AC/DC set the Grammy Awards on their own “Highway to Hell” with their explosive opening performance, starting as LL Cool J introduced them. The Aussie hard rockers blasted the audience with the title track of their latest album, last year’s Rock or Bust. In standard form for the group, frontman Brian Johnson gyrated in his signature Andy Capp hat, as lead guitarist Angus Young headbanged and duck-walked in his schoolboy uniform.
As soon as they finished with that tune, Young blared out the opening chords to “Highway to Hell” and Johnson grinned from ear to ear. The whole audience donned light-up devil horns, including Katy Perry who gave the devil-horns with her fingers, as some pyro lit things up behind them. Even Tony Bennett –who, along with his date for the night, Lady Gaga, was not be-horned – seemed to be enjoying himself. When LL Cool J came back to host, he called the performance “devilishly good.”
AC/DC have won only one Grammy Award in their career, for the Black Ice song “War Machine” in 2010. In November, the Australian hard rockers released Rock or Bust, their first album without rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who backed out of the band to battle dementia. His nephew, Stevie Young, played on the album and is performing live with the group.
The release was marred by the arrest of drummer Phil Rudd who was charged with drug possession and threatening to kill in New Zealand last November. His role in the band has been a point of speculation since then. “I’m going back to work with AC/DC, and I don’t care who likes it and who doesn’t,” Rudd said in an interview with New Zealand’s One News a month after the arrest.
The medley marked the group’s first new performance with past AC/DC drummer Chris Slade. Prior to their Grammys performance, rumors sparked online that Slade, who played on the band’s 1990 LP The Razors Edge and departed in 1994, would be behind the kit at the awards show.
Blabbermouth reported that the drummer, who had recently been playing in an AC/DC tribute group, had postponed a meet-and-greet (oddly scheduled at an optometrist’s clinic) because of “big news” regarding his career. The drummer confirmed the news the day before the Grammys, according to Blabbermouth.
Slade also confirmed that he will join the band on their upcoming tour, which will take place after a headlining gig at Coachella in April. He’ll replace Rudd, whose next court appearance is scheduled for April.
In happier news, 2015 marks the 35th anniversary of Back in Black, the band’s first with lead singer Brian Johnson.