When it comes to reviewing an AC/DC show, the ultimate grade is hinged not on guitar theatrics or Satan-inspired set list. Nope, it's all about hearing loss. And after listening to the Aussie legends dismantle the St. Pete Times Forum on Sunday — seven rows from the stage, no less — I can confidently say: WHAT?!
Oh, this was awesome, filthy, eardrum-shredding fun. (I'd never seen them before, so yeah, I was stoked.) Thirty-five years after being born to the gods of Loudness and Libido, AC/DC still takes great pride in drilling its way into our heads, hearts and all points south.
Led by the hellhound howl of Brian Johnson and schoolboy-uniformed guitarist Angus Young, the hall of famers had no use for nuance or ballads or, you know, quiet. Instead, on their first tour since 2001, they were as subtle as the life-size locomotive that exploded from the stage to start the 100-minute spectacle.
Or the three-story inflatable stripper who straddled said train — and kept the beat! — during Whole Lotta Rosie.
Or the approximately 17-hour Angus Young guitar solo during Let There Be Rock, a mind-blowing, fastest-fingers display that took him from a riser in the middle of the venue (where he spun around on his back, never missing a note) all the way to a bridge behind the stage.
If you're still not impressed, keep in mind that Young is 53. Bless that scrawny dude for still doing his infamous striptease, too.
The near-capacity crowd of 17,181, many sporting light-up devil horns on their shaggy heads, ate it up with roaring gusto. They even kept alert during the smattering of songs from gone-platinum new album Black Ice. Perhaps that's because the fresh stuff sounds a whole lot like the old stuff?
Never mind the negatives. This was a sinfully delicious throw-down, stuffed with shout-alongs that made your throat hurt as bad as your head: Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long, the utterly sublime Shoot to Thrill.
The night's highlight was a double-shot assault of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Thunderstruck, both punctuated by Young's prickly picking and infamous duckwalk. (For all the wowser special effects, the slyest was a camera under the stage, which captured a unique view of Young's signature strut.)
As Angus and Brian gamboled out front, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd (who basically had a lit ciggie in his mouth the whole show) kept the foundations shaking but strong.
For all the bawdy high jinks, an AC/DC concert is also about tradition, of the good old days. So yes, a giant bell dropped for Hell's Bells.
Angus sported his own devil horns for an encore version of Highway to Hell. And they rolled out six (!) cannons for show-closer For Those About to Rock.
For those about to consult an ear specialist, we salute you.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.