Saturday, December 12
AC/DC last played Wellington’s Westpac Stadium nearly six years ago. Since then the band’s heart and soul, Malcolm Young, has been forced into retirement, and Kiwi-based drummer Phil Rudd is still in the sin-bin for partying too hard, and, well, illegally.
So though there’s just the one album since their last World Tour, the lacklustre Rock Or Bust, it is a rather different AC/DC on the stage – Chris Slade re-joins on drums (he played on The Razor’s Edge and its accompanying world tour in the early 1990s) and Stevie Young, nephew of Malcolm and lead guitarist Angus, fills the rhythm spot.
Brian Johnson’s rasp of a voice has rounded edges now but he’s still there to give it a shot.
We get the opener, Rock Or Bust’s title track and then it’s a waiting game to fix a technical hitch. Johnson uses up most of the night’s banter by telling the crowd to wait patiently, apologising for the problem.
Five minutes later they’re back with Shoot To Thrill before that same guitar-amp issue (is it the alternating current or the direct current? C’mon it’s one of the two!) takes 40 painstaking minutes to resolve. The crowd cheers in support, then boos in a mild rage, there’s wind and rain and it’s not looking good.
Back In Black regains the momentum and then, though fingers stay crossed throughout the next two hours, it’s through a run of anthems. Angus in his trademark schoolboy garb has always been AC/DC’s showman but he’s well and truly the star of the show now, charged also with doing the heavy lifting since Malcolm’s on the bench. He duckwalks the stage he dives in and out of the weather and his fingers dance down the frets as he issues bluesy wails and those memorable riffs.
Slade drives the band harder than Rudd. There’s an urgency that wasn’t there with Rudd last time, and he can play Thunderstruck properly.
There’s weird timing to start Hells Bells, but that is the only issue after that nightmare start. It’s incredible how good this version of AC/DC is – it almost shouldn’t work. But does. They’re such a tight ship, such a corporation, there was no way a little rain and a huge delay was going to ruin the night. It’s on with the show. And we hear almost everything from the tour setlist – Dirty Deeds, You Shook Me All Night Long, Whole Lotta Rosie,T.N.T. – Angus ends the set with a lengthy solo to conclude Let There Be Rock.
There’s even the encore of Highway To Hell and For Those About To Rock. I never thought I’d be able to write that an AC/DC show in 2015 was better than one in 2010 – but that’s exactly the case. A masterclass in stadium rock. Awe-inspiring.
This review first appeared in The Dominion Post and online at Stuff here