They shook us all night long
Twenty-six years since I last saw him live in concert, AC/DC's Brian Johnson hasn't lost his ability to thrill the fans -- and to make my ears ring for at least foreseeable future.
The Classic Rock Cares show Tuesday night in Clearwater, Fla., at Ruth Eckerd Hall was a love-fest disguised as a charity gig. Putting their egos and headlining status aside for the night, rockers including Joe Lynn Turner, Eddie Money, Robin Zander threw down hit after hit to benefit the John Entwisle Foundation.
Times pop critic Sean Daly and I were invited to hang out backstage, so we gleefully proceeded to enjoy our VIP status. Among the people we were rubbing elbows with: Jon Gruden and Mike Alstott of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
Last time I caught AC/DC live in concert, it was a 1981 show in Lakeland, Fla., for their "For Those About to Rock" tour. My ears rang for a week, and I bought a concert jersey featuring a guitar exploding from Angus Young's torso -- my friends at school were impressed. Johnson and crew ripped through classic after classic, including a marathon medley of tunes that included "Thunderstruck," "For Those About to Rock," "Givin' the Dog a Bone" and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." Still, the song that really turned the place upside down -- "T.N.T." We were all in a puddle after that.
Brian's voice sounded great and got even better as the night went on. (He took a break a couple times and let some of the other stars sing a tune or two. After singing "Hells Bells" he said he forgot what a tough song it was to sing.) Cliff Williams did a fantastic job holding the band together. There were a couple times when you really missed that second guitar. Scotti Hill from Skid Roe stepped in to help out on "Whole Lotta Rosie." You could tell he was thrilled being on the stage with Brian and Cliff.
Eventually, all the other musicians stepped in during one song or another to help out. Coach Gruden even got into the act, singing background vocals on "Dirty Deeds" and the "Highway to Hell" finale.
Between sets and after the show, Sean and I shook hands with Money, Zander and Boggs and tried to act even remotely cool with them while we waited for Johnson. We finally caught up to him in the Green Room. A surreal moment to finally meet the Hall of Famer rocker in person. An animated, funny guy who just happens to front the world's most powerful rock band.
It's truly an alternate universe when you're steps away, watching someone like Wade Boggs wait in line to ask for a photo with Eddie Money, and having Eddie ask for Wade's autograph, and having Robin Zander run up to the group to pop in between them for yet another photo.
Or maybe it's what backstage is like every night at a concert venue. That's something I'm not likely to find out anytime soon.
If you have a chance to catch the Classic Rock Cares tour, do it. It's money and time well spent. Click here for future tour dates.