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Acer Arena, Sydney
February 22, 2010
By ASHLEY THOMSON
I first saw AC/DC when i was 13 or 14 and living in Holland Park in Brisbane. The local school dance cover bands used to have a Battle of the Bands and the grand final show was held at Brisbane's Festival hall, with a guest band from down south. That year it was AC/DC.
I'd seen 'em on "Countdown" doing "Baby Please Don't Go" and "High Voltage", and was hooked from the first chord. To me they were "punk". Australian Pub Punk. Our version of punk: no frills, no pedals, straight-up, verse-chorus-verse-chorus (killer) lead break, whoop-up ending, stock standard jeans, T-shirts, all with energy to burn.
Funny, thinking' back on it i did think they sounded a bit like Thin Lizzy at the time, but with so much character from Bon and Angus, they had their own shit goin' on.
The gig I saw was amazing; Angus clambered on top of the PA stack to crank out a lead break and vaulted off to hit the floor for the song's end. Fuck, I was worried he'd hurt himself. The sheer machine-like repetition of some of the songs struck me deep in my Medulla Oblongata, and I was never the same really. Along with the Sex Pistols etc. it all informed what I would do with my spare time for the rest of my life. It was the dawn of a classic time for "Oz Rock" - Oils, Angels, Divinyls and our own world class cult/underground scene in the '80s, it really was one of the richest eras for Australian music.
The progression of their albums was amazing. The sound got better, the style got better, the songs were more kickass. By the time we hit "Let There Be Rock" I was fucking amazed, it had all become so pure, so great, heavy, with, I think, punk- influenced short songs, 'cept when they extended 'em live of course. I think "Highway to Hell" was my "most heard" album (as in cars, parties etc.) of my teens, probably along with Pinups. Brisbane went nuts for Pinups.
When I moved to Sydney I saw 'em play so many times over the years and it seemed like they just played four times a week all the time. One particular gig was on a Thursday night at the Bondi Lifesaver, a classic Sydney rock 'n' roll pub. Rose Tattoo and AC/DC on a Thursday night for $5, and the place packed with BIG drinking rock loving rock 'n' roll animals. Angus played lead breaks up and down the bar, it was the first time i noticed he'd become the default star of the show and he was soon to be an international icon. Also. I realised how much i LOVED Malcolm's rhythm playing and the sheer primal repetition of the 4/4 beat. It was all downstrokes on the bass, i mean, for me, it was some kind of heaven.
The beer flowed, the volume cranked, the ritual of dancing/jumping about/headbanging made every cunt there as sweaty as all fuck. Bon was sluggin away on something, I had like 300 beers, they did four encores and you could drink with 'em after the show.
I dragged my ass into work the next day still pissed. no wonder they got the nickname "the Seedies" (and for overseas cunts, "feeling seedy" is Australian for very hungover, although angus was/is a non alcohol dude).
From this era on, I had to share seeing em with more and more people: 2,000 at Selinas, 10,000 at the entertainment centre, and most recently 70,000 at a stadium in the middle of Sydney. 70-fucking-thousand and they did three shows, all sold out. 210,000 people in six days. That's like three Sydney Big Day Outs but for one fucking band. Jesus H Christ. Ninety-nine percent of people wore black T-shirts and there was some motherfuckin' downright scary haircuts: people with number-fours but with a triangle of hair at the back for a rat's tail. Shit, if I only had some scissors . . . .
Look, i wonder if kids in Australia these days, who saw silverchair, Wolfmother or Jet aged 15-ish, will be seeing them aged 50 with 70,000 people ? The answer is NO. Why is that ? Because Australia is not a place that nurtures ORIGINAL rock n roll bands anymore, they just go for the quick corporate buck by touting "near cover bands" (silverchair = Nivarna/Pearl Jam., Wolfmother = Sabbaff and Jet = lots of bands) as the Next Big Things but they really don't go the distance. Sure, they get the money spent on 'em, but spending money on someone like Brittany Spears works because the audience don't really give a fuck about rock n roll authenticity, or being original, or paying your dues. The trouble with spending money on "near cover bands" is that, consciously and subconsciously, rock 'n' roll music lovers know when they're being served a shit sandwich and a stale one at that.
I've seen quite a few contenders come and go, the Powder Monkeys, every bit as exciting as AC/DC in their Bondi Lifesaver era and with more authenticity than 100 crappy Australian bands combined. and the YesMen, a rock n roll band with GREAT songs who were hitting the mark in Europe and I think would have made us proud. Unfortunately not everyone has Keef Richards' luck/stamina.
So, 210,000 X $150 = 3.3 million dollars. Suck out maybe 50-100 grand for costs and that puts the band members on a wage of 500k a week. Not bad for throwing out three chords though a Marshall stack for a coupla hours! How many people do you know that earn 2 mill a month? For all of last year i'd put my rock n roll wages at maybe a grand . . .
Still, i never seem to really STOP playing.
AccaDacca (fuck that's a gross nickname for a band) have been doing the stadium rock thing for a while now. It's what they do, and the stage was HUGE, the screens were crystal clear and HUGE, and the props (an oversized steam engine train, a new 'Rosie' and two devil horn caps on top of each side of the PA) were all HUGE!! The "new" guy, English petrolhead Brian Johnson, did a great job whooping' up the crowd and looked pretty fit for an old geezer, his voice a scream of rusty bastard sandpaper. After 25 years I think he fits in nicely, and he owns songs like "Back in Black" and "Shook Me All Night Long".
Malcom had his one pick-up Gretsch and seemed happy enough playing the best rhythm guitar on the planet. I did read somewhere he even took the volume and tone pots outta his guitar and just mainlines it into the Marshalls. Phil Rudd, who i'm as happy as all fuck to see in the band again, drove the most primal 4/4 drums on the planet from start to finnish. I bet there's not much discussion about what the drums will do on a track at recordings, Phil's just gonna play 4/4 and fuck you if you want an 8/16th beat. The bass player in The Seedies is pretty non-existent, some English cunt they roped in after some Australian cunt got the boot, and the bass is always mixed way down on record and live. They are a guitar-and-drums band, they might as well have had a cardboard effigy of some cunt playing bass on stage.
Angus on the other hand is one of the most iconic rock 'n' roll lead guitarists to have ever turned up loud on stage, he's fast (still) uses his entire body to rock out, and gives it everything he's got all the time. There is no "going through the motions"with this cunt, he'll just chop off your head and yell NEXT !
Bon era songs in the set included "Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be", "Dirty Deeds", "Shot Down in Flames", "The Jack" (yes "The Jack"!!! complete with audience participation, which was pretty young girls on dudes shoulders flashing their jugs for the 70,000 of us to see on the screens), "High Voltage" (complete with images of Bon in the chorus's, that made me feel a wave of sadness), "TNT", "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Highway to Hell" (a song title Bon thought of driving across the Nullabour Desert here.) They did new stuff off "Black Ice" (meh), plus "Thunderstruck" and "Hells Bells", but hey I'm old school Bon at heart, and the renditions of the old songs gave me goose bumps, realising it's 35 fucking years since I first saw 'em.
So, look, I dunno if 'stadium rock' is your thing, it's not mine really, but if you see one stadium rock show this year, i'd recommend The Seedies, as it is a 'classic good time rock n roll show' where all the bells and whistles make sense, somehow.
On a sad note, i wonder if Bon, really had any idea, that in 2010, masses of 70,000 people gathered together would be screaming out his lyrics.
These are some of my fave Bon lyrics:
Too scared to turn your light out
'Cos there's something on your mind
Was that a noise outside your window?
What's that shadow on the blind?
As you lie there naked
Like a body in a tomb
As I slip into your room
It's another lonely evening
And another lonely town
But I ain't too young to worry
And I ain't too old to cry
When a woman gets me down
Got another empty bottle
And another empty bed
Ain't too young to admit it
And I'm not too old to lie
I'm just another empty head
Broke another promise
And I broke another heart
But I ain't too young to realize
That I ain't too old to try
Try to get back to the start
And it's another red light nightmare
Another red light street
And I ain't too old to hurry
Cause I ain't too old to die
But I sure am hard to beat
HOW DID WE DO?
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