“You ever heard of AC/DC?” an older fan was overheard asking a college-aged kid last night on the way into Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium, site of the group’s Black Ice North American tour opener. “Isn’t that the band that sings only about sex and rock?” was the response. The answer, quite unequivocally — and gloriously — was yes.
Following an enthusiastic set by tireless Canadian rockers — and sudden documentary film stars — Anvil (Anvil news here!), AC/DC seized the arena on Tuesday night, uniting generations along the way. The stage itself was a black, rectangular monstrosity, with three jumbo screens and a giant set of speakers matching the first level of loge seats in height. As the headliners emerged, around 8:45 p.m., an already-intoxicated crowd of 46,500 rose to its feet and did not sit for the remainder of the night.
If fans wanted subtlety, they needed to go elsewhere. Cartoon images of a train carrying the Australian quintet led to an actual locomotive model crashing onstage, which preceded the band’s performance of “Rock N Roll Train,” the first track off its latest album, Black Ice. “It’s good to see you!” screamed lead singer Brian Johnson. Deafening applause ensued. “You guys are making us feel proud up here!” he continued.
Next came a mix of classic AC/DC cuts (“Back in Black,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”) and tracks from their recent disc, with the latter having slightly less pull. It didn’t really matter, though. New song or old, the audience reacted exactly the same way: with a massive roar, a beach ball or two being tossed through the air, and a determination to keep on standing.
The band dressed in its usual elegiac attire — drummer Phil Rudd in black tee, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young in black tank, and Johnson in black, sleeveless vest (pulled off remarkably well by the 61-year-old). As always, the wardrobe award went to lead guitarist Angus Young, who wore his traditional black schoolboy uniform only to remove it during an extended striptease midway through “The Jack.” Ironically, while Young’s no-frills, show-within-the-show has become something of a predictable concert event (he stopped at the AC/DC-themed boxer shorts), fans did seem surprised when a cameraman stumbled upon David Spade and Chris Rock sitting side-by-side in the front row.
After a brief lull, Angus took over conducting duties from Johnson and drove the express to its finish. (“That guy’s got the devil in his fingers!” exclaimed the singer.) He didn’t nail every note, but from “You Shook Me All Night Long” forward, he blasted by on sheer force of will. “Let There Be Rock” saw the guitarist run across a walkway leading to the sound booth, re-emerge on its roof, play both lying down and behind his head, then sprint back to the stage for a 10-minute solo jam. Even the pyrotechnics of “Highway to Hell,” the six-cannon salute of “For Those About to Rock,” and the subsequent stadium fireworks felt like afterthoughts in comparison.
“Rock N Roll Train”
“Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be”
“Back in Black”
“Shot Down in Flames”
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
“Shoot to Thrill”
“Dog Eat Dog”
“You Shook Me All Night Long”
“Whole Lotta Rosie”
“Let There Be Rock”
“Highway to Hell”
“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”
Related Stories: • AC/DC Sticking With What Works for “Black Ice” Summer Tour
• AC/DC: The Essential Album-by-Album Guide
• Video: Go Behind the Scenes at AC/DC’s Rolling Stone Cover Shoot
• Photo Gallery: AC/DC Through the Years