Monday, August 24, 2009

Concert Review: AC/DC, CanadInns Stadium, Winnipeg, MB, 8/22/09

I was as close to the stage as you could be, but the band still appeared as ants.

Thankfully, there were three giant video screens. The band's arrival on stage was preceded by short animated film of lead guitarist Angus Young and singer Brian Johnson on a train with some young, naughty women who attempt to cause it to crash — as well as several visual references to fellatio.

There were many people who, if you had to guess, didn't look anything like hard rock fans. In fact, the ordinary-looking folks greatly outnumbered the long-haired, headbanger ones.

AC/DC kicked off the show with the first single from their Black Ice album, "Rock 'N' Roll Train," which featured a smoke-belching locomotive on the stage's backdrop. Later on, the locomotive would spew flames. The band wasted no time in giving fans what they really wanted to hear, though — classic material — beginning with "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" and "Back In Black," both of which were every bit as powerful and spirited as you would expect from a band who relies heavily on signature tunes. Even still, it was a tad louder than I had hoped.

photo by David Lipnowski/ Winnipeg Free Press

Age-defying Angus Young strutted and ran around like he's always done while his brother, guitarist Malcolm Young along with bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd stayed in the background, taking no solos. Both Angus and Johnson made good use of a catwalk that extended from the center of the stage to about the middle of the field, ending at the sound booth. At one point, Angus disappeared into the booth and then reappeared on its roof to much acclaim. When the platform that he was playing on rose nearly six feet into the air, the crowd went nuts. I probably spent most of the time watching the action on the videos screens, in order to take in every facial contortion and close-ups of Angus' fingers firing out endless blues rock riffs.

Johnson still has enormous stage presence though his vocals became a little bit worn out by the time they played "You Shook Me All Night Long." He still seemed quite fit, however, especially when he ran down the catwalk from the center of the field towards the stage, jumped into the air, and swung from the rope attached the giant bell that descended for "Hell's Bells."

AC/DC are exciting when they are playing songs that I want to hear and not so good when they are playing other stuff. They played five songs from the new album, most of which were not all that memorable. Several songs were accompanied by animated videos that made them a bit more bearable, however. "War Machine" doesn't do much for me, but the video of a red-horned WWII bomber dropping guitars and sexy paratroopers (who danced on tanks with a hulking, 100-ft tall metallic Angus lumbering in the background) was fun to watch.

Several Bon Scott-era songs were played. For "Whole Lot of Rosie," a massive, inflatable hooker with giant breasts appeared on the stage. During some of the songs, the video cameras would shift from the band to attractive women in the audience. Upon seeing themselves, some smiled while others jumped; and at least one looked away in shyness.

At the beginning of the evening's final song, "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)," twelve cannons appeared, six in the center and three on either side. (When I saw AC/DC back in the '80s, I seem to recall there being only one cannon.) They weren't as loud as I expected, but they did fire several times and produced a fair bit of smoke. This was the final song of the evening and the band stretched it out with Angus churning out solo after solo, tearing up the track with his perpetually full tank of gas.

As I was exiting, the fireworks began. There would be no "Big Balls," "Moneytalks," "Jailbreak" or "Who Made Who," but AC/DC more than delivered a larger-than-life concert spectacle.

Ireland's The Answer — fronted by a Robert Plant lookalike — performed a set of '70s-sounding hard rock, but I wasn't paying too much attention to them as I made way through the innards of the stadium while on the hunt for a t-shirt and a drink.

My rating for this show is 4/5.

1. Rock N' Roll Train
2. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
3. Back in Black
4. Big Jack
5. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
6. Shot Down in Flames
7. Thunderstruck
8. Black Ice
9. The Jack
10. Hells Bells
11. Shoot to Thrill
12. War Machine
13. Dog Eat Dog
14. Anything Goes
15. You Shook Me All Night Long
16. T.N.T.
17. Whole Lotta Rosie
18. Let There Be Rock
19. Highway to Hell
20. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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