Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

AC/DC at the Allstate Arena

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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.

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18 Comments

The show is, as stated, typical of an AC/DC show: Brian screeching out classic lyrics, Malcolm, Cliff, and Phil keeping a steady beat, and Angus....well being Angus. It was quite satisfying that after years of going to AC/DC shows and listening to Brian way off key on higher notes (You Shook Me All Night Long and Back in Black for example), his pitch was perfect (with the exception of Anything Goes, when it was clear that he was having trouble with his ear monitor). The only problem I had was with the crowd. Most, I'd say, were casual fans who don't quite understand that part of an AC/DC concert is chanting "Angus!", screaming for his strip tease, and head banging until your neck aches, though that might have been due to the demographics of the audience: fans ranged from 10 years old to 60+. Fun nonetheless, and those going on Saturday will have a great night of rock and roll!

Growing up on AC/DC since the age of 2 this was my first time seeing them at the age of 30 and it could not been any better! Maybe a little longer without the opening act but I understand age is a factor and I sure as heck know they will be back next summer and I look forward to it. Thanks for the memory!! What a show!

GREAT ENERGETIC SHOW WHICH FEATURED MANY HITS AND 5 NEW SONGS. LET'S SEE ANYONE ELSE ROCK THAT HARD FOR 1 HOUR AND 50 MINUTES.....THE ONLY NEGATIVE WOULD BE THAT NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR 5 NEW SONGS FROM ANY ARTIST, UNTIL THOSE SONGS BECOME HITS...LET THE RADIO DETERMINE ALLOWING A SONG TO BE PLAYED LIVE OR NOT, AS OPPOSED TO BEING TESTED FOR PEOPLE PAYING $90 PER SEAT. WE JUST WANT THE STAPLES....THAT'S ALL WE COME FOR.....

well it was simple rock n roll...but it still works...only 2 complaints - to short and i know i will see the exact same show tonight....these guys have more than enough music to change it up a bit...guys do us fans a favor - change it up a bit(the set list) for 94.50 it would be nice to see 2 different shows.

Awesome, LOUD, bigtime rock show. Malcolm is their secret weapon; the riffs and groove are undeniable. Decibel challenged fans should definitely consider ear protection; mine are still ringing two days later.

any idea when they come onstage???

For years AC/DC has been in my to do list of concerts and with Friday nite's show that came true and the band exceeded all my expectations. Thanks to joining the AC/DC online club that actually delivered on their promise of getting their fans seats I was in a crowd of excited and eager fans to see the show and caught up in the fever, jumped up and down, raised my hands in a devil horns salute and sang like I've never done at a concert before. Proving himself to be the golden god of guitarists Angus Young showed up any youngin guitarist half his age with an invigorating guitar solo to end all guitar solos culimnating I thought with laying down on a raised platform at the end of the catwalk and playing guitar while running around in circles but no going back to the stage and continuing to outrock anyone else who dared. Angus we are not worthy! With songs that have tested time that I've heard for years in bars, radio stations and Sox games, Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Thunderstruck etc and finally hearing them live was an awesome and magical experience!Long live Rock! Long Live AC/DC!

Are there any opening bands with them?

Yes, the Answer is opening for them. They only play for a 1/2 hour. Kind of Led Zeppelin and Black Crowes. Bring your ear plugs for sure! My ears are still muffled after last night's show.

Good review, Jim. You nailed it.

I haven't had that much fun at a rock concert in a long time. A great show Saturday night. Blew the doors off the place. My 12-year-old son loved "War Machine" and what he calls "the White Sox song," which is "Thunderstruck," played before each ballgame. I liked "Dirty Deeds," "Whole Lotta Rosie" complete with huge inflatable Rosie, and any of Angus' guitar solos.

The new material holds up very well when compared with old favorites. Angus' strip tease? Well, the crowd loves it and so does he. Pyrotechnics, cannons, good video screens and fabulous music. Here's hoping the band swings through town again on the back end of their world tour.

Good review, Jim. You nailed it.

Saturday night was a very satisfying rock show. Blew the doors off the place. Here's hoping AC/DC comes through town on the back end of their world tour. They do what they do very, very well.

The first time I saw AC DC was with Bon Scott in the late 70's and nobody knew who they were. They got our attention as soon as they took the stage to open for Aerosmith. This past Saturday at the Allstate was awesome. Made us feel like teenagers again. Great classic rock show. Totally satisfied with the performance! Hope they come back soon. We'll go for sure. Best come back show we have seen to date (and we go to alot of shows).

As my favorite band for years, AC/DC did not disappoint. No one can top their energy or guitar playing! They are the ultimate rock-n-roll band that will never be re-created!! Thanks for a great show guys-the new album rocks!!

Having seen them in the 1970's with Bon and then the BiB tour with Brian I can attest to them being the band that would crank out the fun factor in their upcoming tour

god bless the boys in the band

roc n and roll aint noise pollution baaaaa beeee

What time did they go on stage compared to the listed start time

I saw acdc at the somett center in Nashville and it was an event that should have supplied or recommended ear plugs to the fans. The music was way to damaging as the volume was ridiculous. I have heard many many people complaining of their ears ringing for days after the show. People can say what they want about it being a rock show however they have no right damaging people just because they think they are the gods of noise. When you have been to a place many times before and the noise level was controlled and the acdc concert just seemed to have no regulations. Cannons going off at the end of the show causing ear pain just goes to show you they didn't care about people. ACDC is a bunch of idiots.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on October 30, 2008 10:33 PM.

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