Live at the Happel Stadium

AC/DC: The rock’n’roll devil never sleeps

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24.06.2024 01:07

Around 59,000 fans celebrated the Australian cult rockers AC/DC on Sunday evening in Vienna's Ernst Happel Stadium. There will be a dacapo for Angus Young and Co. on Wednesday - hopefully with a bearable sound to accompany the iconic top hits as well as a bombastic atmosphere.

Vienna as the hub of the world. More often wishful thinking, but sometimes with a touch of reality. Sunday evening was one such moment, when almost 140,000 fans celebrated two of the biggest concerts of the year at a distance of around two kilometers as the crow flies between the Ernst Happel Stadium and Danube Island. Around 80,000 of them are said to have attended the Austropop heroes Wanda on the Danube Island, while the other 59,000 or so attended the Australian rock legends AC/DC in the Happel Stadium. The latter raised around 150 euros upwards for their first of two shows, while the renowned Danube Island Festival traditionally takes place free of charge. So as you can see, the comparison is flawed in several respects - except for the fact that two absolute crowd favorites and high-capacity artists were playing remotely with absolutely good intentions.

Red cap, white hair, red jacket: Angus Young presented himself in Vienna in a red-white-red outfit. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
Red cap, white hair, red jacket: Angus Young presented himself in Vienna in a red-white-red outfit.

Stubbornness as a trump card
The Australian rockers have been on the road in Europe for just under a month and are already in impressive form on their "Power Up" tour, their first major tour in eight years. AC/DC die-hard fans, who are happy to pay 100 euros for an AC/DC soccer kit or 20 euros for flashing devil horns for their favorites, know how to appreciate this. The ruble must be rolling strongly once again in the early winter of their career. The fact that the Australians are still on stage at all is thanks to stubborn band leader Angus Young. The now 76-year-old frontman Brian Johnson has been saved from the threat of invalid retirement by a specially developed hearing aid and Angus' nephew Stevie Young has been playing live guitar for ten years as a replacement for the late Malcolm. The remaining two gentlemen are still largely unknown.

Before the concert, AC/DC were awarded double platinum by Sony Music Austria for their current album "Power Up". (Bild: Nikolas Szendrei)
Before the concert, AC/DC were awarded double platinum by Sony Music Austria for their current album "Power Up".

Drummer Phil Rudd, who got his drug and gambling problems under control after difficult years, will be replaced by well-known US session drummer Matt Laug because he is supporting his wife in her fight against breast cancer. Bassist Cliff Williams announced his live retirement before the pandemic and kept his word. Replacement Christopher Chaney was successful in Jane's Addiction and also plucks the four-string worthily on the hard rock stage, but as a well-cropped grunge descendant, he seems visually miscast at least. However, the rhythm foundation traditionally only works in the background with AC/DC. Only the two old hands are allowed to strut on the gentle bridge. Johnson, as usual all in black and with a slouch hat. Angus Young has chosen the red school uniform for the first of two Vienna shows and combines the tried and tested fashion with his now snow-white hair.

On their "Power Up" tour, the Australians are in absolute top form, even at their advanced age. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
On their "Power Up" tour, the Australians are in absolute top form, even at their advanced age.

Sweaty and retrospective
But the look should not disguise the irrepressible energy of the eternally young top guitarist. He jumps, runs and prances around the stage from left to right, front to back and, even without heated pyro effects, first removes his jacket, then his cap and finally his red and white tie, until his sweaty old man's chest openly testifies to the absolute commitment he is giving here. With "Demon Fire" and "Shot In The Dark", only two songs from the still current album "Power Up", released in 2020, make it into the setlist, which is a shame considering its strength. But what else can you do when you have 51 years of top hits in your quiver and after two hours it should be over? From the brilliant opener "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" to the iconic "Back In Black" and the smash hit "Shot Down In Flames", they reach into the retro box to the delight of the fans - and not even 20 minutes of the concert have passed.

The 76-year-old frontman Brian Johnson impressed with good stamina and a mostly strong vocal performance. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
The 76-year-old frontman Brian Johnson impressed with good stamina and a mostly strong vocal performance.

At this time, ÖSV aces such as Michael Matt and Adrian Pertl and their support staff were right in the middle of the action instead of just being there. Marco Schwarz, who had been out of action for a long time with a torn cruciate ligament, had also announced his attendance, but got stuck in a traffic jam. Of course, the "Rock'n'Roll Train" does not take this into consideration, it would also be grossly negligent. In theory, the highlights fire out of the towering Marshall walls on stage in staccato time. During "Thunderstruck", even the last few people in their seats are swept up and Angus has electricity coursing through his body via video wall effects. The underrated "Stiff Upper Lip" turns out to be a powerful stomper and "Sin City" works much better as a slowdown maneuver than "The Jack", which has been in the set for many years. Theoretically, because in practice the sound is annoying. The concert sounds overdriven and muddy in the standing room, while you can hear a little more nuance in the seating areas, but satisfactory is different.

Austrian ski aces Michael Matt and Adrian Pertl warmed up for AC/DC at "Das Beisl" in Vienna's Prater. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
Austrian ski aces Michael Matt and Adrian Pertl warmed up for AC/DC at "Das Beisl" in Vienna's Prater.

Blind joy
Annoying not only because of the massive ticket prices, but also because you can't usually hear Johnson's quite good voice. For his impressive age, he is still in passable form, even if he goes off the rails on songs like "High Voltage" and the band sometimes has to help him back up. His mere presence on this tour can be seen as a physical miracle. The later the evening gets, the more impressively the horns flash and the more uncompromisingly the Australians rock. The famous "Powerage" gem "Riff Raff" and "Whole Lotta Rosie" are particularly hard-hitting, while the inevitable "Highway To Hell" also lights the stage fire and Angus is - literally - horns on. However, the best AC/DC moments are not pyrotechnical, but musical. Two examples: The immensely driving "Shoot To Thrill", which is a highlight of the evening, and Angus' approx. 25-minute guitar solo after "Let There Be Rock", during which the 69-year-old bites into his work tool with such passion that you blindly rejoice along with him.

The eternal schoolboy: Angus Young's playing and stage performance are still second to none. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
The eternal schoolboy: Angus Young's playing and stage performance are still second to none.

For a little over two hours, the cult band constantly put the pedal to the metal and proved, even at an advanced age, that rock'n'roll has no expiration date. If you ignore the dreadful sound, AC/DC are still a prime example of the most fiery rock band on the planet in 2024. The "Hells Bells" may sound louder by now, but as long as this revamped duo are themselves the immortal devil, there's no need to fear the metaphorical. The US rockers from The Pretty Reckless also put on an official performance before AC/DC. The band around front woman Taylor Momsen - once a "Gossip Girl", but a full-blooded musician for twelve years - impresses with a laid-back attitude and a lot of old-school rock gestures. They are given a whole hour for songs such as "Follow Me Down", "Witches Burn" or "Make Me Wanna Die", which is not a matter of course in the A-stadium band segment. The thoroughly loud polite applause is well deserved.

The Pretty Reckless with front woman Taylor Momsen were allowed to demonstrate their rocking skills for an hour. (Bild: Andreas Graf)
The Pretty Reckless with front woman Taylor Momsen were allowed to demonstrate their rocking skills for an hour.

Round two on Wednesday
AC/DC and The Pretty Reckless return to Vienna for a second time. On Wednesday, June 26, there will be a dacapo with the super rockers, who will be rested again. You shouldn't expect any surprises in the setlist, but you can at least hope for a better sound and unbridled enthusiasm. Unfortunately, there are no more tickets available for this stadium highlight.

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

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