AC/DC: Long Beach Arena, Long Beach CA

AC/DC discover harmony… after a fashion

DON’T EVEN ask why I trudge all the way to Long Beach for the annual aural assault by a bunch of homeless Aussies who are about as subtle as a collective dose of the clap and have a similar effect on the brain cells.

Like the man asked why he wants to climb a particular mountain who answers “because it’s there”, I’m drawn to this depraved quintet simply because they’re here once again, and because amid this ever-changing universe they can be relied on to be much the same as last time. Hard-rocking, mindless-boogying bucketsful of sweat, craftily putting out the same album every year with a different sleeve to fool the slow-witted. Wonderful stuff.

With my ear pressed foolhardily against the right-hand speaker, my only regret at not being in the usual club venue being that the big men in the blue tee-shirts kept sitting people down midway through imaginary solos, I prepared to be entertained.

Earlier on this tour, Angus had been stripped of what little lower garments he wore by avid fans. Though the Long Beach audience (admittedly less catatonic than L.A. — one or two tossed fireworks) was not exactly a seething mass of rabid beer-swilling headbangers, Angus played safe by making sure he never stood in the same spot for more than half a second. Scampering round the stage, writhing about on his back and belly in more positions than you’ll find in a brown-paper-cover-magazine, wrenching sounds out of his guitar ranging from tortured cat to bumblebee plugged into wall-socket, the schoolboy made Rick Nielsen’s efforts look pedestrian.

Bon Scott evidently decided against making a trip outside the doors of the arena on this occasion. The bouncer next to me with the earplugs in looked like he’d personally make sure Bon wasn’t let back in again. His vocal prowess is much the same as last year — muscle-flexing spoof-macho practising primal screams over craanging guitars and your basic thud-thud boogie rhythm section.

When something’s that basic and that straightforward, it’s impossible to really find anything (other than that fact itself) to criticise. Old songs and new songs were worked into the show, and after a while you forgot which was which, unless old favourites like singalong ‘She’s Got The Jack’ and ‘Whole Lotta Rose’ come to the surface. (Bon did an admirable Andre Previn impersonation in the former, conducting us in the backing vocals.)

‘Highway To Hell’, the new title track, came over mighty powerful, as did a new one ‘Walk All Over You’, introduced as a ‘love song’ and sung straight from the bowel in Bon’s unignorable voice. It even had a sort-of three-part-harmony section, if you have a wild imagination, and led to some instrumental histrionics on young Angus’s part, which fitted in with the mood of the evening if contributing little to music as a whole. (Though obviously a good live gimmick, they don’t need all that feedback and stuff). The set closes with Angus’s piggy-bank round the arena. As wonderfully seedy and solid a set as last year.

© Sylvie SimmonsSounds, 13 October 1979

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