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AC/DC - Carling, Hammersmith Apollo, London
21 October 2003
Reviewed by Ian Pollard
Billed as a special one-off gig to celebrate the re-launch of the Hammersmith Apollo as a rock venue, with all the downstairs seating ripped out, the available tickets for this show sold out in 4 minutes. I don't know how this is a re-launch, as Ocean Colour Scene played here earlier in the month with the seats out as well. At least AC/DC got in the day before the pretenders to their throne, The Darkness.
The ticketing method for this show caused quite a stir with everyone having to register with Carling live and then try and get tickets online. Further complicated by having to collect tickets and wristbands between 10am and 5pm on the day, there were a number of disgruntled long-standing fans left without tickets. Some even turned up on the day and started a petition outside the venue. Carling said it was the only way to beat the ticket touts (and it worked for that). The more cynical may think it was a good way for Carling to get a few thousand extra names on their e-mail database. That said, anyone lucky enough to get tickets couldn't possibly complain at the £10 asking price.
8:30pm, and a good atmosphere in the sold out venue greeted the patriarchs of heavy rock as they appeared on stage in familiar format – i.e. Malcolm and Cliff locked in place either side of the drum riser, leaving acres of stage space free for Angus to roam around. Brian coming to the fore when he's needed, but respectfully retiring to stand next to Malcolm when Angus needs to strut his stuff. No one is ever in any doubt as to who the star of the show is, and his legions of worshippers lapped it up with avarice, right from the opening bars of 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be' through to the last cannon report.
The rest of the band should not be ignored though, as they are all an integral part of the phenomenal success story that is AC/DC. The trends, tragedies, and general apathy to rock music that this band has not only survived through, but also actually prospered, have seen many other bands disappear into oblivion or sell out to commercial pressures. The rhythm section of Phil, Cliff, and Malcolm were as tight as the proverbial duck's rear end, and the solid core on which the music is built. Brian puts 100% effort into every song, even though half of the set list was recorded before he was in the band. The fact that newer songs ('Stiff Upper Lip', 'Thunderstruck' etc) can sit quite happily alongside the old favourites, and still deliver the same sort of punch live says more than anything else does about the band.
No surprises in the set list, with all the staples there: Angus' strip down to his Union Jack undies during 'The Jack', the big bell coming down from the roof, guitar lunacy during 'Let There Be Rock', and of course the cannons (just in case your eardrums were still intact by that point). Despite the outside protestations of the “real AC/DC fans”, there were no signs of the Apollo crowd being full of casual fans. Each song was greeted with huge cheers, and all choruses were sung with appropriate gusto.
It's hard to pick out highlights from such a good set list as AC/DC can provide, but for me the fantastic riff of 'Hard As A Rock' has to be it (how that riff didn't see the light of day until the mid 90's will always be a mystery). Everyone traipsed outside into the cold October night at around 10:30pm, and no doubt there were more than a few sore heads, throats, ears and necks the following morning – but all well worth it.
The band apparently wants to play more in this size of venue in the future, rather than the bigger arenas. I think they'll be very busy if that's the case, as their support has in no way diminished over the years and they could probably have filled the Apollo ten times over tonight. The Darkness may be the current big thing in the rock world, but they've got a long way to go yet!
Brian Johnson - Vocals
Angus Young - Lead Guitar
Malcolm Young - Rhythm Guitar
Cliff Williams - Bass Guitar
Phil Rudd - Drums
Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be -
Back In Black -
Stiff Upper Lip -
Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap) -
Rock And Roll Damnation -
Hard As A Rock -
The Jack -
Hell's Bells -
If You Want Blood (You've Got It) -
You Shook Me All Night Long -
Whole Lotta Rosie -
Let There Be Rock
Highway To Hell -
For Those About To Rock