[sic] Magazine

AC/DC London o2 Arena 14 April 2009

AC/DC don’t exist. They’re an idea, a concept, and a legend. One so absurd that they would be a pitch for a movie too outlandish to ever be made. For all I know, they could be automated robots up there, playing as the world’s biggest bar band, three of them static behind their posts, the other two – the typical dynamic of singer and livewire gonzo uberguitarist racing around like hyperactive rock baboons. It could be a projection, a hologram, smoke and mirrors, the second coming of a Rock n Roll Christ, who knows?

I’ve never touched a member of AC/DC, and I’ve never been cured of an affliction as big as leprosy.

All I know really, is that AC/DC are on a stage not far from me, rock mythology made flesh, pensioners in shorts and schoolboy outfits and flat caps and armless shirts, bestride 40 foot inflatable women, giant Bells, cannons, and best of all, a completely unexpected, and absolutely glorious, devil-horned, smoke belching, 60 foot locomotive that glows red and breathes fire.


After the opening, sucker punch ‘Rock N Roll Train’, AC/DC hit the accelerator and never ever stop. They are a unique proposition, and one that, aside from a blues interlude in ‘The Jack’, a band that exists at just two speeds – Balls Out, and Moody Stomp, and one mood: Rock as saviour, Western Civilisations defining contribution to mankind, a modern religion. Feelings are for the weak, and music a shield that defends from the ills of the world. So we cannot hurt anymore, we bluster and yell “Big Jack! War Machine! Highway To Hell!”. For tonight we are in AC/DC World, a theme park of hedonism, where women are dirty (there’s quite a lot of songs about sexy, dirty women), where feelings don’t exist beyond a base commitment to rock as redemption and where people do not have broken hearts, because they do not posses hearts: just pumping machines that feed rock around the body.


Think of some of the defining moments in AC/DC’s immense catalogue: ‘Back In Black’? That’s the third song. ‘Thunderstruck’, that’s sixth. ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, that’s in the middle of the set. Because whilst these songs are classics of songwriting, AC/DC don’t make them the grand finale. Because there are songs that are even better after these.

‘Let There Be Rock’ should be a national anthem.

Unfortunately, that nation has assholes in it. And I see at least two fights in the huge standing area: one moron thinks he can shove everyone else around with impunity, only to find other people shove back. It’s fairly intimidating to be shoved without warning off your feet by a 6 foot 6 drunk in a red shirt sweating booze. For some reason, some people think that everyone else in the room is a mere cipher, an unfeeling object to be manipulated and pushed around, and this kind of disconnect for human beings as objects is merely a symptom of the numb sociopathy that our society bases itself on.

Or, perhaps, he was just a bit of a twat.


In the meantime, 19,999 people are one in the United States Of Rock, celebrating their communion, and lost in the hymns. 15 million fingers learning how to play.

Angus Young resembles a rock Neil Kinnock and hops all over the place. He’s a far better guitarist than the records often suggest: the keening solo during ‘Let There Be Rock’ reveals a player of stunning ability welded to a sometimes rigid background. Brian Johnson meanwhile, is a metal Tom Jones, an old fashioned crooner from a lost age.

Drummer Phil Rudd, the original and best rock drummer, puffing away like a nicotine-fuelled, human metronome reproduces every beat in some kind of muscle-memory trance. As if, like a washing machine, you just turn the dial to ‘RAWK’ and let him play for two hours. Static next to him, Malcolm Young – who resembles nothing so much as a rock roadie from a Channel 4 comedy – stays stock still and peels out riffs as the dependable, indestructible backbone of rhythm. Girls and boys got rhythm.


Perhaps oddly for a band four decades and countless albums in, AC/DC are no nostalgia act. The new material is, in the context of the evening, as good as anything they have done. ‘Big Jack’ and the stupendously ridiculous ‘War Machine’ (which sets AC/DC as a Rock Nation at war against a world of unbelievers, dropping scantily clad girls like bombs to sex the enemy to a revelation) are the equal of anything prior.

The evening itself though, glosses over vast periods of AC/DC’s history. There is no sign of ‘That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll’, or the under-rated, and stupendously dunderheaded ‘Heatseeker’. Or ‘Who Made Who’. Aside from the most awesome ‘Thunderstruck’ – a song everyone should experience live at least once in their lives – 1981 to 2007 appear not to have ever happened. What a beautiful dream that might be, to wipe out most of that dark period of human history.


AC/DC exist in a specific genre. Neither metal, nor stadium rock, though clearly rock and roll (since every song has the word ‘Rock’ in it), AC/DC exist in a genre that consists of just one band: AC/DC.

Rock N Roll is a stupid, brilliant thing, and sometimes you have to embrace the limitations, and the clichés of the genre. I doubt AC/DC are quite that smart, but they do seem to have an astute understanding of exactly what their constituency want. AC/DC are legends, an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life, and their status is deserved and justified. I’ve ticked AC/DC off the list of ‘101 Things To Do Before You Die.’

Now I suppose I’ve still got to swim with the dolphins and cure cancer. But I got to see AC/DC. And I heard 20,000 voices yell “Let There Be Rock!!”

And we salute you.

AC/DC official website

For more from Mark please visit The Mark Reed website