeting by Brian at the start there was no further personal connection with the fans. At a Stones gig you feel part of the family with wise-old Uncle Mick the centre of attention. This show felt more like being in a supermarket with each song a scanning of the items in your trolley.
There were no band introductions. I would imagine with the turmoil before the tour, the last minute replacement of drummer Phil Rudd with the return of Chris Slade and the addition of Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young to replace his ailing uncle, it would have been appropriate to share some emotion with the audience or at least acknowledge the changed element of the band. They did last tour, with a tribute to Bon. Bon didn’t rate a mention on this show and sadly neither did co-founder Malcolm. You should always acknowledge the past because without it there is no present.
Stevie Young was handed one of the most important roles in rock and does the job note perfect in honour of his uncle Malcolm. Stevie is the son of the eldest Young brother Alex and just two years younger than his Uncle Angus. Imagine having to replace the great Malcolm Young? Angus’s lead and Malcolm’s rhythm are the sound of AC/DC. When they played it was like their two guitars were having a conversation with each other. Their sound created the dialogue that made each AC/DC song a complete work of its own. Stevie nailed it.
For decades Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams were the AC/DC glue. Drummer Chris Slade also had one of the most difficult jobs in rock replacing Rudd’s totally unique style that pounded that rhythm that made AC/DC stand out. Few drummers have such a unique style. Ringo does, Charlie Watts does and Phil Rudd did. Slade doesn’t change the formula. He covers Rudd on the Rudd songs but ‘Thunderstruck’ is Slade’s and Slade’s alone. His showcase moment is in that song.
Cliff Williams must be one of the most understated people in rock. The 65-year-old bass guitarist is AC/DC’s second longest serving member. Williams joined the band in 1977, replacing Mark Evans. He has been in this job for 38 years, first playing on the ‘Powerage’ album of 1978. The man is a faceless legend who after all that success even today could walk through a crowd unrecognised. It was good to see that Cliff’s first AC/DC album ‘Powerage’ was represented with ‘Sin City on this setlist.
Ah yes, the setlist. The ‘Rock Or Bust’ setlist felt lazy. The template was pretty much the same as the ‘Black Ice’ tour with three ‘Black Ice’ songs replaced with three ‘Rock Or Bust’ songs. ‘The Jack’ from the last tour was dropped, ‘Sin City’ and ‘Have A Drink On Me’ were resurrected for this tour. The final five songs were the same on both tours. Essentially, if you missed the ‘Black Ice’ tour you were caught up with ‘Rock Or Bust’.
Another strange occurrence was the unexplained long gaps between songs. It sometimes felt that a minute would pass before the lights came back and the band returned for the next song. It affected the flow of the show.
The Stones make every show unique. They put something into every show that fans in that town have never heard before. AC/DC have been playing these same songs in this same order since pretty much the start of the tour.
All that being said, the overall result is still musically one of the greatest rock and roll shows on earth. I love the fact that I got to see this band at their very start, when they were playing at school dances in Sydney and never then imagined that it would come to this.
AC/DC could easily replace the Rolling Stones as the greatest rock and roll band on the planet. Brian just needs to communicate with the crowd, Angus needs to shuffle the shows and surprise fans each night with a song or two they would not be expecting. Until that happens, Mick has nothing to worry about.
AC/DC setlist, Melbourne, December 5, 2015
Rock Or Bust (from Rock Or Bust, 2015)
Shoot To Thrill (from Back In Black, 1980)
Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be (from Let There Be Rock, 1977)
Back In Black (from Back In Black, 1980)
Play Ball (from Rock Or Bust, 2015)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (from Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap, 1976)
Thunderstuck (from The Razors Edge, 1990)
High Voltage (from High Voltage, 1976)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train (from Black Ice, 2008)
Hells Bells (from Back In Black, 1980)
Baptism of Fire (from Rock Or Bust, 2015)
You Shook Me All Night Long (from Back In Black, 1980)
Sin City (from Powerage, 1978)
Shot Down In Flames (from Highway To Hell, 1979)
Have A Drink On Me (from Back In Black, 1980)
T.N.T. (from High Voltage, 1976)
Whole Lotta Rosie (from Let There Be Rock, 1977)
Let There Be Rock (from Let There Be Rock, 1977)
Highway To Hell (from Highway To Hell, 1979)
For Those About To Rock (from For Those About To Rock, 1981)
The Rock or Bust tour only has three more dates then its all over. At this stage there are no scheduled AC/DC dates anywhere in the world past December 15, 2015.
AC/DC remaining dates
December 8, Melbourne, Etihad Stadium
December 12 and 15, Wellington, Western Springs Stadium
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