Albert, 1992

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


Australian rockers AC/DC have long been lambasted for a crime that seemingly no band is guilty of these days --lacking a true greatest hits album. AC/DC Live has long been considered by resigned fans to be the best they can hope for in the way of such a collection, and consequently, it’s resented as comparable to the orange in a Christmas stocking -- nice, but not what you were looking for. If treated as solely a greatest hits album, it fails to carry the necessary  polish, and if treated purely as a live project in the tradition of the Bon Scott-era If You Want Blood You’ve Got It, then some songs are missing the required energy of a concert setting.

But if treated as an amalgam of the two, and listened to just for the music, it’s not a half bad piece of work.

The album is primarily dominated by Brian Johnson-era songs, an inevitability of the band’s lineup at this show. A few such songs, like “Moneytalks” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” are virtual clones of their studio versions, with absolutely no noticeable changes made by either Malcolm or Angus Young on guitars or in Johnson’s vocal. Others, such as “Thunderstruck” and “Back In Black” change just enough about the old classics to keep a longtime fan interested. Angus Young is notorious for simplifying his solos in live performances as compared to those in studio, but his live “Back In Black” solo, while different and, yes, less difficult, still carries with it the vibrancy needed to boost the track, and I don’t believe the song suffers. As a matter of fact, I happen to prefer this version to the original studio one.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Bon Scott songs are certainly the most interesting part of the album, a chance to hear a different vocalist perform the band’s oldest and dearest classics. Some, like the all-important “Highway To Hell” and “TNT” do not really suffer for lack of the charismatic frontman who wrote the songs and made them legends before his death in 1980. Johnson performs admirably on these, and the crowd is appreciative of his efforts.

However, no one but Bon Scott should even attempt to sing “The Jack.” Without Scott’s dripping vocal, connection to the listener, and raw charisma, the song is really quite boring and extremely repetitive. And while Brian Johnson can give a great vocal performance, a comparison of his charisma to Scott’s is like comparing Richard Nixon’s natural magnetism to Jack Kennedy’s. Though not as painful, “Whole Lotta Rosie” also suffers from the absence of its rightful vocalist.

Most of the Bon Scott songs are toward the end of the show, so when “TNT” begins to fade out, you know what’s coming: perennial concert closer “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).” Thankfully, not only is this mammoth (over seven minutes long) a fair adaptation of the original studio version, it’s much better and, in fact, the best song on the album. It’s obvious to any listener that the band loves playing this song, and the crowd really gets into it. The major difference between it and the studio version (besides the length) is a brilliant tempo change at the pivotal moment when the song moves into chorus-only. Here, more than at any other point on the album, you can feel both the crowd and band rocking, and you can’t help but do it yourself. Accompanied by cannons and the thunderous guitar of Angus Young, the song is a raw masterpiece in this form.

All in all, AC/DC Live lacks cohesion and a central theme, and the music has an extreme high (“For Those About To Rock”) and just as a severe a low (“The Jack.”) But, as a whole, it’s still a collection of great songs, and fans and newbies alike should be glad they have it.

Rating: B-

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© 2008 Daniel Camp and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Albert, and is used for informational purposes only.