Believe it or not there are a few people who dare to criticise AC/DC. They live among us. These people accuse the band of having made a career out of releasing multiple versions of the same song over the 40 years of their career. What this theory neglects is the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ AC/DC struck gold with their formula right out of the blocks. With seedy, suggestive lyrics screamed over the largest riffs known to man. Being so close to perfection why would they change now? There will never be an AC/DC unplugged show and there will never be an experimental record but their style and sound transcend fashion and never age.
This week saw the launch of Apple Music and with it a pleasant surprise. The entire AC/DC catalogue is now available to stream, meaning all those classic rock playlists can finally be completed and the next generation can get to know the band.
While the music has stuck close to its roots, the band has gone through a large amount of change in recent years. During the 2008 Black Ice tour founding member Malcolm Young began suffering from dementia. This led to his enforced departure from the band, meaning that 2014’s Rock or Bust may be the last to feature contributions from both Young brothers. Drummer Phil Rudd was arrested in November 2014 to face a range of charges, including a death threat and drug possession. Angus Young has since said that Rudd was ‘in a pickle.’ This, coupled with his attitude during the making of Rock or Bust led to his removal from the band for this tour at least. The new look line-up sees 1980’s drummer Chris Slade return in place of Rudd and Malcolm and Angus’ nephew Stevie replace Malcolm.
A baying, sweating Wembley stadium roared as the show began. A traditionally elaborate intro video depicted spacemen discovering a strange substance which forms into a meteor that heads towards Earth. As the meteor hurtles towards impact the demonic face of Angus Young can be seen in the flames. On impact, explosions roar around Wembley, filling the stage with smoke as the band appear and rip into Rock or Bust, Shoot to Thrill and Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be.
The impish Angus Young, now aged 60, prowls the stage in his iconic school uniform. Brian Johnson, who has been in the band for 35 years now, still has that gleeful joy that a fan would have fronting their favourite band. His vocal performance left everything on stage, performing as if it was his last ever show. Cliff Williams continued to be the under-recognised engine of the band and, despite the changes, the newest band members slotted in seamlessly.
The crowd was surprisingly varied in age but every single person was there for the same reason. From the young women to the old men, 72,000 people from all over the world congregated because they know that there is no other band in the world that can deliver two hours of rock and roll like AC/DC can – and do they ever. The energy the band shows on stage and the passion of the crowd that roars along with every famous riff. Age may have wearied the faces but not a single drop of passion has left.
To say AC/DC are not a band to shy away from the big show is an understatement. While the rock and roll they deliver is exactly what is expected, they are also known for their sense of fun which is reflected by every stadium show gimmick they can fit in. Around halfway through the set the stage goes dark and a large bell is lowered from the top of the stage to chime the intro for Hells Bells. Confetti, pyrotechnics and stage lifts are littered through the show. Visually there is never a dull moment. One of the biggest cheers of the night was saved for during Whole Lotta Rosie when the enormous legendary inflatable Rosie puppet, this time dressed in a top hat, appeared and danced to her song.
The set list was littered with treats for fans old and new. Amongst the hits (Shoot To Thrill, Back In Black), slightly deeper cuts (Sin City, Have a Drink on Me) and live favourites (High Voltage, Thunderstruck, T.N.T.) were three tracks from the latest record Rock or Bust, along with Rock ‘N’ Roll Train from the 6 million-selling album Black Ice.
Main set finale Let There Be Rock – a lesson on the history of rock and roll through the ages – saw Angus Young solo his way down a runway and onto a rising platform before returning to the stage to continue his ostentatious call-and-return guitar solo, all the time convulsing as if possessed by Satan. He gave the show the sweaty, glorious finale it demanded.
The largest roar of the night not surprisingly came with the encore as the opening chords of Highway To Hell rang out amongst flames both real and on the screens. After witnessing the cannons that rolled out to close the show in For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) there was no doubt that AC/DC have made the right decision sticking to their guns for all these years. After all, how do you improve on rock and roll perfection? Everything you could want from the band was delivered with glee.
When walking down Wembley way with an excited mass of rock fans, it is not unusual to see a large percentage of the crowd wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the band they are about to see. That is also true for AC/DC, but there was something strange at Wembley Stadium – just as many people again were wearing the shirts of other bands: Foo Fighters, Metallica, Black Sabbath, The Who, The Jam, Taking Back Sunday. Every kind of rock music was represented here. AC/DC are so influential that they are beyond being a classic rock band – their sound, much like Motown, has become a genre of its own.
Setlist for AC/DC at Wembley Stadium 4th July 2015:
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)