AC/DC blasts into concert Thursday night at Allstate Arena. They're back there Saturday night. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)
Go ahead and scoff at AC/DC, if you feel you must.
Accuse the veteran Aussie hard-rockers of milking one idea for 35 years. (No two ways about it: They have. But it's a very good idea.)
Call them old (they are--the Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm, are 53 and 55, while vocalist Brian Johnson is 61) and more than a little bit silly (even at 53, Angus still won't give up that schoolboy uniform--or the obligatory mid-set strip tease).
You can even charge the band with distasteful business practices worthy of Wall Street at its worst for only selling its new album "Black Ice" at one retail chain--because as good as the disc is, it's hard to justify being forced to buy it at Wal-Mart.
None of that matters. On Wednesday, "Black Ice" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling more than 780,000 copies in its first week and muscling aside no less a contender than that phenomenal teen-pop sales juggernaut "High School Musical III." Better yet, on Thursday, during the second night of its U.S. tour and the first of two sold-out shows in Chicago, the quintet rocked as righteously and as mightily as it ever has, or as any group could.
Some things just never get old or seem tired, and high atop this list of the best things in life are that simple, monolithic, four-on-the-floor AC/DC beat (bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd remain one of the most underrated rhythm sections in rock history) and that irresistible, undeniable combination of Malcolm's riffs and Angus' bluesy leads.
As for Andy Capp look-alike Johnson, well, his vocals remained as satisfyingly workmanlike as ever, without much loss of that unnaturally high-register rasp--though one suspects the need to protect his aging vocal cords as the reason for the relatively skimpy set list. Sixteen songs in the set proper, a quick encore and then thank you, goodnight. No muss, no fuss.
Nevertheless, AC/DC left fans feeling as if the band had given all it could possibly give, especially since new songs such as "Big Jack" and "Anything Goes" more than held their own beside classics such as "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Whole Lotta Rosie."
In fact, with "Rock 'n' Roll Train," the new song that opened the show, the band hit upon the perfect metaphor for its ageless appeal. The lights dimmed, and on came an animated video of Devil Angus driving a locomotive--at least until he was tied up by two female hijackers.
Needless to say, the train hurtled to a fiery crash; the video yielded to the flesh and blood band playing in front of a backdrop of a derailed engine and the group proceeded to hurtle down the tracks of its set with just as much out of control ferocity.
All train wrecks--and concerts--should be this much fun.