Saturday Night: AC/DC at BankAtlantic Center
Saturday, December 20, 2008
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Better Than: Volume itself.
To say that AC/DC were loud Saturday night is kinda like saying the sun set and the sky turned dark; a statement of fact, perhaps, but pretty much unnecessary. To say that AC/DC were louder than any show I've seen since I caught Motörhead at NYC's old Ritz, however, is saying something indeed. Why? Because Motörhead were so loud I saw colors; that's why. Not colors from the stage lights, mind you, but actual washes of violent blue and brilliant white that obliterated everything in sight.
For AC/DC I saw colors too - a similar breath-jolting blue and that same striking white - but I also saw stars: the kind that twirl around the head of a cartoon character after he's been knocked out. And every time I tried to shake 'em off, AC/DC would hit me again, 'til eventually I ended up punch-drunk. Yep, AC/DC knocked me out all right, and left a ringing in my ears that I'm still hearing 12 hours later.
Kicking off the onslaught with a crazy animated movie featuring two hot chicks and a heaving locomotive, AC/DC bravely alighted with "Rock N' Roll Train," the first single from their latest LP Black Ice. While it was apropos considering the circumstances, not to mention the over-sized locomotive that crashed through the screen and stayed onstage throughout almost the whole set, the only thing that kept it from being a ho-hum opener was the single-minded roar of the crowd, which matched AC/DC's indefinable loudness decibel for decibel.
By the time "Back in Black" crunched through though the train was fully off its tracks and careening just as planned.
There's a damn good reason why the LP Back in Black has reportedly sold 49 million copies worldwide (22 million right here in the States); it's pure, dumb, glorious fun. And hearing its title track live and louder than loud only added to its glory.
1976's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" begat 1990's "Thunderstruck" and then AC/DC dropped the volume a notch for the blues-scorched mainstay "The Jack," which, even after all these many, many years still features an obligatory - and unfortunate - striptease by Angus Young. And if seeing a scrawny 53 year-old wiggle down to his skivvies alarmed anyone other than me and my gal pal, well, I couldn't tell. In fact, the whole little half-dirty ditty seemed like some kinda ritual joke everyone in the packed house was in on - especially since it segues into a redeeming display of guitar pyrotechnics.
The rude boys peppered in a few more from Black Ice, including the title track, and while each are perfectly serviceable slices of crunch rock, none of 'em served to stoke the crowd in quite the same was as the band's classics. Then again, none of the new songs have had a quarter century or so to embed themselves into the mass psyche either.
Thankfully the quartet of heavy hits with which the five-piece arena rockists concluded their set quickly pulverized the fleeting lapse of the new tracks. And though folks could argue for ages over whether or not "You Shook Me All Night Long" is a better closer than "Let There Be Rock," the fact that the first one turned into "TNT" and then "Whole Lotta Rosie" before it exploded into the other drowned out any argument. This is AC/DC and that's what they did. Period.
By the time the band returned for "Highway to Hell" and "For Those About to Rock" my ears weren't just ringing; they felt as if they'd been put through the ringer and pulped into cauliflower. But I don't go to an AC/DC show and not expect a pummeling. And last night I got my ass kicked good - and loud.
Now about those earplugs.
Personal Bias: Believe it or not, I caught AC/DC on their first tour, when Bon Scott was still fronting the band. It left an indelible impression.
Random Detail(s): Drummer Phil Rudd is a veritable chimney, and kept a cigarette smoking throughout the entire set. Singer Brian Johnson still shrieks like a male banshee and looks like a saloon-soaked Andy Capp. And both guitarist Malcolm Young and bassist Cliff Williams seem happy to hang back in the cut until called to shout out a chorus.
By the Way: AC/DC doesn't do downloads (they don't wanna break up an LP), and Black Ice is available only at Wal-Mart, which didn't stop it from selling 780,000 copies its first week out.
-- John Hood