Friday, December 05, 2008

Shoot To Thrill

Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
December 2, 2008

The last time I saw AC/DC was in 1982 on the For Those About To Rock Tour. It's kinda weird how I can recite all of the Bon Scott-era songs by heart without even trying ("He made it out with a bullet in his back.."... "I didn't mean to kill that woman of mine, it was a heart attack.."). As I once said in this space, I've never been an AC/DC fanatic, but the band has always *been there* and I've always had their albums either on vinyl or CD since I was in Junior High. So when it was announced that AC/DC were embarking on their first tour in 8 years, I figured it was time to see them again.

The last time I saw Angus & Co., Ronald Reagan was President and it was a rainy February day at the Cow Palace. My friend and I spent the afternoon in his car eating sandwiches and drinking Southern Comfort. Of course, we were underage and an older co-worker had scored the booze for us, so it was a pretty classic "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" day.

(From the Umlaut Archives)

When you're a teenage Rock fan how can you not like AC/DC, right? The show was solid, however it didn't change my life the way seeing Iron Maiden for the first time did.

Fast forward 26 years (DOH!) and prior to the show I wondered if seeing a 53-year old Angus in a school boy uniform would seem silly. Yes, he's a Guitar God, but shtick is shtick, and Angus' stage costume has seemed dubious as the years go by.. Still, the endearing thing about AC/DC is they've never changed or pandered to the whim of popularity... Like the Ramones and Motörhead, the band has stuck to their guns, kept their songs and image simple, and have transcended the fickle nature of Music in the 21st Century. As I guided the Prius off the freeway I can honestly say I felt like a 15-year old Rocker kid again.

Pic by Umlaut

Any doubts I had about a 53-year old Angus being onstage were blown away the second he did his first trademark Chuck Berry-style duck walk across the stage while soloing.. and he moved practically non-stop for the entire 90 minute set. I was also reminded what a great lead guitarist Angus still is... His solos were dead on fantastic.. not flashy.. but perfect. AND, unlike back in The Day, he wore AC/DC underwear when mooning the audience and saved us having to erase the image of a bare 53-year old Angus ass from our minds. Shoot to kill, way to thrill..

The show was made even better by the amazing sound: CLEAN and LOUD. Of course, they played all the FM radio hits, but I loved how they launched into 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be' for the second song of the set (after opening with the new catchy-as-all-hell single 'Rock N' Roll Train')... I loved how Malcolm and Cliff still wore t-shirts and off the rack jeans onstage. I loved how Phil still smoked cigarettes while playing.. I loved how AC/DC didn't pander to 21st Century political correctness: It was charming in a 70's coke spoon way how their video crew flashed images of women in the crowd on the huge onstage screens during 'The Jack'. Sexist? Yep. Rock N' Roll? Yep. If you can't handle that you can go back to your boring sad kid Indie Rock. There, I said it.. Bye bye.

I've seen many of the new Hard Rock / Metal bands and what bugs me about alot of them is they feel the need to instruct their crowds on what to do during a song ("I want you to start a pit".... "I want you to clap your hands"... etc..). It's as if they've never been to a concert themselves or something... AC/DC knows that a ROCK crowd instinctively knows what to do at a ROCK concert: Band plays song > crowd goes berserk.. which gives their show a sense of spontaneity that lacks with so many of the new bands. Kidz these days don't even fucking know... unless they go see AC/DC of course. You're not a Rocker simply because you play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, dude.

Angus during 'Let There Be Rock' (Video by Umlaut)

Thanks to The Sheriff for the hookup to the show. Given the hysteria around this tour, ticket demand has been, like, off the hook.. as the kids say. An F-U-N show and quite possibly the most F-U-N show of the year for Umlaut. Yes, seeing bands in a club is important... but a quality arena show like AC/DC reminds this old man that there was a time when Rock Stars were larger than life and seemed like Super Heroes... and that was a good thing... and the world was a better place because of it, goddammit.

Scorecard: According to the Umlaut Archives, this was my 23rd visit to Oracle Arena (nee Oakland Coliseum) dating back to a Cheap Trick show in 1979 (Dream Police Tour!). Yes, I keep score... it's on an Excel spreadsheet... I think it's about 90% accurate documenting every concert I've attended since losing my gig cherry in 1978. The Geeks shall inherit The Earth.

Middle age white guys dressed like Angus = 2. If you bought one of every AC/DC merch item you would have paid around $500; I lost track because every merch stand I passed had 2-3 different items than the other ones. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. As I came off the freeway towards Casa de Umlaut I almost hit a raccoon that darted across the street in front of the Prius.. For those about to Rock we salute you, especially you Mr. Raccoon!