TVD Live: AC/DC at MetLife Stadium, 8/26

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | In the world of rock music today, there are a scant few bands still touring who can be categorized as “living legends.” The Stones. The Boss. McCartney. Yet even with the legendary history behind those great artists, none today have the sheer power—dare I say the “high voltage rock and roll”—of the mighty AC/DC. After four decades of the purest, no-frills heavy rock on the planet, the band is still at it and as heavy as ever.

On this stop at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the faces had changed a bit, but the rock stayed the same. Former drummer (Razor’s Edge-era) Chris Slade has rejoined the fold, stepping behind the kit for longtime drummer Phil Rudd, who is under house arrest due to some, well, legal issues.

The other change in the lineup, and the most disappointing one, would be the absence of founding member and band leader Malcolm Young. Retired due to debilitating health issues, the band kept it in the family, recruiting nephew Stevie Young to fill the void at stage right on rhythm guitar.

For a late August night, you couldn’t have asked for better weather for an outdoor show. The mood was celebratory among the crowd who ranged in age from approximately eight to eighty, based on my observations. While the sun was still up, the sounds of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” welcomed Vintage Trouble to the stage.

Introduced as the “New Protocol of Soul,” the band shot out of the gate with “High Times (They Are Coming).” The crowd was still a bit sparse in the stadium as many fans were still outside pregaming and tailgating, and unfortunately it was their loss as they were missing one hell of an opener.

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Playing a high-energy, blues-driven fusion of R&B, rock, and soul, Vintage Trouble quickly won over the crowd, mainly due to singer Ty Taylor. Spinning, dancing, shimmying, and jumping as he belted out song after song, it made one wonder how Taylor was able to tap into the same eternal well of soul that James Brown drank from.

Taylor was pure electricity and the band was fantastic, and guitarist Nalle Colt’s blues riffs drove the music and played off of Taylor’s vocals perfectly.

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I’m not going to simply suggest you listen to this band or merely imply that you should see them live—I am imploring you, commanding you, looking you dead in the eye and saying that you MUST see Vintage Trouble live.

The sun went down and the stadium rapidly filled. The field of vision was overtaken by a sea of blinking red light-up devil horns that thousands had purchased at the merch counters. The road crew busied themselves with the changeover, revealing AC/DC’s trademark wall of Marshall amplifiers. The lights went down and an extended video intro featuring a meteorite rocketing toward Earth—and this very stadium—played on the big screens. As the video ended, the meteor’s landing was concluded with massive explosions onstage punctuated by a roar from the crowd—AC/DC was finally here!

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Starting off with a new track, “Rock or Bust,” the iconic duo of Angus Young and Brian Johnson took the stage with youthful energy that would last throughout the entire set. With 127 years between the two of them, their vigor was awe-inspiring and still entertaining after sharing a stage for over twenty-five years.

Moving onto classics like “Shoot to Thrill,” “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be,” and the essential “Back in Black,” AC/DC was like a snowball careening down a mountainside, getting bigger and picking up steam the further along they went.

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38-year bassist for the band, Cliff Williams and drummer Slade provided a thick , steady backbone for their sound, while Stevie Young kept the family tradition alive, even using a similar guitar to his Uncle Malcolm. A band that pays their respects, Brian Johnson led the crowd in a chant of “Malcolm Young” during “High Voltage,” and had images of former singer Bon Scott on the screens during “Let There Be Rock.”

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The visuals of the show were overwhelming—extensive lighting, pyro, and video screens assaulted the eyes while the music bombarded the ears. A large bell emblazoned with the band’s logo lowered from the rafters and began tolling, and the ominous opening riff of “Hell’s Bells” soon joined the ringing of the bell. As per usual, “Rosie” made an appearance—a massive, inflatable buxom woman in lingerie that spanned the width of the stage during “Whole Lotta Rosie.”

Playing through a greatest-hits list like “Sin City,” “T.N.T,” and the crowd-pleaser hit “You Shook Me All Night Long,” the band finally utilized the catwalk that led into the crowd which was ignored through much of the show. The band closed out the set with a supercharged, extended version of the anthem “Let There Be Rock.” Angus made full use of the catwalk, and rather than a standalone, typical guitar solo, he churned out a fantastic hybrid solo/blues jam while the band kept the song’s beat moving along.

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After a brief break, Angus returned to the stage, and with flames shooting up behind him, played three of the most recognizable chords in rock—the opening chords of “Highway to Hell.” During the anthemic chorus, every fist was in the air, every voice screaming along with Johnson in pure rock rapture. The cannons came out and the show closed with their titular ode to hard rock, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” The deafening cannons sounded their report upon Brian Johnson’s command of “FIRE!,” and as the song ended, cannon fire gave way to a full-on finale of fireworks to bring the show to a close.

It’s now been less than forty-eight hours since the concert, and I can still feel the electricity thrumming through my veins. I hear every note of Angus Young’s guitar still searing through my brain. I can see the after image of the lights and the pyro when I close my eyes, the visage seared into my retinas. My arms are a landscape of goosebumps as I type these words—listening to the songs that have been in my life since I was five years old. My words don’t do justice to every little detail of what made this show amazing and what makes AC/DC still the hard rock powerhouse that they remain to this day.

This is the power of music. This is what it’s all about, how it’s supposed to be. As disciples of the Church of Rock and Roll, these are the moments that we live for, that we yearn for, that we tell our kin about years later like a tall tale told around the campfire. The tale of AC/DC will be one I am still telling into my twilight years.

AC/DC

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VINTAGE TROUBLE

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