AC/DC Enjoying Smooth Sailing On Tour


November 7, 2008

AC/DC rolled into Canada on Friday night, riding the success of its new album “Black Ice” and a 35-year rock ‘n’ roll legacy that has kicked into overdrive in 2008.

Guitarist Angus Young, along with brother and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bass player Cliff Williams, drummer Phil Rudd and singer Brian Johnson, opened with a raucous “Rock n Roll Train” before a soldout crowd of 45,000 at the cavernous Rogers Centre. Angus Young was in his trademark school uniform, complete with cap and shorts.

All are in their 50s with the exception of Johnson, who is a spry 61. But they quickly showed age is no barrier to rocking out as a tsunami of sound billowed off the stage.

Thirty-five years on, AC/DC continues to deliver.

The T-shaped stage was simple and uncluttered with a bank of amplifiers flanking Rudd’s drum kit, and a narrow runway leading into the crowd. Malcolm Young and Williams positioned themselves like sentries on either side of Rudd, while Johnson and Angus Young moved up front. A half-dozen video screens helped reduce the size of the venue.

A giant smoking train engine (complete with horns) jutted out above the drums. The engine gave way to a super-sized, busty inflatable woman for “Whole Lotta Rosie” late in the show.

Many in the stands wore flashing devil horns, in honour of Angus Young’s horns on the cover of “Highway to Hell.” It made for a slightly surreal sight.

The guitar-heavy sound was crisp, with a powerful rolling beat underneath. Not many bands do it better. And AC/DC’s crew deserves a medal for coming up with such good sound under the dome.

“Back in Black,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and “Thunderstruck” kept the show bubbling, although the band’s foot came off the pedal slightly during “Black Ice.” A bluesy “The Jack” followed, complete with an audience singalong and the time-honoured tradition of Angus Young stripping down – to flash his AC/DC underwear.

“Hells Bells” was a highlight, with Johnson hanging off a giant bell lowered on stage. Then Young’s famous riff kicked in, followed by the driving bass and drum line. Twenty-eight years on, it’s still a killer song.

Young was naked from the waist up by this time, dripping sweat during “Shoot to Thrill” – his trim body showing the AC/DC workout does wonders. The cap was long gone too, showing some sweaty scalp and matted hair.

Live, Johnson’s voice occasionally gets swallowed up in AC/DC’s booming sound. But it doesn’t seem to matter. And he was more than up to the task on top-drawer, back-to-back versions of “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “T.N.T.”

Young soloed on a rising podium in front of the stage during a vanity version of “Let There Be Rock,” sliding on his back like a breakdancer as he played at one point. With the rest of the band absent from the mix, a second guitar solo atop a riser behind the drums followed.

Young came up out of a hole in the stage for the encore, wearing horns of his own and playing chainsaw-like chunks of guitar for “Highway to Hell.” “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” – complete with ear-splitting cannons – followed, ending a 100-minute show that didn’t disappoint.

Toronto was the sixth stop on the “Black Ice” tour. The only other Canadian date outside Toronto is Nov. 28 at GM Place in Vancouver, where “Black Ice” was recorded at The Warehouse Studio. The band, which last played Toronto at the 2003 SARS concert, returns to the Rogers Centre for another show Jan. 9.

Like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, the AC/DC sound is simple and tasty – and fans continue to want more even though the menu has rarely changed. AC/DC’s chunky, catchy guitar, pounding rhythm and trademark raspy vocals have been a recipe for worldwide success, with more than 150 million albums sold.

Formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1973, AC/DC arguably made its mark from 1975 to 1981 when albums like “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black” reverberated around the world. After 1981’s “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” the band’s output sputtered somewhat but AC/DC continued to score with its back catalogue and distinctive sound – to the tune of 19 platinum albums (unit sales of a million-plus).

Still the success of “Black Ice,” AC/DC’s first album in eight years, has been eyebrow-raising – even for a band whose appeal crosses generations. It was a smash hit right out of the box, hitting No. 1 in more than two dozen countries including Canada since its release late last month. The tour has also been a hot ticket.

AC/DC has already sold more than 5.3 million copies of “Black Ice,” along with 5.1 million back catalogue albums in 2008, according to the band’s website.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, the band has bucked the digital trend by refusing to “unlock” its albums for song-by-song sale online by the likes of iTunes. But its iconic status remains intact, as witnessed by the band’s recent release of “AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack” for video gamers.

The outfit’s longevity is demonstrated by the fact that Barack Obama will be the eighth U.S. president to hold office since AC/DC was formed.

The crowd at the Rogers Centre reflected that history, with families making it a night out – sometimes with two generations wearing AC/DC T-shirts.

According to the website, AC/DC is due to play its 2,000th concert during the “Black Ice” tour. Information on the band’s early club/pub gigs in Australia is sketchy, but the website estimates the milestone could come Dec. 20 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

AC/DC Set List:
Rock n Roll Train
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Big Jack
Dirty Deeds Done Cheap
Black Ice
The Jack
Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
War Machine
Anything Goes
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Courtesy of