Sometimes, you see a great one. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you see THE Great one. (Not Wayne Gretzky in this case.)
AC/DC at Madison Square Garden last night. I don’t even have proper superlatives for this show. Amazing seems passé, awesome seems insufficient, phenomenal an understatement.
You sometimes see athletes who talk about the balance between their physical prowess, and their mental ability to understand the game, and how there’s only a brief period, your prime, when the two levels are in harmony, before your body starts not being able to do things at that level anymore. AC/DC’s collective bodies were past their prime years ago, maybe decades ago. However, their understanding of rock, of showmanship, their sheer passion for playing, is as strong as ever.
That’s not to say that the show was an academic experience: it hardly fit the bill of being able to say that I saw a band which conscientiously studied and refined their craft. Not at all. Instead, I saw a group of men who don’t care how old they are, who just care about their raw desire to play rock, and prove that the fire of rock and roll still lives in them.
First of all, a note about the Garden. It is a venue unlike any other. Twenty-five thousand people stacked on top of each other, but it feels so much smaller because of the lack of a true upper deck. It is an arena that echoes with the memories of great acts that have played there, not to mention the myriad sporting events that the halls have seen. (Sidebar that only I may care about: despite New York City’s irrational love for the man, there are no more pictures of John Starks that I could find. I just remember as a younger man watching a lot of Knicks playoff games with my Dad, a Knicks fan, and hearing Marv Albert exclaim on television either “Starks for three! Brick!” or “Jordan beats Starks to the hole for two.” Why NYC loved this man to his last game I will never quite understand.)
Before I go too far, this is the set list from the show last night:
Rock and Roll Train
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Shoot to Thrill
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock
Honestly, all that was missing in my opinion was “If You Want Blood,” and “Let There Be Rock,” is a fine substitute. This was the second of two nights at MSG for them, I heard a whisper that “Money Talks” had cracked the set the night before, but I can live without that, too.
From this point forward, every time I listen to the “Black Ice” album, I will wish I could have bottled the way it sounded last night at the Garden. While listening to it on disc is sounds somewhat plain, it comes alive in the middle of an arena. Suffice it to say, the performance last night has upgraded my opinion of the album. In particular, the title track was one of their best songs last night.
I found myself smiling during most of this show. My bad ankle hurt. My good ankle hurt because I couldn’t take my weight off it. I had a sore throat. My ears hurt. My neck hurts (now, for reasons I’m sure you can imagine.) None of it mattered. I was watching one of my favorite bands, legend in their own right. They haven’t necessarily aged well, although they weren’t photogenic in the first place. Holy crap can they play, though. An hour and forty-five minutes went by in what seemed like half an hour. Never once was I bored or disinterested or thinking about what the next song might be.
Whether it’s giant inflating women, a literal train wreck on the stage, firing off cannons, light flashing, jets of flame, fireworks, a video montage of album covers, a raising platform with Angus playing on it, Brian Johnson swinging from the bell, whatever, there’s always something to watch on the stage. Better yet, there’s always something worth listening to.
The crowd was ballistic for just about the entire set. Brian Johnson could have not shown up, and the crowd would have filled in his part for him, twenty-five thousand strong.
There’s more I could say, but I’d just be talking in circles. See this tour if you get the chance. The only thing I walked away wishing was that I had seen both nights.