By Carron Stacey
Last December, I was quite hungover, the night before having fallen asleep in a curry house after a long school term. I booked AC/DC tickets with trembling hands.
- Read on for why this gig was AXL/DC
My son has recently got into them and has started playing the electric guitar, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Take him to an AC/DC gig for his first one. We booked with our friends, also having two boys well into AC/DC and a dad who’d seen them before.
In the six months that followed, it’s all been about Axl. Or rather Brian and Axl. Refusing a refund on the basis that we see them or bust (see what I did there?), we thought we’d take it on the chin. I was sad that I wouldn’t see Brian Johnson but experienced quite a frisson of excitement that I would see Axl Rose instead.
Now let’s get this straight. In all my gig reviews, I like to make clear how much of a fan I am, as this affects and slants my review. I’m not really a Brian Johnson fan, preferring the bluesy music of the Bon Scott era. Many of my childhood holidays were soundtracked by the High Voltage album from 1976. In fact, High Voltage and TNT are my favourite tracks, and I still own the vinyl today.
Brian’s voice has never gone down that well with me, as I feel he doesn’t do the older songs justice, but hey, he’s part of AC/DC and has served them well since Scott died in 1980.
The media cooked up stories of him being kicked out of the band – or was it purely because of his hearing? Who knows. So the gig approaches. I’ve seen three acts in eight days – Adam Ant, Duran Duran and now this. I know these acts don’t all fit together, but to me they are all important. Adam Ant is important to me and my other half; we know the Kings of the Wild Frontier album inside out and it was like nothing else on earth hearing that album played live straight through.
Duran Duran were my first band I loved and seeing them in Southampton proved they still had it musically. In fact, I’d say they had improved with age. I’m proud to be a Durannie! And AC/DC is more of a family thing, though Glynn only likes what Ben plays to him!
This was the first gig to be held in the Olympic Stadium. Complaints have been made about the quality of the sound but it was fine from where I was. Being used to smaller gigs and going in the mosh pit usually, it was odd finding seats on the lower stalls but hey, we’re en famille!
Axl comes out, not on his throne thankfully but booted and shooting round the stage. Angus starts off in full school uniform but soon sweats it all off; he does keep his shirt on these days! Every time the crowd roared, he cupped his ears as if to say, “Come on, I may not be touring again!’ Opening with Rock or Bust (obviously, said my son), Axl showed no diva behaviour, merely delivered the setlist true to its roots and yet with an Axl-edge. His voice still has the range. It’s screamy enough but doesn’t rasp, but he can hit those notes that are needed for the ‘far back’ catalogue.
Angus’ guitar playing is a long-standing point of argument in our house. My son thinks he’s the best ever; I’m not sure, so I say Slash is better! But he rocks. When the camera zooms in on him playing, it’s amazing to watch his hands work that guitar, creating the wall of sound that is Angus Young. Shoot to Thrill, Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be – great so far.
Back in Black really opens the place up. I have to admit I don’t know every single one of the songs they performed, I am just picking out highlights for me! Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – easy to sing along to. Thunderstruck – I have to say I was a little disappointed with this compared with the album version – but could I have expected the same level of guitar-work live? I don’t know. It was awesome though. My son’s favourite. High Voltage – my favourite.
I fell a little bit in love with Axl at this point. Hells Bells complete with the bell. You Shook Me All Night Long where the cameras panned to the audience and an obliging young lady showed us what she had! In my usual feminist mode, I have scoffed at this, but it was quite funny.
TNT – amazing, followed by Whole Lotta Rosie and the huge lady on stage with her hand motioning in a funny way! Let There Be Rock ended with a 15-minute solo from Angus, disappearing off the side and appearing way up on a platform. Highway To Hell. The last of the encore, For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) with cannons which echoed around Hackney Wick (we know because our friend was in Howling Hipsters brewery!)
Axl Rose definitely has the personality to hold the stage and not cower away from the limelight. Introducing Whole Lotta Rosie, he told us that it was the first AC/DC song he ever heard. He certainly surprised most people and one review I saw said that he sang really well and sang them like they should be sung. Another reviewer replied that he’d thought the same about Brian when he saw them some years back and added: ‘There’s only one Bon Scott.’ Slash paid tribute to Axl’s performance saying it was: ‘Nothing short of awesome” and a ‘memorable evening’. I didn’t know he was there!
AC/DC is really all about Angus. It’s the wall of sound. It’s those fat guitar riffs. It didn’t really matter that Brian wasn’t there to sing with him. Axl did him proud. However, I did like the T-shirt I saw later – AXL/DC. That says it all.