thu 19/09/2019

AC/DC, Olympic Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park | reviews, news & interviews

AC/DC, Olympic Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park

AC/DC, Olympic Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park

They came promising Rock or Bust - what did they deliver?

The now-mobile Axl Rose and the 'exhilarating' Angus Young

The accepted wisdom from last month's relaunched Rock or Bust tour was that the substitution of Axl Rose for incapacitated singer Brian Johnson was as masterful as it was surprising. Whatever the Guns N' Roses man lacked in mischief, the story went, he made up for with malevolent energy. Now, though, it's been over a month of the new band. So is Axl still brimming with curdled anger? Or was the initial hype just a product of the novelty of the situation?

The pre-gig build-up was certainly rousing. The fact that the internet had already concluded Axl was a shoo-in helped create an atmosphere of sheer excitement. It stopped, in fact, only when the pre-concert tape began to roll, and the place still felt only two thirds full. At that point fans looked around with one thought: the Olympic Stadium is utterly huge. Does Rose really possess sufficient charisma to make it truly rock?

When Angus played the opening chords of 'You Shook Me All Night Long' a wave of euphoria swept through the venue

He strolled on past a few fireworks to a simple stage backed by Marshall amps. On his back was a scruffy T-shirt and his left ankle was still in a kind of brace. But now, somehow, it hardly restricted his movement. In fact, he looked pretty healthy.

Ironically, this actually came as something of an anti-climax. Axl's look in his first concerts, after all, had been brilliantly mad, his bad foot forcing him to perform in a kind of wheelchair like some cowboy-cum-comic-book-villain (pictured below). Now he just looked more like someone about to go for a drink in a Midwestern bar.

His demeanour, too, seemed subdued as he launched into "Rock or Bust" with hardly a word. Just as the internet had promised, he did sound quite a lot like Brian Johnson; confidently managing to pull off big-hitters like "Shoot to Thrill" and "Back in Black". Unfortunately, after a quarter of an hour or so, cracks started to become evident. What at first seemed like an impressive take on Johnson's half-screamed melodies, in large doses became somewhat screechy. 

This may not have mattered if the singer had worked the audience more. But all the real stagecraft was provided by the consistently exhilarating Angus Young. Would it have been too much to ask for Axl to behave a little more like the brilliant madman he sometimes is? Instead, he hardly said a word, preferring to strut around the stage with a slightly angry expression. I overheard one fan observe things were "just not as thrilling as I expected".

Once the sun went down, the rapport between band and audience finally started to cement. The whole stadium now was lit up by fans wearing flashing devil's horns, and when Young played the opening chords of "You Shook Me All Night Long" a wave of euphoria swept through the venue. The big screens captured the moment, picking out girls on shoulders and men punching the air. There was more good stuff to come. Axl's Brian Johnson impression may have been flawed but he did a mean Bon Scott. "TNT" was great and "Whole Lotta Rosie" – where Axl reprised the version he used to play with Guns N' Roses – even better. 

It wasn't really until the encore, though, that we really got what many had been waiting for. "Highway to Hell" started with Angus Young appearing through a trapdoor surrounded by flames. Then Axl Rose returned to the stage. He was now fully kitted out in his trademark bandana and kilt and proceeded to rip through the song like a man possessed. It was fantastic stuff. It did make you wonder, though, why it had taken so long to get there.

Would it have been too much to ask for Rose to behave a little more like the brilliant madman he sometimes is?

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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