Stop the presses: AC/DC rocks Edmonton!
After so many decades there really aren’t many jokes left to make about AC/DC’s predictability. The band is simply unapologetic in its approach, holding steady to the same chords the band has followed since the early 1980s.
Some would argue that the ’70s records stick to the same formula, but the Bon Scott era saw the band evolving in subtle ways that fell by the wayside after the vocalist died and his replacement Brian Johnson was drafted.
Even the flashback weather seemed set on defining a new predictability for AC/DC concerts in Edmonton. At Commonweath Stadium Sunday night. torrent of cold rain came down just as it did six years ago, and the people wore their drenched clothing like a badge of honour, barely flinching as night fell and a cold breeze added to the chill. Beers and fists were raised, and many, many red, blinking AC/DC-branded devil horns flashed across the stadium as the rain came down.
So when Angus Young and the boys took the stage, about the only surprise to be found was that they’re still giving it everything they’ve got. Young and Johnson stormed the stage like they always have – maybe a touch slower than in younger days, but not so much that it made a difference as they each roamed the stage, Young running and duck-walking while Johnson moved with a jolly swagger.
For a band that looks as though the members just wandered off the street – save for Angus in the traditional school-boy outfit, that is – AC/DC have the showbiz down to a science now, playing big and working the stadium all the way to the back. It helps that the set list was built of familiar and predictable blocks of rock – the likes of Back In Black, You Shook Me All Night Long and Thunderstruck were all accounted for – while the oversized props accumulated over the years all made appearances as always. There was a giant inflatable Rosie for Whole Lotta Rosie, the bell from hell for Hells Bells and a line of cannons to signal the end of the night just as they have during For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) for many, many years.
The songs are strong, but there’s also a consistency in the band’s performances that they hit nearly every time they’re on stage, due in no small part to AC/DC’s secret weapon: the steady swinging storm of rhythm that holds everything together so that Young can wail and Johnson can howl.
With Malcolm Young lost to illness, nephew Stevie stepped in and hit all the right chords with the same steady rhythm that he did when he covered for Malcolm back in 1988 (and playing what looks very much like one of Malcolm’s Gretsch guitars), while Chris Slade of the band’s early ’90s lineup sat behind the drums in place of Phil Rudd, who’s been facing the sort of legal troubles you get into when you start bidding dirt cheap on dirty deeds. United with longtime bassist Cliff Williams, the new-old guys carried the band just fine, and it’s doubtful that the majority of the crowd knew there was anything different. These guys are rock-solid pros and they all hit their marks.
If there were any low points it was only in terms of the audience’s energy beyond the floor in front of the stage: Baptism By Fire, the last of three new songs of the night, drove a large percentage of people from their feet to their seats right around the halfway point, and Angus’s traditional extended solo during Let There Be Rock was in direct competition with the cold that had seeped deep into the bones as the main set came to a close, with the energy deflating rather quickly once the band dropped out and Angus stood alone to play out his solo. But a quick break followed by Highway to Hell and the For Those About to Rock closer brought most back to their feet—at least those who hadn’t already bailed on the night and scurried for home, and there were quite a few empty seats before the last note had rung—and AC/DC put another notch on the tour belt, quickly disappearing from the stage after Johnson screamed a heartfelt salute to Edmonton and leaving a satisfied audience to slosh its way back home.
Photos by Eden Munro