AC/DC / The Hives / Kingswood
ANZ Stadium, Sydney 03/11/2015
Review: Lachlan Marks | Photos: Peter Zaluzny
In 2015 there are still relatively new artists that can pack a mega-stadium, but for better or worse they are not the hard-livin’, hard-workin’ rock bands that were once the kings of large-scale concert going.
Of the top grossing concert tours of 2014, the youngest rock band in the top 10 were the Foo Fighters, and they kicked things off way back in 1994. Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift are the fresh-faced big earners on the list, and they got their start in the music business in 2011 and 2006 respectively.
The point isn’t that rock is dead; rock has instead been splintered into myriad different subgenres and their respective fanbases. Easy access to music means you refine your taste and at the risk of being attacked by lovers of the aforementioned Sheerans and Swifts, let’s suggest that rock music fans are potentially more picky than their pop-loving counterparts.
That said, you can still see heavy music played on a grand scale – just look at locals Parkway Drive and their most recent successful tour, pyro and all – but a grandiose scale, such as the way AC/DC does things, will only ever be afforded to the bands that have already “got there”.
A chance to see AC/DC take the stage in 2015 isn’t just an event, it’s an invitation to witness something that won’t be the norm going forward: epic, ridiculous and no doubt excellent stadium rock. There’s no need for it to be a bittersweet experience but it is something that needs to be seized rather than contemplated. I mean how many more laps will they have left in them while they can still deliver at full-throttle? This is a band that went down a crucial member and still delivered an album on par with their back catalogue, shrugged off an ex-member’s attempting-to-procure-a-murder charge and booked a gigantic 55-date world tour anyways.
This call to action had been taken up tonight by hordes of dedicated horn-throwers (and light-up horn wearers), who braved spattering rain and packed commuter trains to witness their heroes lay waste to ANZ Stadium with a barrage of riffs, pyrotechnics and over-the-top stagecraft. But first they would have to put up with more rain. And Kingswood. And The Hives.
As punters filtered into the stadium, then to and from the bar and hot dog stand, Kingswood treated them to some choice cuts of their very much Queens Of The Stone Age-inspired riffage. Sadly, being a support band for AC/DC has to be one of the hardest gigs in town: people are there for one reason and one reason only.
The Hives gave it their best shot, heckling the crowd back and smashing through their back catalogue with gusto. With not much volume and video screens that looked like a low res Instagram feed, it was hard for the usual headliner to play the role of the support band, so they didn’t. They proceeded to play like it was their own show, complete with a faux encore as well.
AC/DC hit the stage with a bang, literally. Fireworks rocketed off the stage, synched up to a now cutting edge video show and Angus Young emerged in full school uniform, duck walking out of the smoke as he strummed the first chords of their new album’s title track, “Rock Or Bust”.
The sound was incredible. So loud you could hear it shaking the foundations when you walked back to the underground bars and so clear and full that you were never tempted to reach for the earplugs to block out the top end. In that moment, you could see so many budding guitarists come to the realisation: “I’m never turning down again”. A few cuts from the new album and it was time to get stuck into the classics. “Back In Black” landed dangerously early and saw the jam-packed stadium in a frenzy that only escalated as they rolled out hit after hit. Malcolm Young’s trademark Gretsch with the missing neck pick-up got plenty of video screentime, handled with great care by his nephew Stevie Young on rhythm guitar duties.
The band soldiered through the oncoming rain that really ramped up mid set, and it looked like Angus’ trademark runway was going to remain unwrapped for the remainder of the set. Thankfully, the rain held off for just long enough and as the set neared its end, the runway ascended from the crowd, Angus ran down it, reached the end of it which was motorised even further into the sky, and then performed his trademark “leg tantrum” guitar solo from his new turret.
From there everything just got louder, longer and more excessive, culminating in “For Those About To Rock”, complete with the best of the pyro on offer. AC/DC delivered what you would expect – an event – but strangely what was best highlighted was the quality of their musicianship and the songs themselves. Our hats are off to a world class band that are still at their peak, 40-plus years into the game.