AC/DC in Washington, DC

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 @ 10:47 PM

Verizon Center

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Reviewed by Jeff

Having already seen Ozzy in January and Maiden in June, the chance to see AC/DC at the Verizon Center on 11/15 was making this a banner year for catching my favorite old school bands that I haven’t seen in 20 years. AC/DC definitely qualifies – my one and only time seeing them was off of the “Blow Up Your Video” tour. But when I heard that tickets were going for $100 for this show I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see them again quite that much. < p> Luckily I wanted to see them enough to suck up to score four tickets in my company box, so with my cousin and two buddies in tow we were off to the Verizon Center. My company’s suite is in a good location for a show, slightly in front of the left side of the stage. We were right on top of the action, were back just far enough to not have the amps blasting right at us, and we could see some of the back stage goings on, like the cannons for the finale sitting just behind the stage. I wasn’t sure what kind of show to expect after the disappointing Ozzy performance and the phenomenal show by Maiden. I guessed that between having a great song list but getting up there in the years that AC/DC would fall somewhere in the middle. I was wrong.

The opening act, The Answer, started just after 8:00. They weren’t bad, featuring a pretty well done Zeppelin-esque sound, and they kept it short and sweet. After their fourth song the lead singer basically told the crowd that “You guys have been great, but we know you’re here for AC/DC. We’ve got one more for you and we’re out of here.” I respect the guy for having the balls to say that - a man’s got to know his limitations.

When the lights went down for AC/DC, they started with an animated short of a “Highway to Hell” looking Angus in the engineering car of a locomotive where two groupies come up to meet him. You get the idea of where this is going, but they kept the video PG-13 for the kiddies in the audience. The video ends and they open with Rock & Roll Train and have a massive locomotive train prop behind the band that they keep throughout the show. The band is in its usual formation, and of course Angus is bouncing around the stage in his schoolboy outfit.

The second song of the set gets a lot of surprised looks and “WTF?’s” from the people around me - Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be. And the crowd loves it. I’ve seen a lot of bands start shows with the “high energy first song off of the new release followed by one of their classic heavyweights” to get a crowd going, but going to one of their deep cuts right off the bat is a pretty cool move. The crowd agrees. And the crowd goes even more ballistic when they follow with Back in Black.

Next up, Brian Johnson tells us that “Now we’re doing one of our new songs, a song called Big Jack.” A lot of AC/DC’s critics, and fans for that matter, like to cut on the band saying that they’ve been re-releasing the same album for thirty years now. To some degree they have a point, but this song made me realize that it cuts both ways. I’ve never heard Big Jack before, but I can get into it as much as any other song the band might perform at this point. The song sounds so “AC/DC” that had Johnson not said that this was a new song I would have just as easily believed that this was some obscure, deep cut off of one of their early albums. Looking around the arena from my seat I still see a lot of people are on their feet and getting into the song, too. But not as much as when the band follows with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Thunderstruck.

Johnson tells us that they’re doing another new song called Black Ice. Usually at this point when a band announces that they’re playing a new song you see a small exodus from the crowd to grab beers and/or hit the head, but that doesn’t happen, and the audience is still fired up.

My buddies and I decide to make a beer run when the next song is The Jack, but not out of any dislike for the song. The Jack is a relatively long song by AC/DC standards, and more importantly, we only had ten minutes until the Verizon Center’s 9:45 last call. Unfortunately we run a little bit late and get back halfway into the next song, missing the massive bell that the band lowers to the stage for Hells Bells. As the song ends my cousin asks if every AC/DC song has to end with Angus jumping up and bringing his guitar down for the final note. I think that Angus does…

Next up are Shoot to Thrill, War Machine, and some other new song whose name I missed, followed by You Shook Me All Night Long. I’m probably one of the only rock fans who doesn’t like You Shook Me… – even people who don’t like metal get into this one. I never liked it before I got into metal and still don’t, but naturally the crowd loves it. And more importantly, if the biggest complaint I can come up with is that AC/DC is playing their biggest song that tells you what a great show this has been.

TNT follows, and the whole arena is still on its feet and shouting “Oy!” along with the band. One note to Angus, though – once you lose the cap, just cut to the chase and strip down to the shorts. Seeing an old dude with a bald spot & receding hairline jumping around in a schoolboy outfit comes off like the Creepy Old Guy from “Family Guy”. Next up they use one of their few props behind the band, an appropriately inflated woman for Whole Lotta Rosie. And we all get a kick out of what they had the inflatable Rosie doing during the song.

Getting toward the end, AC/DC fires up Let there Be Rock. And they do their usual long jam, but now Brian Johnson is no longer carrying Angus around the audience on his shoulders as he had done in the past when they get to the solo. I can’t blame Johnson - after a hernia, two knee surgeries and a broken hip I’d take it easy as well. If you’re wondering why you never heard about these health problems of Johnson’s, it’s because I just made all of it up. All kidding aside, these guys are old enough to collect Social Security, which makes how much energy they have all the more amazing.

The lights go down, and the crowd keeps cheering for an encore. The lights come back up, the stage is flooded with smoke, and Angus surfaces to the stage through a trap door platform dressed in his “Highway to Hell” devil look. During the song the video screens run a montage of album artwork and other images of the band over the years. I was kind of bummed when they showed the cover to “Fly on the Wall”, since I realized that at this point we weren’t going to hear anything off of that tonight. FOTW is the album that got me into AC/DC, and I still consider it to be one of the most underrated albums of all time. The album is made even cooler considering that the bar where the entire storyline of videos is shot is set in New Jersey – check the old New York City skyline across the river – there’s only one place in the world where you can see that, and it’s not Connecticut.

At this point it also hits me that we’re not going to hear anything off of “Flick of the Switch”, either.

Or “Blow up your Video”.

Or a bunch of other albums.

And I realize something else…

It doesn’t matter. This band has enough music to play for four hours and we could still walk away counting off a list of great song like this member of the Exexxs (go about 50 seconds into the link) that didn’t get played. In the time the band has been on stage they had a great song selection, played with a ton of energy and had the crowd on its feet the entire night in a city that has no real metal scene. And that’s all that matters. But I still would have loved to have heard Shake Your Foundations.

After Highway to Hell, the only way to end this is with For Those About to Rock We Salute You. Hearing Angus belting out the opening chords gave me a flashback of the last time I saw AC/DC, shaking my poor friend Mikey awake for the encore. He was a victim of some too powerful screwdrivers, lost his lunch during LA Guns’ opening performance, and spent the entire show passed out. Screaming into his ear, I was able to get him to half sit up and weakly pump his fist once before passing out again. Nobody around us is having that problem tonight, and the whole crowd is on its feet and screaming during the cannon fire.

Overall, it was an amazing show, and my buddies agree that AC/DC gave a way better performance than any of us would have imagined. Scoring the free seats was great, but even had I shelled out $100 I would have walked away happy.

On a cool endnote, hearing more live music is not what you’re looking for after a show like this, but we went over to The Irish Channel afterward to grab a beer where Pete Baker was playing. Pete does and amazing one-man classic rock acoustic show, and if anyone reading this lives in the Baltimore/DC area, I highly recommend checking him out. Yes, his web site looks like it was built in 1998, but Pete’s about the music, not how he looks on Facebook. And if you go to one of his shows and hear some fool in the crowd shouting for Slayer, come over and join me for a beer.

But definitely go to see AC/DC.

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