Thursday, September 17, 2015

Well Shook, All Night Long: With a Hell of a Show, AC/DC Leaves Wrigley Field Thunderstruck -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

w/ opening act Vintage Trouble
Wrigley Field, Chicago
September 15, 2015

Although I was only 13 at the time, and not yet going to rock concerts save a few with parental accompaniment, I'll always kinda rue not seeing AC/DC when they played three shows at the Rosemont Horizon in November 1981.

That stand came just days prior to the release of For Those About to Rock, the band's first U.S. #1 album, about a year after their classic, Back to Black, and just two years after Highway to Hell, AC/DC's last album with original frontman Bon Scott, who died in February 1980. 

Not only did this trio of albums forever cement the Australian band as superstars in America, but circa 1981, AC/DC were about the coolest band in my junior high school existence. 

More realistically, I should have seen their 1983 show at the Horizon as some friends did, but late to the live party as I was, I eventually caught AC/DC at the United Center in 2001, in 2008 at the Horizon (by then named Allstate Arena), at Milwaukee's Bradley Center in 2010 and on Tuesday night at a sold-out Wrigley Field. 

And although three of the longstanding band members--founding guitarist Angus Young, singer Brian Johnson (who replaced Scott in 1980) and bassist Cliff Williams--are now in their 60s, and two others have been replaced since their last tour (guitarist Malcolm Young due to dementia and drummer Phil Rudd due to legal issues), other than the Friendly Confines as a setting, I don't imagine all that much has changed from the show I would have seen in 1981. 

Angus still prances around in a schoolboy uniform, winds up taking a good portion of it off by night's end and occasionally rolls around onstage. 

Sporting a bit of paunch--hey, who isn't, especially among the well-matured crowd, many wearing flashing devil's horns bought on the way into Wrigley--Johnson remains a genial frontman whose singing sounds essentially as it always has. 

The rhythm section, with Williams now accompanied by guitarist Stevie Young (nephew of Angus and Malcolm) and drummer Chris Slade, was almost literally rock solid as they barely moved at the back of the stage (and nearly blended into it). 

Of the 20 songs played at Wrigley--see AC/DC's Chicago setlist on were also heard in 1981 at the Horizon, including most of the major ones: "Back in Black," "Shoot to Thrill," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Hells Bells," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "T.N.T.," "Whole Lotta Rosie," "Let There Be Rock," "Highway to Hell" and erstwhile show-closer, "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)."

And despite the historic setting--likely my favorite place in the world, and lately my favorite concert venue--Johnson did little talking between songs, even before the seemingly apt new tune, "Play Ball," without a single mention of the Cubs. Angus also eschewed the opportunity to come out for the encore in a Cubs jersey, instead sticking with his thoroughly sweat-drenched shirt. 

Noting my @@@@@ rating, some may wonder what could be so great about a somewhat patched-up old band playing the same old songs in the same old way--"the same three chords" being the running gibe--while making no particular reference to the novelty of their doing so within a legendary ballpark with an atypically winning team. 

But that, in essence, is exactly what was so great. 

Adding a few decent cuts from 2014's Rock or Bust album--including the title song to open the show after an intergalactic and largely incoherent introductory video--and mixing in a few different aged album tracks ("High Voltage," "Have a Drink on Me," "Sin City"), AC/DC faithfully delivered the best of their beloved canon, and as they have for decades now, fired actual cannons during "For Those About to Rock." 

Certainly, there is a Spinal Tappish aspect to it--including such kitschy  trappings as the AC/DC bell for "Hells Bells," the lewd inflatable woman for "Whole Lotta Rosie" and a catwalk & riser for Angus to spasm upon during "Let There Be Rock"--but there is something to be said for doing what you do, rather simply and repetitively, but incredibly well. 

And God bless 'em, AC/DC still does.

It was a bit odd to have a mammoth outdoor concert end by 10:00pm--supposedly due to a city ordinance--and there were weirdly long pauses between songs, but on a beautiful night in a wonderful place with a legendary band, alongside my friend Paolo who made a point of returning from a European vacation in time to make the show, even from the second-to-last row atop the upper deck, I was thoroughly delighted that AC/DC shook me all night long.

And if you weren't there, no worries (a phrase I learned appropriately enough in Australia) as I've read that the show was recorded for future DVD release.

But for now, and for those about to rock, here's a clip of "You Shook Me All Night Long" from a kick-ass Tuesday night at Wrigley (not shot by me):

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