Live review: AC/DC + The Hives + Kingswood – Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre – 12/11/15

AC/DC brisbane 2015

IT’S been a long five years since the AC/DC train rolled through Australia on the Black Ice tour, so it’s not surprising that seemingly every rock fan in Brisbane has descended on QSAC, armed to the teeth and ready for battle with flashing devil horns and the blackest of black T-shirts, ready to see if the Rock or Bust show can top that triumphant memory.

The great thing about AC/DC shows up to now is that fans know exactly what they’re going to get: two-ish hours of straight-up, world class rock ‘n’ roll with duckwalks and inflatable cartoon groupies thrown in for good measure. This time, though, something is different: rhythm linchpin Malcolm Young and long-serving drummer Phil Rudd are no longer with the band; the former now suffers from dementia and the latter found himself under house arrest. Replacing them are Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young on guitar and drumming veteran Chris Slade; both have served time with the band previously. So, are the new/old boys up to the task?

Kingswood are the first to step up and warm the audience’s eardrums, and they do so with hard-rocking aplomb. Opening with ‘She’s My Baby’, the Melbourne quartet immediately sound massive, and as the cool-as-funk synths of ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’ slice the dusk air, it feels like they’re making this look and sound easy. Frontman Fergus Linacre’s towering vocals during closer ‘Ohio’ sound right at home in a stadium.

Everyone’s favourite Swedish garage rockers are next, and it’s great to see that after 20 years in the business, the Hives are still throwing themselves around stages with as much hyperactivity as they did after breaking big in the early 2000s. With his trademark high kicks, microphone swinging and crowd baiting, frontman ‘Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist covers several kilometres around the stage, issuing unintelligible demands and declaring his love for Brisbane. ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, ‘Die Alright’, ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and the “song about me being an asshole”, ‘Main Offender’, still sound great, and by the time they’re finished with ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’, the air is thick with anticipation and the smell of a thousand upturned rum and cokes.

After the traditional animated opening, this time featuring an asteroid Angus, AC/DC kick into the title track from Rock or Bust, and any concerns over the absence of certain tried-and-trusted band members fade. Immediately sounding, and more importantly, feeling, like the AC/DC we know and love, the band is tight and heavy. Slade is a powerhouse behind the kit and Stevie Young plays as closely to his uncle’s sound as probably anybody could.

‘Shoot to Thrill’ is followed by ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be’ and ‘Back in Black’, at which stage, despite singer Brian Johnson’s top form and bassist Cliff Williams’s solid display as ever, it becomes the Angus Young show for the rest of the gig. He is basically the frontman of AC/DC after all, and whether he’s duckwalking, pointing to the audience, shredding like a maniac or throwing himself around the floor like a child having a seizure, the six-string legend has thousands of people eating out of his hand at every move.

Newer track ‘Play Ball’ sits perfectly among the Back In Black-era songs, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ earns the first of many boob flashes of the evening, ‘Thunderstruck’ receives an earth-shaking response and ‘High Voltage’ sees Brian Johnson calling Malcolm Young’s name and hearing it yelled back at him in glorious harmony. It’s after ‘Have a Drink on Me’ and ‘TNT’ that inflatable Rosie makes an appearance, which leads into an extended, fiery version of ‘Let There Be Rock’ and an encore of ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), complete with trademark cannon salute and fireworks.

It seemed difficult to imagine how AC/DC could have topped the spectacle of the Black Ice tour, but with Rock or Bust, they’ve done it. To think of what they’ve accomplished having lost a founding guitarist and established drummer is remarkable, and this show is the evidence. Whether there will be another tour is hard to call, but if tonight’s gig was anything to go by, Angus and the boys can do just about anything they want to.


Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Play Ball
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Sin City
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)

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Book review: ‘Live Wire’ – Mary Renshaw, John D’Arcy and Gabby D’Arcy (2015)

Bon Scott live wire

YOU could be forgiven for thinking the story of AC/DC and Bon Scott has been pretty well covered in print, and any further books could be deemed unnecessary.

He may have been arguably the greatest Australian rock singer and frontman of all time, but he died 35 years ago, and his story’s been told, right? Wrong.

Scott’s life as the frontman of AC/DC is indeed well documented, but less well-known is the ‘long way to the top’ he travelled to get to the point of global success, before tragically dying in his sleep after a heavy alcohol binge. Scott earned his keep in bands very different to AC/DC before hitting the big time; most prominently bubblegum pop outfit The Valentines in the late sixties, and prog-rockers Fraternity in the early seventies. Ex-wife Irene Thornton’s book, My Bon Scott, released last year, covers the Fraternity era in wonderful detail, so it’s fitting that this title reads almost like a companion piece to that publication, while covering Scott’s earlier Valentines-era life with an affectionate and nostalgic approach.

The authors are well-placed to be authorities on this particular period of Scott’s life. John D’Arcy is a legendary Australian roadie, who fondly remembers the days of ‘one band, one van, one roadie’ when he worked for the Valentines and shared in all their excesses and squalor living in grotty Melbourne flats in the late sixties. Gabby D’Arcy was a fan of the Valentines from day one, and hung with the band as their career progressed, becoming a long-term friend of Scott’s, and Mary Renshaw was a long-term friend (and sometime mistress) from the Valentines days to his death.

So, is there a lot to tell about a band that is little more than a footnote in the career of a great rock singer? The answer is yes, as the man born Ronald Belford Scott packed several lifetime’s worth of debauchery into his short time on earth. Reading like a personal memoir, Live Wire recounts not only tales of drug busts, groupies, life on the road, fast-living rock ‘n’ rollers, and an Australian music scene gone forever, but the humour and good-natured outlook of a person known as one of the wildest men of rock. Through a series of funny and personal recollections, we see the man who never forgot to write letters to his old friends, always came home to family no matter how long he had been overseas, and ultimately, shuffled off this mortal coil aged only 33. Live Wire is a fitting tribute to an Australian legend.

For Scenestr

Book review: ‘My Bon Scott’ – Irene Thornton with Simone Ubaldi (2014)

bon scott

Most biographies or memoirs of great rock ‘n’ rollers take the sensational approach – get to the dirty stuff and get to it fast. After all, why do rock fans worship these guys after all? Besides the music, it’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that people want. Mostly sex and drugs, if Mötley Crüe’s landmark rock bio The Dirt is anything to go by.

Perhaps this is what makes this new book about AC/DC’s Bon Scott so interesting. It’s not a tell-all tale of heroin and orgies (although there are hints of both at various points), but it relates the story of the Scottish-Australian singer’s life from his wife’s point of view, just before, during and just after he hit the big time.

The result is perhaps the truest written record of the ‘real’ Bon Scott in all his complex glory, told through the affectionate and highly personal memories of a young woman living in a man’s world; someone who loved and stuck by her guy when she had every reason to turn her back on him. The inclusion of 15 never-before-published letters only serves to make this even more of a personal insight into the head of arguably Australia’s greatest ever vocalist.

In 1974, Australian rock music was in a fairly grim spot. Skyhooks (or ‘Cunthooks’, as Scott referred to them in a letter to Thornton) dominated the charts and Bon Scott was a washed-up singer pushing 30 who had failed with his two chances at stardom with the Valentines and Fraternity. It took the Young brothers and Scott to make AC/DC kick it into life with their high-octane, fuel-injected brand of rock ‘n’ roll that stole much from Chuck Berry yet still sounded fresh.

That much everybody knows, but it’s Scott’s life just before his big break which is much more fascinating, and it’s all here.

Thornton enters the scene when Scott is plying his trade in the pubs and clubs of Adelaide with prog-rockers Fraternity, earning next to no money and spending all his spare time partying in the Adelaide hills. A quick marriage later and the two head off to London with the band in an attempt to make it big, but the strain of living in a communal house takes its toll and the band and relationship fall apart. Throughout this time Thornton paints Scott as, perhaps unsurprisingly, selfish and chauvinistic, although there’s never any malice or bitterness in her words. In fact, it seems she could have said a lot more.

It’s at this point Scott joins AC/DC and never looks back, and despite a string of obvious affairs and general bad-boy behaviour, he still sees Thornton as his wife and keeps in regular contact via the letters that make this book better than your average rock biography.

“Not bad for a 29 year-old, 3rd time round has been,” he writes in one, describing record sales of the High Voltage album.

In some ways the story of the start of Scott’s success with AC/DC is hinted at being the beginning of the end of the true period of happiness in his life, although that, of course, is probably truer of Thornton. As she grows tired of his constant boasting about sexual and business conquests and moves on with her life, he catches her off guard with a few lines that don’t sound like the normal Scott cockiness.

“I just wanna be famous I guess. Just so when people talk about ya it’s good things they say. That’s all I want. But right now I’m just lonely.”

This isn’t high literature, but then Scott’s lyrics never were either. It’s simply an affectionate and fascinating look at the makings of an Australian legend, told from a never-before-heard point of view.


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