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AC/DC and The Answer in Ottawa - With Photo Gallery!

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 @ 7:17 PM

Scotiabank Place

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Despite having been resigned to the fact that it’s always been a long way to Scotiabank Place for us downtown Ottawa folk if we wanna rock ‘n roll this was my third trip this year to catch a concert at the sacred yet extremely-too-far-from-the-city-limits hockey stadium. As I was caught out at the last minute in buying tickets to the show due to work commitments causing me to miss out on tickets as the show sold out within an hour I was forced to finance the scalping trade yet again by shelling out $200 – it was the cheapest going price for the show according to the parking lot ticket entrepreneur (this is my new diplomatic adjective I shall henceforth use for ticket scalpers from here on in) despite the fact that I got no real value from my ticket as far as the seating plan went. At the 300 level it made taking photos somewhat tricky and I had to do some very quick-thinking maneuvers to get a good photo shoot of the band while dodging patrons and concert ushers.

But don’t worry; I still got a good show from which to review about. In fact, despite having to play tour guide for a couple from Wisconsin who were also in town to see the show, hiking underneath the underpass of the 417 to get to the stadium and bartering with aforementioned scalper unsuccessfully to get his $200 ticket reduced to at least $100, I actually managed to arrive on time for the concert. If anything, it would turn out that the opening band The Answer would be 45 minutes late for their own show. But once they took the stage they set everything in motion to ensure that their first impression upon the Ottawa audience would be a positive one. And seeing as they’re a band from Northern Ireland making their live debut in a city with a rich Irish background and habitually ask the audience if Ottawa’s known as a major drinking and rock ‘n roll town, it’s safe to say that they’ve made a positive impression among the 17,000 strong crowd that had mostly come out to see the headliners. Attitude aside, the band and particularly their frontman who resembled the love child of Alanis Morrissette and Joe Lynn Turner brought a welcome respite of groove-laden 70’s style rhythm and blues tinged with melodic and hook-laden yet raw-sounding hard rock to back up their cocky swagger. They might have heavily borrowed-no, leased much of their riffs from many of the 70’s rock giants like Page, Perry, Blackmore and Marino but it’s seasoned with modern flair without coming off as superficial or irony-laden; the opener “Tonight” is proof of this as its melodic groove harkens back to the first 2 Rainbow albums. “Demon Eyes” and “Too Far Gone” also continue in the same pattern, often echoing Mechanical Resonance-era Tesla in parts with its soaring vocal histrionics and solid hard rock riffs.

It’s somewhere around the last quarter of their set that the band engage in an audience participation game called the Belfast Blues-Off in which the audience shouted louder each time the guitarist played an improvised riff and their blues background was showcased a lot more. I played along too because I’d heard so many comparisons between them and late Irish blues guitar legend Rory Gallagher – comparisons that complimented the band rather well as their guitarist unleashed some heavy slide riffs before coupling off with some dive bomb riffs that transcended both Gallagher and even Jake E. Lee. They closed their set with “The Preacher” and a riveting performance of “Under The Sky” and thus fully confirming that as their namesake suggests that the Answer really did provide the answer to many questions that night, ranging from their worthiness as an opening act for a major band’s sold out North American tour to their music being a fresh alternative to the current status quo that’s been dictating modern rock for a decade too long.

Actually, the only answer they couldn’t provide was one to the question as to why they took the stage so late that night. But it provided an aura of mystery to the whole event and left the crowd wanting more. No question about it.


After a brief period of feeding time – beer and pizza, the usual staple food of the rock arena – the headliners AC/DC hit the stage like….well, a rock ‘n roll train. Oh yes, very literally. A cartoon montage on both overhead screens flashed cartoon images of a steam engine train barreling down a short set of tracks as its all-female crew shoveled more coal into its engine before it made its scheduled (and rather destructive) arrival on the main stage. Pyrotechnics. Fireworks. And Angus Young’s trademarked three-chord note intro.

Obviously, they opened with “Rock ‘N Roll Train” that night. But you all caught that hint.

As expected, especially for the fan that has seen AC/DC live more than once, the stage show, while not exactly known for its massive element of surprise, was pure explosive and good-natured fun to make people forget about reality for the next 2 hours. Yes, Angus Young still wears the schoolboy outfit that’s adorned many album covers and videos over the course of AC/DC’s 30-plus career (and if you’ve ever seen him with it off, you’ll never want to ask him to keep it off again; with the striptease one will make an exception which we’ll get to soon enough). And yes, vocalist Brian Johnson still sings the early material a bit differently than his late predecessor Bon Scott used to but the vocal signature is still very much in his own style and flair. But even with the band members in their sixties if not older, they can put on an energetic performance unmatched by few newer bands in their league if even at all. Take the extended solo that Angus played when the band launched into “Let There Be Rock” for example which transformed into almost 15 minutes of tapping, three chord hammer-on riffing, dive bombs....even an attempt at pinch harmonics to keep things up to date. All of this while running around on stage most of the time and never missing a beat even once.

The setlist spanned three decades of AC/DC’s immense catalogue of some of the best three-chord hard rock anthems to have been played at many high school dances, major sporting events and sports bars the world over. The Bon Scott era was heavily represented tonight, with favorites such as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Shot Down In Flames”, “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”, “The Jack” (along with Angus’ “cheeky” strip show in which he flashed his AC/DC briefs to the crowd) and the most awesome crowd pleaser “Whole Lotta Rosie” featuring the life-size busty Tasmanian stripper in inflatable doll form rubbing herself against the train backdrop to the rhythm of the music. Insert “let’s pull a train, Rosie” joke here if you need to. Much of the male crowd wearing in their glow-in-the-dark devil horns were already thinking the same thing too that night.

Getting to the current Brian Johnson era the ratio of older material to the material off of the band’s latest disc Black Ice was even-handed. For every classic anthem like “Back In Black” AC/DC played a fair handful of new material like “War Machine”, “Big Jack”, the catchy-sounding “Anything Goes” and the title track. And regardless of the fact that one has heard the entire AC/DC catalogue stretched out to excess on FM radio over and over again you still have to give credit to Brian Johnson for making the songs sound as fresh as they were when they became a part of many an adolescent’s summer soundtrack from 1980 and onwards. Whether it was throwing high-fives to the audience members or adding a few ad-libs here and there while introducing the songs, Johnson demonstrated why AC/DC can still command a huge following after so many years: Showmanship, DIY ethics, solid work ethics and the simple yearning to be playing to thousands of fans every night without taking for granted the people that brought them to where they are – the audience. And the final song of the evening being “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” complete with cannons re-enacting the song’s lyric on its 21-gun salute was the perfect climax to the evening, the perfect tribute to the fans that saw AC/DC through every chapter of their career. And, yes, while the stage show props get to be pretty old hat after the second time around, bear in mind that from the perspective of this fan who’s waited his whole life to see AC/DC live this was a concert that delivered tenfold on the entertainment value and made me forget about my own problems for a couple of hours.

Mind you, images of Angus Young’s strip show will be engraved in my brain for the rest of time but it’s still put my mind at ease compared with the routine events in my life. As it shall with yours.

Setlist in actual order:

  • “Rock ‘N Roll Train”
  • “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”
  • “Back In Black”
  • “Big Jack”
  • “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
  • “Shot Down In Flames”
  • “Thunderstruck”
  • “Black Ice”
  • “The Jack”
  • “Hells Bells”
  • “Shoot To Thrill”
  • “War Machine”
  • “Dog Eat Dog”
  • “Anything Goes”
  • “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  • “T.N.T.”
  • “Whole Lotta Rosie”
  • “Let There Be Rock”
  • Angus Young’s guitar solo
  • “Highway To Hell”
  • “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”

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