The Set List
by Brian Washburn
Have you ever seen a 5-foot-tall, 54-year-old school boy duckwalk across a stage for two hours? Well, I just recently did and I can honestly say it was legendary. A gigantic train barrels in between splitting TV monitors at Tulsa’s BOK Center. Smoke pours over the stage as about 20,000 screaming fans of all ages put up their fingers to make devil horns to match the ones sported on top of the train. The arena couldn’t get any louder, a larger-than-life (but unusually short) school boy with his signature Gibson SG guitar runs on stage to the loudest ovation it seems would be possible as he leads his band of more than 30 years into blues-driven hard rock. Yes, the myth, the man, the legend, Angus Young and AC/DC brought their rock ’n’ roll train to Tulsa last week.
Timeless rock should be the title of the Australian rock band’s next album. Timeless rock is a self-explanatory statement. AC/DC embodies everything that term implies, and by witnessing its live show, music fans understand. Incorporating pyrotechnics with its stage presence and spot-on wails, the show is worth every penny. The band began the show with its newest single, “Rock N’ Roll Train” and brought fans — ranging in age from 5-year-olds to 60-plus — to their feet for two hours.
AC/DC (guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young, vocalist Brian Johnson, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd) is one of the few classic rock bands that can still put out decent albums that rack up more sales than the rest of its peers combined. But while “Black Ice,” the band’s newest effort, which is sold exclusively through Walmart, does not come close to the five-piece’s historic, landmark albums, “Back in Black,” “Highway to Hell,” “High Voltage” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” it still gives listeners vintage AC/DC and probably the last listen of the greatest band from down under. The guys did a superb job of mixing in the new songs that half of the fans didn’t want to hear, with the classics that everybody wanted to hear.
The entire band can still pour out tunes like it did in the ’80s. Angus can still wield his guitar to put out the hard, bluesy crunch that it did in the classic rock heyday although the solos might be a bit sloppier. The rhythm section is solidly cemented in the background and gives the music its true backbone. However, the real surprise is how Johnson’s shrieking, high-pitched pipes have stayed in-tune over the decades.
While Johnson has never enjoyed being among the most prestigious vocalists in the rock industry, he knows his audience and knows what works best. Johnson held up precisely on key during the first half of the set, but then started to fade. This is no surprise, though.
Johnson recently stated in a “Rolling Stone” interview that this is probably his last tour. His well-publicized vocal troubles have delayed several AC/DC recordings and been part of the reason for the band’s long breaks in between tours.
The talent is still there and the band’s (especially Angus’) stage antics are still a sight to see. Trains, fire, smoke, enormous inflatable women (for the ever-popular perverse rendition of “Whole Lotta Rosie”) and video screens give fans everything they’re dreaming of for the AC/DC experience.
Angus duckwalks up and down the stage for nearly the entire set. At one point, he even strips off his trademark school boy uniform in the middle of “The Jack.”
The stage antics go over extremely well because of the classic set list the band put together. “Back in Black,” “Dirty Deeds,” “Hells Bells,” “Thunderstruck,” “Shoot To Thrill,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “TNT” jump-started the hearts of AC/DC fans. An encore of “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About To Rock, We Salute You,” which included the incredibly loud effect of cannons, gave fans the proper send-off they deserved.
AC/DC may never be seen on tour again. It’s a sad thought, but a reality. However, the Young brothers and the rest of the Australian crew have given the world rock tunes that will ring through radios, pool halls and tailgating parking lots for a long time.