So, the Rock Or Bust tour hits Italy, minus Malcolm Young who as I am sure you all know has retired from AC/DC due to dementia. His brother and co-founder of the band, Angus Young, is joined on guitar by their nephew, Stevie. Drummer Phil Rudd’s legal troubles have left him unable to participate on the tour, and former drummer Chris Slade has been brought back in – presumably as a part time replacement for Phil. I consider myself very lucky to have seen them with the classic line up before the unfortunate turn of events which led to Malcolm and Phil being absent, but the anticipation and excitement was still just as high as it had been when I saw them on the Black Ice tour.
That is, until we get in. When we EVENTUALLY get in because today, there is but one entrance to the (perhaps once) world famous Autodromo. That is over a bridge that is about 15 metres wide. There are 90,000 of us. We then have to snake our way through another half mile of path before we get in to the very, very over crowded Autodromo. I’m just going to do all my bitching at once with regards to the location before I get to the gig itself. Italians can organize a meal. That’s it. Anything else, just watch out. Like the fact that the barrier separating those closest to the stage and those further back is not the 30 or so metres you normally get. No, they have put it at almost exactly half distance in the arena. FAR too far back. The result is that anyone in that half is cramped like a sardine. A ridiculous decision. The volume of the band – and I am not going into the performance just yet – was monumentally too low. When the gig finished, the organizers – in their infinite wisdom – decided that they would allow all 90,000 of us to exit simultaneously through 2 exits that were both only about 12 metres wide. Then it was back down the snaking path and over the bridge. It took an hour an a half. In desperation to leave, the fans were scaling the scaffolding for the disabled access stage and leaving that way. I honestly thought it would collapse at one point. I am never, not EVER, going to an open air gig in Italy again. You’ve had your 3 strikes guys. First was Heineken Jammin Festival, second Gods Of Metal, and finally this evening. Worst ‘organizing’ I have ever seen in my life. Oh, and girls, if you watch a gig in this part of the world do not even THINK about getting on anyones shoulders because you will IMMEDIATELY be pelted with bottles and all manner of projectiles from the most impatient, intolerant and obnoxious crowd that I have ever been among.
So, the gig.
The introduction is brilliant. It’s so well done. On the screens adjacent to the stage it starts with a parody of the Apollo 11 moon landing in which Neil Amstrong’s famous ‘one small step’ speech is followed by him stating he is going to investigate strange readings. Those readings turn out to be some kind of AC/DC comet which crash lands into Earth – passing Rosie on the way – and as soon as it crashes in all the smoke and fireworks from the stage, AC/DC appear to start the show with the title track from their Rock Or Bust album.
Everything is wonderful except the volume being too low. Stevie Young fits right in and there isn’t any discernible drumming difference from Chris – he does the job. Angus is perhaps a tiny, tiny bit slower tonight which is noticeable on the introduction to ‘Thunderstruck’. However, in all other respects the energy of the man cannot be faulted. He charges around the stage, his signature duck walk getting the crowd roaring. Getting on the ground and spinning in circles. This is nothing new, of course, but it never disappoints. Indeed, given how long they’ve been going makes these antics all the more impressive. The stage looks good too, particularly the horns either side and the colour schemes changing.
Brian doesn’t say a word between songs. It’s one finished and on to the next. That was quite strange, but at the end of the day, we are here for the music. Speaking of the music, they do a really good job of making a set spanning almost their entire discography. It is slightly more heavily weighted with the Back In Black classics and there are a few new ones from Rock Or Bust in there too, but they’ve tried hard to span the 40+ years AC/DC have been going.
About half way through the set they get to High Voltage, and Angus is given a bit of time to go free reign with the guitar which pleases the crowd, though I suspect more for his antics on stage than his playing – not that he is playing bad at all, it’s just that the cheeky gestures and the spinning and charging like a 5-year-old are more noteworthy.
I will never know why people feel the need to sing every single note and chord and not the actual words, but thank you for ruining ‘Hells Bells’ and ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ for the rest of us who wanted to hear the band. To be fair, part of that gets back to the point about it being nowhere near loud enough. Maybe I am being harsh and the crowd were just that loud because they were that excited, because there is no doubt that the energy of the performance from all involved never let up. It kept going. I once heard Ozzy Osbourne at the world premiere of the Live At River Plate dvd in London describing Angus Young ‘like the fuckin energizer bunny who just keeps going and going’ or something to that effect. It’s very much the same here. Everyone else appears to have some time away from the stage except for Angus.
When the giant inflatable pops up behind the stage to reveal the figure of a woman we all know to be the subject of their 70s’ hit ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, the one really great respectful moment I have towards this otherwise horrible crowd is that instead of the traditional shouts of ‘Angus’, everyone around me is shouting ‘Malcolm’. I don’t know if that was something repeated by others at the show, but it was great to hear.
Finishing up with a very long and drawn out version of ‘Let there be rock’ with Angus again being the only one who doesn’t get a break like his band mates, there is a brief pause where even he can catch his breath. This is before they finish with two of their best loved classics, ‘Highway To Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock’.
All in all, the only thing really missing from a musical perspective was more volume, but like many other poorly organised events I don’t think the blame can be given to the band. I feel a bit unfair giving them a 6/10 rating, but I have to reflect the entire event and for that reason I can’t rate the band individually. Even in the absence of Malcolm and Phil, AC/DC still deliver a blinding performance – my only advice is don’t watch them in Italy. Don’t watch ANY open air gig in Italy.
Photos courtesy of Marita ‘Tari’ Mirabella can be found here.
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)