Friday, April 16, 2010

Grade 'A' Prime Angus: For Those Who Always Rock, I Salute You

Concert Review

Bradley Center, Milwaukee
April 15, 2010

Although an all-time great enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, AC/DC is not the best band in the world. Nor are they my favorite. And factoring in a full-range of artistic criteria, they do not quite top my list of concert performers. 

But even beyond Springsteen, the Stones, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Paul McCartney and other revered acts that I love to see live, AC/DC is the artist in whom I have the most faith to deliver a show every bit as good as I could hope, every time out.

This is why I happily drove up to Milwaukee--stopping at Kenosha's Brat Stop along the 'Highway to Hell,' then taking in a stellar photography exhibit and visiting Raphael masterpiece at the Milwaukee Art Museum--to see them at the tail end of their Black Ice U.S. tour, despite having caught them in Rosemont at the beginning of it in October 2008.

And it is why I drove home with a smile etched upon my face, air guitar and drums stashed in back but jonesing for yet another encore. Simply put--but like the band, definitive in its simplicity--AC/DC rocks.


Sure, diminutive lead guitarist Angus Young's demonic schoolboy act, complete with striptease, is even sillier now that he's 55. And though Brian Johnson, 62, sounds just fine when he sings, his stage patter is clearly inane when it isn't completely incomprehensible.

And yes, the core set of superlative songs--You Shook Me All Night Long, Back In Black, Shoot To Thrill, Hell's Bells, Highway to Hell, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Whole Lotta Rosie, Let There Be Rock, TNT, For Those About To Rock--is always the same and not significantly augmented since 1981 (except for 1990's Thunderstruck).

But though nicely complemented by a few non-duds off Black Ice plus a handful of less obvious catalog choices--Shot Down in Flames, High Voltage, Hell Ain't A Bad Place to Be--the classic hits are what I and seemingly everyone else wants to hear at an AC/DC show. And with the rock solid musicianship of rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd forging a powerful foundation as Johnson and Angus provide fun focal points, the band that's been around since 1973 still delivers them with unmitigated joy and bombast, making for a hugely entertaining and enjoyable show.

For no good reason, I never attended an AC/DC show way back when, first seeing them in 2001, so I ruefully can't reference their on-stage greatness from when when the Young brothers truly were. But even if I'm not officially reliving my youth, it was with a refreshing childlike glee--theirs and mine--that they shook me all night long. Though the sight of Angus prancing around in just his shorts, completely drenched in sweat, would make any mirthless aesthete cringe in disgust, it's proof positive that this is a man, and band, that never just goes through the motions, even as they play the same old songs.

And for that I salute them.

For while those looking for nuance, novelty, surprise or intellectual enlightenment won't find any of the above at an AC/DC show, there is a boatload of far hipper bands prone to self-indulgent setlists, shoegazing, shoddy pacing and seeming indifference that could learn a whole lot from five aging anachronisms about giving the people what they want. 


a1 said...

Hi Seth - Al from the Film Discussion group. Didn't know I was meeting up with a fellow AC/DC fan all this time! It's beyond amazing to see a band rock this hard for so long - their shows put retirement tours like the Stones and the Who to shame. How did the energy level of the show compare to their 2008 appearance? (I think they've toured around the world twice between then and now). And if you want to see AC/DC at the height of their live shows, their movie "Let There Be Rock" (filmed in '79 in Paris), gets you fairly close to being there!

Seth Arkin said...

Hey Al - I thought the energy was pretty good. This was a rescheduled show (along with a few others) from last fall, so they came to Milwaukee only a few shows into a short leg. Although only Angus & Brian really move around much, there is a brilliance in the band's consistency and they never seem to be just going through the motions.

Let There Be Rock doesn't seem to be on DVD, but I agree it would be cool to see.

a1 said...

For sure, I love how the band always gives 100% on stage (except for Angus, who gives 264%).

And I didn't realize "Let There Be Rock" isn't (yet?) on DVD! I'd be happy to loan you my VHS copy next time we meet up.