Legendary rock group AC/DC impresses crowds at MetLife

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The legendary Australian heavy metal group AC/DC has finally returned to North America to embark on a brief stadium tour of the United States and Canada. This is their first since the lengthy Black Ice World Tour, which ended five years ago. The second night would have the band coming to the tri-state area with a sold-out performance at MetLife Stadium. The band most recently put out their 15th studio album, Rock or Bust, last December to rave reviews and Top 5 album chart debuts around the world. In addition to their usual repertoire of greatest hits, three tracks from the album were added to the set list. The album’s two leading singles, which include the title track and “Play Ball,” and “Baptism By Fire.”

A quick glance at the set list will show that it is practically recycled from their previous world tour. The most obvious difference being that most of the Black Ice tracks were jettisoned to make room for the new tracks. All the classic hits like “Highway to Hell,” “Thunderstruck” and half of Back in Black are all here and accounted for. While it is always great for any artist to perform crowd-pleasing hits, this time around it seems like AC/DC tried to play it safe. The tour also doubles as the band’s belated 40th anniversary celebration. This could have been an opportune moment to dig into the band’s back catalog and perform songs that either have not been played live for years, or have never been played at all. Missed opportunity aside, the set list was still met with rapturous approval from the audience.

The presentation of the concert was everything that fans have come to expect from the band. With all the stadiums that they have been filling up, AC/DC has put on a show that is just as massive as the venues themselves. All the familiar and over-the-top set pieces like the giant church bells, cannons and an inflatable fat woman adds a sort of Spinal Tap-esque charm and humor to the band and their live show.

Compared to what they would have been able to get away with in an indoor arena, pyrotechnics were a plenty throughout the show, as a brief fireworks display at both the opening and closing of the concert. Even with all this spectacle, the sound system that AC/DC used left something to be desired. For the first few songs, the only sounds to really stick out were the lead guitar and drums. The bass and rhythm guitar were practically buried in the mix, as the vocals were almost nonexistent. While it was fixed quickly, it was still strange and admittedly a bit funny to see the audience help the band out with the lyrics.

The live lineup of AC/DC has undergone significant changes since the last tour, namely in the rhythm section. For the very first time since the band made their live debut in 1973, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and founding member Malcolm Young, brother of lead guitarist Angus Young, did not perform with the band after permanently leaving last year due to a bout of dementia. Reprising his duties from the Rock or Bust sessions, Malcolm was replaced by his and Angus’ nephew, Stevie.

While it is admittedly a strange sight not to see Malcolm on stage after all the years the band has played, Stevie proves to be up to the task. What he lacks in his harmony vocals, he more than makes up for in his rhythm guitar fills.

After multiple skirmishes with the law since last year, longtime drummer Phil Rudd was fired from the band shortly before the tour and was replaced by the very same drummer that he uprooted when he returned to the band in 1994, Chris Slade. Having previously played with the band on The Razor’s Edge and the world tour in the early 1990s, Slade was able to naturally play all of Rudd’s original drum parts to a tee, as well as the fills from the songs written after Slade’s initial tenure.

Even with the new members, the remaining long runners are still playing strong on stage. Bassist Cliff Williams is still as tight as ever when it comes to keeping the rhythm going, and with the return of Slade, the rhythm section has arguably become even better than before. Now celebrating his 35th anniversary of joining AC/DC, lead singer Brian Johnson is as every bit as ferocious and energetic behind the microphone. Aside from obviously doing his own band material justice, Johnson also proves to be a natural fit for singing the songs written with the band’s original lead vocalist, the late Bon Scott.

The member that stands out the most is Angus. While he may not be a conventional guitar god along the lines of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, Angus has shown to be one of the few guitarists in rock to also serve as the band’s frontman, a role usually reserved for a singer like Scott or Johnson. For the finale, he finally gets to break loose with endless soloing with a 20-minute rendition of “Let There Be Rock.”

Even after the rest of the band has stopped playing, Angus just keeps on going without missing a beat. Frantically strumming his trademark Gibson SG guitar while running across the stage, it is hard to imagine any other band, modern or classic, finishing off their concerts in such an explosive fashion in this day and age.

Though their latest North American tour is going to be brief, AC/DC’s return to the live stage is an event that’s guaranteed to become the hottest concert ticket for the rest of the summer. While they might have played it safe with their set list, hearing the hits that made AC/DC into international megastars is always an amazing experience.

The band is rumored to return to North America next year for a leg of indoor arena concerts in the cities they skipped for the tour. Here is to more performances, both from the studio and stage, from the mighty AC/DC.

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