AC/DC: Mayfair, Newcastle

ANGUS YOUNG has got himself some new front teeth. An elegant row of even ivories that wouldn’t look out of place in the mouth of Bowie or Donny Osmond. Gone is the jagged disarray like tree stumps in a battlefield which used to be on view as he shook his head through yet another earthquaking riff.

I mention this in such detail because it appears to be the only way in which AC/DC have made any concession to the imminent probability of becoming ‘stars’. They are 100 per cent admirable. A totally honest band who give their all every time they go on stage. Pretentiousness in their music or their conduct is so alien to them that I’m sure it will always be impossible. They are shaping up as the next generation’s Status Quo, a rock’n’roll touchstone.

In terms of critical response they have a very erratic history because naturally ball-busting rock busts some people’s balls. But their audience has expressed its view just one way – it’s got bigger every tour. This time they sold out the 2,000 capacity Mayfair and there was talk of two nights on their next, which is unheard of. There was no way I could take notes in the throng of the dancefloor. From the balcony they seethed and bubbled like hot springs. And yet there was no violence in this venue which has seen so much new wave aggro. That seems to be a peculiarity of AC/DC. Where a lot of heavy metal bands draw the chest-thumping gorilla worst out of their fans, somehow these tough Aussies just sweat the good nature out of their crowd.

Seeing them is like the pleasure of ordering a favourite meal in a favourite restaurant: you know what you’re going to get and it’s good every time. There have been no radical changes in their music since I first saw them melt the Marquee in the Summer of ’76, But they have improved steadily, Angus’s lead playing becomes cleaner and more authoritative. The whole band turns the screw relentlessly towards an optimum tightness which hopefully they will never reach because it will prove entirely too much for the human cranium. And the sound remains that bit different to all the rest because of the way the usual roles are juggled around: Cliff Williams plays bass like a rhythm guitar, strumming a constant deep thrum, while Malcolm Young on guitar plays the lead line straight and Angus either reinforces it or improvises around it.

The result is an endless sequence of satisfying riffs and some near classics such as ‘Hell’ Ain’t No Bad Place to Be’, ‘High Voltage Rock’n’Roll’ and the new one, ‘Riff Raff’. Moreover their present PA is actually up to the job so Bon’s vocals can be property heard at last – he knows it and smiles most of the time with a kind of lascivious relish at how good everything is after the regulation quota of hard times.

Well, you may have deduced by now that I respect and love this band and since it now seems that they are pretty certain to do all right, I’m very pleased.

© Phil SutcliffeSounds, 13 May 1978

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