AC/DC sold out the United Center on Wednesday night for their “Rock Or Bust” tour. Though the tour is named after their most recent album, the band primarily performed their hits, opting to play only four songs recorded after 1981, the inarguable end of the band’s height.
As one expects from a group with the legendary status of AC/DC, the show rocked.
The band stood on an intense stage setup, with stacks of amplifiers lining the back of the stage and a massive, lit-up, devil-horned semi-circle nearly reaching the gigantic venue’s ceiling. There were video screens, pyrotechnics, inflatable naked women, a full runway and plenty of other tricks throughout.
Vendors sold the generally middle-aged fans overpriced plastic devil horns with blinking red lights, which blinked on and off throughout the audience as the lights dimmed. Before the band took the stage, the massive screens showed an animated film of terrified astronauts running for their lives on a distant planet, an explosion of fire eventually revealing the band’s name in the extraterrestrial terrain.
Then the band ran on stage from behind their massive stacks of amplifiers, the ear-splitting volume of opener “Rock Or Bust” drowning out the roaring cheers of the thousands of fans now standing at their seats.
This is what arena-rock is supposed to be. This is, quite simply, a show.
The band is old, of course, with singer Brian Johnson now 68 years old and guitarist Angus Young having recently hit 60. Yet the band played beyond competence, Johnson’s strained, upper-register vocals still offering the gritty urgency that made the band famous and Young’s proficient guitar playing still rocking harder than almost any modern band.
With a whole arsenal of classics to choose from, the band designed the setlist with fans in mind, surrounding new song “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” with fan-favorites “Back In Black” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
The band’s energy was unstoppable, a reminder of the spirit of good-old-fashioned rock & roll that AC/DC always possessed and exemplified.
“Hells Bells” featured a colossal bell lowered slowly from the ceiling, rocking back and forth, as though in time with the audience’s endless cheers. “You Shook Me All Night Along” highlighted the band’s blues-based beginnings, its riffs and soloing as classic as classic-rock has ever sounded.
The band kept picking up steam through the end of the set, with “T.N.T.” and “Whole Lotta Rosie” feeding the screaming fans exactly what they wanted.
Yet a band like AC/DC wouldn’t leave stage without a bang.
The band stepped back at the conclusion of the epic “Let There Be Rock,” leaving Angus on guitar performing a breakneck-speed solo. He runs to the end of the stage’s runway, which nearly reaches the center of the venue’s floor seating. With a spotlight on the soloing artist, a small circle where he stands begins to rise into the air, eventually lifting the guitarist roughly 20 feet upward.
At least five minutes into his solo, Angus is high in the air and shows no signs of slowing down. Massive confetti cannons shoot upward from below him, the guitarist disappearing momentarily in the multi-colored paper. As the runway lowers back to ground level, Angus takes off running, disappearing behind stage only to appear atop the stack of amplifiers, running across them and continuing to solo. Angus reappears on stage and ends the song to roaring applause.
There’s only one possible way the band could maintain this energy into the encore: “Highway To Hell.”
The band ripped through their performance of the classic with unparalleled energy. Despite having played the song for almost 40 years, AC/DC sounds fresh and invigorated. As though to confirm their steadfast dedication to their music genre, the band closes with concert-staple “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You),” finishing a 20-song setlist that didn’t slow down for a single minute.
Though AC/DC’s United Center performance was, by all means, nostalgic, the band managed to avoid being campy or gimmicky, and, especially in regards to the level of musicianship, offered a glimpse of what made their performances so shocking and infamous in the 70s. It’s Rock & Roll, intentionally capitalized. It’s loud. It’s energetic. It’s a show. It’s AC/DC.
Opening / "Rock Or Bust:"
Angus's "Let There Be Rock" Guitar Solo:
"Highway To Hell:"