AC/DC + The Answer @ Birmingham LG Arena UK – 23/04/2009

Posted by Bianca on Thursday Apr 23, 2009 Under Hard Rock

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You can tell tonight’s gig is something special by the atmosphere outside the venue and the vast amounts of cash that tickets are being traded for. It has been nine years since AC/DC last played Birmingham on their Stiff Upper Lip tour and there are far more fans than there are tickets for the event.

With the overwhelming demand at the Box Office, I miss the first couple of tracks by the support act, The Answer. After finally battling my way through to my seat, I catch the end of the track Demon Eyes. The Answer are a Northern Irish band that play blues based rock’n’roll and are good at it from all accounts. The band are not at all daunted by the size of the venue and use the space on the stage fairly effectively, but then they have been supporting AC/DC since October. The set continues with the track Never Too Late, in which Cormac Neeson encourages the crowd to clap along and the response is far from lack lustre. Their set ends with Under the Sky and you get the sense that The Answer are genuinely grateful for the opportunity to play and that the crowd have quite enjoyed them. Unfortunately, I am left feeling that I have just heard “blues rock by numbers”, as there is nothing new or unique about their music. Yet, in their defence, they do the job in question, which is to warm up the audience in preparation for the headline act.

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Right on time, the lights go down and the arena erupts. A screen shows an animation sequence which includes trains, hot women in short skirts making suggestive motions with gear levers, and Angus in his royal devilness. Through the back of the stage comes the front end of a train, followed by the band who launch straight into Rock’n’Roll Train, the opening track from their latest album Black Ice. All of the audience are on their feet and the only thing you can see is an ocean of raised fists, pumping in the air to every golden beat. Brian Johnson, in his trademark flat cap, makes the most of the runway which jets out in to the middle of the crowd, whilst Angus, in his schoolboy outfit, is strutting the length of the stage. The band follow this initial barrage with Hell Aint’ a Bad Place to Be and the anthemic Back in Black – both of which are awesome and performed with the power that you expect from AC/DC. The audience, at this point, are putty in the hands of Johnson, who is all over the stage, ensuring that everyone can see him regardless of whether you are in a restricted view seat or not. The crowd’s response lessens momentarily whilst they perform Big Jack, but it returns to its previous state with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, leading into chants of “Angus”, which progresses into Shot Down in Flames.

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Typically, Malcolm and Cliff remain at the back of the stage, only moving forward to sing backing vocals, leaving Brian and Angus to keep the crowd entertained, which they do admirably. Then comes one of those quintessential AC/DC moments; Angus launching into the classic introduction to Thunderstruck. You can’t help but feel the rock flow through your veins and every other rock related cliché under the sun, all at once. The set continues with Black Ice and The Jack, allowing Angus to get his kit off and for a 54 year old he isn’t looking too bad, especially if you squint! Then the oversized bell descends for Hells Bells, which is just pure rock’n’roll greatness. It isn’t surprising that a band which has played together for over thirty years is so musically together, but they ooze so much energy which permeates throughout the arena that very few artists can create. This force flows through Shoot to Thrill, War Machine, Anything Goes and the excellent, arse shaking You Shook Me All Night Long. TNT sees the unleashing of the pyrotechnics that enhance the music rather than detract from it, and excessive use of special effects can never go amiss at an arena rock show.

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After the fire, comes the gigantic inflatable woman, heralding Whole Lotta Rosie, and Rosie appears to be very busy whilst the band let rip. The final track of the set is Let There Be Rock, which allows Angus to truly exploit the stage, running down the runway, playing the guitar on his head, going round in circles on the riser followed by rampaging over the raised platform at the back of the stage.

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Surely this can’t be the end already? Luckily, Angus returns to the stage, with the obligatory horns, for the brilliant Highway to Hell. Everyone is singing at the top of their voices, arms raised in the air and a sense of camaraderie unites the crowd. The last track for the night is For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), which reaches its climax all too soon, the necessary cannons are fired and AC/DC leave the stage. As the audience leave there isn’t one disappointed face, even the likes of Blur’s Alex James is beaming with satisfaction.

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Even after all this time, AC/DC are still one of the greatest rock’n’roll bands on the planet and every time they play live they leave their unique stamp on the crowd. I can fully understand why the bloke in front of me had seen them 78 times because they make you feel so alive. The only drawback is that they have such a vast back catalogue you don’t necessarily get to hear your favourite track, which for me is If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It). And, to be honest, you could have scrapped Anything Goes in favour of If You Want Blood, but that’s a personal preference and no doubt, someone else may have voted for Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. In conclusion, if you ever get the opportunity to see AC/DC, go because it will be the most rocking night of your life!

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Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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