On the one hand, there’s the clichéd image of Butthead in his constant AC/DC shirt. On the other, it’s a wonder to think how many classics guitarist Angus Young and his various bandmates in 40-plus years have written. The Aussie band is one of the most celebrated names in the hard rock genre, with more than 200 million records sold.
The lineup has changed numerous times during those years, most notably, singer Bon Scott passing away in 1980, guitarist Malcolm Young retiring last year after being diagnosed with dementia and drummer Phil Rudd being fired just before the band’s performance at the Grammy Awards earlier this year after being charged with drug possession and making threats.
Despite the lineup turbulence, Angus Young, singer Brian Johnson, guitarist Stevie Young (Malcolm’s nephew), bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Chris Slade put on a thoroughly entertaining two-hour show at AT&T Park Friday. From the moment the band took the stage to “Rock Or Bust,” the lead single off the 2014 album of the same name – to pyrotechnics, fireworks and 40,000 screaming fans – they didn’t let up on the pedal even once.
Images of an AC/DC asteroid burning a trail and crash-landing on Earth, shown on two massive screens, flanked the Hollywood Bowl-shaped stage with – naturally – devil horns. The asteroid, in the video, flew by numerous self-referencing images that have marked the band’s Hall of Fame career. Some of those icons returned later in the show, in the form of a 6-foot-tall bell that swung from the roof and a buxom blow-up Rosie that was likely 30 feet across, in a splayed position.
The recent material, which I’ll classify as 1991 and newer, lacks the signature moments of the earlier hits of AC/DC. And yet, every other song featured some of the most iconic sounds of the ’70s and ’80s, whether you grew up during those decades or just experienced them through film, commercials or that pivotal point during an athletic event where the pendulum can swing to either side.
The following are enough to give any concert a great hits vibe: Back In Black’s (1980) title track, “Shoot to Thrill,” “Hells Bells” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Let There Be Rock‘s (1977) title track and “Whole Lotta Rosie.” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” from 1976 and “Highway To Hell” from 1979; 1976’s “T.N.T.” “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” from 1981 and 1990’s “Thunderstruck.”
Johnson and Angus Young did a superb job of working the entire length of the stage, while Stevie Young and Slide shared the background. Angus Young, clad in his signature schoolboy outfit, kick-stepped and skipped all night, masking his 60 years, and played a slide guitar solo with his tie on “Sin City,” off 1978’s Powerage. Johnson’s vocals were garbled at times but the 67-year-old conveyed every emotion nonetheless.
The show reached a frenzied peak about seven minutes into a roughly 15-minute long guitar and drums solo following “Let There Be Rock,” during which the volume was cranked up one degree higher. There were reports the show could be heard clearly across San Francisco. At the ballpark, the crowd consisted of more than children of the ‘70s and ‘80s. There were plenty of kids, teens and 20-somethings out to experience the spectacle for themselves, fist-pumping with their index and pinky fingers raised skyward.
Follow Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.