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
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)
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