AC/DC from the front row…and the not-so-cheap seats

AC/DC was the band that got me into music, period. And while I’ll be the first to admit that they’ve been pretty much re-releasing the same album for the past 30 years, they’ve still put out a whole lotta music that really speaks to me. But lately, it appears the band is on its last legs; losing chief songwriter Malcolm Young to dementia and dependable drummer Phil Rudd to drug-induced insanity. While I briefly contemplated boycotting any future touring appearances, that resolve lasted all of five minutes once tickets for their Rock or Bust tour went on sale, back on Family Day.

At the time, there were three Eastern Canada shows (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa) on sale through three different websites, and when Ticketbastard’s internal timing mechanism seemed a little slow, I found myself in queue for all of them. I didn’t intend to see ’em three times, but I had to be sure to catch ’em at least once. And as it turns out, I got through for Ottawa while still in queue for Toronto…but I wasn’t gonna miss seeing ’em at the site of SARStock, either!

So in the end, I saw AC/DC in two Ontario cities in seven days–and despite the same setlist, had two distinctly separate experiences.  Here’s a brief recap of each show:

IMG_0466As you can seem from the greying, balding backs of heads, Ottawa brought out a much older crowd…

Hard to tell from watching these guys that AC/DC is in their sixties. Seeing em live in 2015 wasn’t all that different from watching em 7, 15 or 19 years ago. But you sorta get the feeling it’s their last tour, and they saved their best for the occasion. Not just the obvious cuts like Back in Black and Thunderstruck…but the mid-set sequence of Sin City, Shot Down in Flames and Have a Drink on Me.

There were only a couple new numbers from the new record. The title track was part of an impressive opening sequence that included a digital moonshot and plenty of pyro. One other tune wasn’t particularly memorable, but Rock ‘n Roll Train, from the Black Ice album, fits right in alongside their earlier anthems.

Of course, we got the set staples–inflatable Rosie and the six-gun salute for those about to rock. But there were some signs of aging; Brian Johnson no longer swings from Hell’s Bell, and I don’t think anybody misses The Jack and Angus’ striptease routine.

But man, does that guy still have a fuckton of energy for a man his age. Dude did more duckwalking than I’ve ever seen, and his platform-elevated solo on Let There Be Rock, complete with confetti, was a sure set highlight.

With their massive stage setup, AC/DC can really only play football stadiums and large public parks these days. But hey, they really went out with a bang, shooting off some actual fireworks at the end of their encore. Would’ve been quite the show for the folks in the stadium-adjacent condo, had the thing been fully built yet.

IMG_0476

This was probably AC/DC’s last Toronto show, and I wasn’t going to be stuck at the back. I got to Downsview Park at 3 pm, and rushed the stage once the gates opened, ending up with just one guy between me and the rail. From there, it was quite the vantage point. You couldn’t see the rhythm section over the monitors and fans at the front of the elevated stage. But I could see the spit flying from Brian Johnson and the sweat pour off of Angus. And hey, AC/DC has always been the Brian ‘n Angus show…at least since Bon died. The crowd was much younger and more enthusiastic here, especially up front. Hey, if you’ve committed to holding your position for four and a half hours before AC/DC even takes the stage…you’re clearly not a weekend warrior. And yes, they played the exact same set with the same props and backdrops, but the show’s always better from the front row than Row 59. If that’s indeed the last time I see AC/DC, well, I don’t think it could get any better!

Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.