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The drive from the Silver Jews spelunking swan song put us in the Sommet Center just after 8 p.m., forcing us to miss openers The Answer. We were told they really got the crowd going, but with the number of Kid Rock shirts in the house that could bode any which way. With only 15 minutes to spare before Australia's finest and most testicularly-endowed rock 'n' roll hall of famers AC/DC hit the stage, we found our seats in the sold-out arena and quickly began double fisting stadium-sized cups of Fosters.
The random sample of the crowd in our immediate vicinity included a row of guys with undersized studded Back in Black shirts and oversized cowboy hats, plenty of bottle-blonde cougars who looked as if they just stepped out of re-shoot of Poison's "Unskinny Bop" video, and a slew of middle-aged men dressed in Angus Young school boy outfits. It should be noted that most of these men appeared to be lone concert goers, fueling our speculation that we might soon see any one of them on To Catch a Predator.
Across the arena blinked the ubiquitous red lights of souvenior devil horns, perhaps the most brilliant concert merch we've ever seen, being sold by vendors throughout the aisles. The chatter around us was a chorus of Southern accents taking guesses at what the opening song would be, the consensus being "Hell's Bells." As our senses began to marinate in alcohol, the lights went down and the show began with a cartoon depicting the four band members surrounded by hot chicks, all on a locomotive about to derail. The train crashed into the screen, splitting it in half, and a prop train--which would later be straddled by a giant inflatable woman during "Whole Lotta Rosie"--burst onstage in a spectacular fireworks display. The band emerged from the wreckage and launched, predictably, into "Rock 'n' Roll Train," the opening track to their latest album Black Ice.
An AC/DC concert is not one in which you need to worry about mid-set acoustic songs, "updated" versions of old classics or obscure B-sides from late '80s albums. It's strict meat and potatoes. A hits parade, broken up by the obligatory five or six cuts from the new record and peppered with the requisite amount of campy stage props, pyrotechnics and Australian balls. When promoting 2000's Stiff Upper Lip record, Angus Young was asked what makes the new record different from all the others, to which he replied, "Nothing The only thing that changes from album to album is the cover."
We can only assume this sentiment still applies to Black Ice, whose material seemed to serve mainly as bathroom and beer break songs. But this show was all about the hits. "Back in Black," "Highway to Hell," "Dirty Deeds" and especially "Thunderstruck" all killed. The band sounded essential as ever with the 61-year-old Brian Johnson's yowl--cat attacked by coyote--in all its shrieking glory. He and the icon of the Gibson SG, Angus Young--decked out of course in his school-boy digs--worked the crowd while the legendarily tight rhythm section of elder brother Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd anchored the show with the four-on-the-floor bluesy stomp that is the band's primal trademark.
All the traditional clichés of an AC/DC show were in play: the ringing of a giant liberty bell for "Hells Bells," an Angus Young striptease during "The Jack," fire to punctuate the chorus of "TNT" and plenty of Chuck Berry chickenwalking. There was a platform that rose into the air on which the pint-sized Young did his trademark guitar-solo pinwheels. It was glorious. Almost as glorious as the six deafening cannons that emerged from the back of the stage during the "For Those About to Rock" encore. The performance was about as predictable as it gets, and the crowd response was even more predictable than that, but as far as great songs, great execution, great vibes and great entertainment the show was a 10.