Photo by Sakura – rockphotographer.net
With something more like trepidation than excitement, more intrigue than expectation, fans waited for Axl Rose to fill the void left by Brian Johnson’s departure from AC/DC. Many fans had been rumoured to have returned their tickets when news the Guns N’ Roses frontman would be part of the tour. This was confirmed by notable gaps around the Etihad Stadium in what was originally a sell-out.
In the article Hire Your Guns, even this writer poured cold water on the idea of an Axl led AC/DC tour. Thankfully those fears were ill-founded and every doubter in attendance will happily eat humble pie. That’s if there’s any left after Axl Rose himself has finished filling himself up.
The key to the Rock or Bust Tour‘s success appears to be how humbled the singer is. The self-serving aura, once as familiar as his bandana and screechy voice, has been replaced with focus and composure. This isn’t to say he’s lost his edge, he just isn’t over it anymore.
The show begins with the large video screens blasting us from outer space down to Earth. The first song is “Rock or Bust.” Axl walks into it (quite literally now, even with a leg brace) with a natural demeanour and perfect voice. But it’s the classics people are waiting to hear, worried they are minutes away from watching a band destroy its legacy.
It never happens.
“Shoot to Thrill” follows and then “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” The latter providing a glimpse that would be later confirmed – Axl is more at home with the Bon Scott songs. That doesn’t stop the band diving straight into “Back in Black.”
Their bestselling song and most iconic Johnson number could have been an awkward moment but it passes as a thing of beauty. Again, Axl appears aware of the delicate position he is in. Rather than mimic the guy he replaced or try and reinvent the sound, he does what he was hired to do: give it the justice it deserves on the main stage.
Once the show starts, neither the band or audience look back. This is AC/DC at their best. Renditions of “Sin City” and “Riff Raff” breathe life into classics that have been underserved in modern times. This doesn’t feel like a substitute line-up anymore, rather a refreshed one with the ability to continue after this loan period. This isn’t elaborate karaoke but a viable alternative for an aging band.
Even with all the plaudits going to Axl Rose, some should be saved for Angus Young. For a guy in his sixties he shows no sign of age, in both his physical exertions or playing ability. He has always been the focus of live shows, now more than ever he is the face and force of the band. The unit only has the chance to shine because of his abilities.
Where the future lies for AC/DC only Angus truly knows. Axl has spoken of a desire to carry on, even record with the band, while Johnson believes he has found a hearing cure.
If the Australian rocker decides to stick with the Guns N’ Roses frontman, he won’t be short-changing the fans but breathing life into the line-up.