AC/DC deafened a sold-out Sprint Center crowd last night
I almost skipped AC/DC’s sold-out Sprint Center show last night. After a weekend of having several drinks (on me) followed by a training session that left my 38-year-old body hobbled and sore, I was still in recovery mode on Sunday night. But around 7:55 p.m., I realized that if Angus Young, AC/DC’s 60-year-old guitar virtuoso, could do jump kicks down a cock-shaped stage in his orthopedic sneakers for two hours, I could get off my ass, walk two blocks, and stand and salute these rock icons. So I went — and I regret nothing.
AC/DC is a rock ‘n’ roll war machine. Young, singer Brian Johnson and the rest of the crew strung together a damn near perfect 20-song set that chugged along at a breakneck pace, save for a few breaks between songs. Hey, even Superman needs a breather sometimes, right? OK, maybe Batman.
I’m sure AC/DC made a fortune alone last night by selling hundreds (probably thousands) of blinking devil horns for $15 a pop. Those seizure-inducing headpieces were everywhere, and I’m sure at least three dump trucks were required to haul away the loot from those alone.
Angus Young wore his traditional schoolboy outfit and baseball cap — a bright green coat and knickers that stood in contrast from the monotone attire choices of his bandmates. Of course, he’d strip some of this off — just not as much as expected.
Since this is the Rock or Bust tour — there are albums to sell — AC/DC opened with the title track of that 2014 album. Johnson, the affable frontman in his standard attire of black shirt, black jeans, Chuck Taylor kicks and a newsboy hat, thanked the crowd for coming to the rescheduled show. (The show was moved up a day so Johnson could attend the funeral of a friend in the United Kingdom.) “Kansas City, it means a lot what you did for us,” Johnson rasped. “The party starts now.”
This was a party — with your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They were all here, pirating videos of Young playing, drinking beers, smoking weed and looking like they were having the times of their lives while they dirty danced. That last part cannot be unseen.
AC/DC gave them what they wanted: hits. They fired off a three-fer with “Shoot to Thrill,” “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” and “Back in Black.” AC/DC sounds like an AC/DC record, aside from Johnson’s “oohing” and jabber between songs. He is the best … when you can understand him. Young’s ability to simultaneously strut, jump and shred is nothing short of amazing.
I must admit, I grabbed a beer as AC/DC cut into “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder.” This would be the last song played from the newest album. That was OK with everyone. Side note, I had to beat the 9:30 p.m. beer cutoff. (This was probably the best tasting — and most expensive — Boulevard Single-Wide IPA that I’ve ever had in my life.)
Up close, it’s pretty clear that these are tiny, pocket-sized men playing big, loud rock ‘n’ roll. The band occasionally took short breaks between songs, and I’ll accept a few minute-long pauses over no AC/DC at all. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” led the crowd into simultaneous fist pump as guitars roared and Johnson wailed. Bassist Cliff Williams and guitarist Stevie Young stayed mostly in the background, flanking drummer Chris Slade. Williams and Stevie Young, who stepped in when his uncle Malcolm Young retired from music due to dementia, provided plenty of menace in the chorus. Finally, after six songs, Young’s hat finally flew off his head.
AC/DC kept up the swagger with “Thunderstruck.” Slade’s drumming might as well have been foretelling a storm with the thunderous booms. Johnson seemed pleased with the adulation, often stuffing his mic down the front of his trousers, and reveling in the applause of this cocktacular moment.
“I love this song,” Johnson said at the start of “High Voltage,” which turned into a sing along as the singer goaded the audience to scream with him. Johnson’s singing can’t hit the sleazy high wail of late frontman Bon Scott but his rasp adds a blue-collar dimension.
A giant bell swung above the stage, the toll giving way to Angus Young’s electrified riffs for “Hell’s Bells.” This moment left me with goosebumps. Also ringing: my ears. PSA: If you’re seeing AC/DC live, bring earplugs. I left the Sprint Center feeling as if I’d narrowly survived a bombing.
In a where-the-fuck-is-the-roadie moment, Johnson tried to grab a fan’s beer during “Given the Dog a Bone.” He couldn’t reach it. A little help, roadies. To his credit, Johnson would snag a brew later during “Have a Drink on Me.”
A treat of this tour is hearing “Sin City” live. It’s a gem of the AC/DC catalog, and there’s nothing quite like seeing Angus Young play his guitar with a tie. Yes, Young stripped off his tie and played. This guy is a rock legend.
Just when members of the crowd started to relax into their seats, AC/DC hit a high point with “You Shook Me All Night Long.” AC/DC’s ability to keep a steady momentum throughout the night is so impressive. This is a machine that just takes a second to get revved up between songs but once it’s rolling, it’s a runaway locomotive and that’s what happened with the menace of “T.N.T.” More fists punched the air.
A giant blowup doll stroked her, uh, leg throughout the trashy stripper anthem, “Whole Lotta Rosie.” Angus Young and Johnson tore through this classic and into the mayhem of “Let There Be Rock.” That charging anthem led Young to the front of the stage, where a riser lifted him into the air as he played his guitar and went into convulsions. (Note: I believe the music did this to him, not the blinking devil horns in the crowd.) Confetti rained upon the masses, covering the stage like fresh snow. Young played a satisfying solo, concluding in a brief break before the encore.
Cheers and chants led to the stage being soaked in red light. With devil horns on his head, Young emerged below the stage — a glowing hell pit. The end getting closer, but first, a cruise on the “Highway to Hell.”
The night ended with Johnson commanding cannon fire during “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” A sweat-drenched Young never relented. This guy should have a cardio workout video. He is nothing short of impressive.
This is about as satisfying of a concert experience as you can expect. Pretty much every major song was represented — I’d still take “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It),” “Who Made Who” and “Jailbreak, among others, but that’s no complaint — during this big party. There were theatrics, fire and pyro. Seeing AC/DC now is a satisfying experience, and I can only wonder what it would have been like to see them throughout the 1980s and 1990s. But here we are in 2016, and I’ll take this AC/DC any day — if I can get off my ass.
AC/DC Sprint Center Setlist for February 28, 2016:
“Rock or Bust”
“Shoot to Thrill”
“Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”
“Back in Black”
“Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder”
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
“Rock N’ Roll Train”
“Given the Dog a Bone”
“You Shook Me All Night Long”
“Shot Down in Flames”
“Have a Drink on Me”
“Whole Lotta Rosie”
“Let There Be Rock”
“Highway to Hell”
“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”