Wembley is a place I have always wanted to go, and not just purely for music reasons either. I’m an Everton fan, so naturally I can count on one hand the number of times we have managed to make it to the hallowed ground and the only one where success was had there, I was too young to go and pretty sure on that day had some god forsaken school related shit thrust upon me… Needless to say, when Rock or Bust was released, I’d stuck money aside in the hopes that a tour would be announced shortly after. Fast forward a few months and one six hour coach ride later, it was time to finally visit Wembley Stadium and see what to me, is the stadium gig of a lifetime.
After a half hour delay, Vintage Trouble finally hit the stage. The four piece hailing from California were different. A retro-inspired blues rock sound was what they brought to the stage and to give them credit, they had the front section of the standing crowd under their spell, but it wasn’t that impressive. After doing some digging about them after the gig, I discovered they got their fame through being in the right place at the right time and getting the rub off appearances on Jools Holland and the Jay Leno shows.
Within 1 minute of hitting the stage, the singer seemed more obsessed with telling the crowd he couldn’t hear them instead of actually doing his job. This could have been taken two ways: One – he was looking for a better reaction, or Two: He wanted to see who was actually watching them. They didn’t quite have the kick to their music or the power behind it to actually have it go over well at Wembley. It might have sounded good if we could actually hear it but sadly, all we got was just the repeated “I can’t hear you” nonsense over what should have been some ok sounding rock. From the parts what we did manage to hear when the singer and his terrible stage talk wasn’t drowning everything out, it did sound decent at times but nothing spectacular which raises one question – how much did Vintage Trouble’s manager pay to get them onto this AC/DC tour? They clearly aren’t cut out to be a band to support someone with AC/DC’s stature, they don’t suit stadiums with their weak sound and their singer really did ruin their set on them.
Thankfully, AC/DC finally made it on. This of course was the entire reason for being here. By the time the crowd’s anticipation had swelled to critical levels, the screens came to life and the animated introduction video brought us in, finishing up just as an explosion of pyro and smoke filled the stage and the opening bars of “Rock Or Bust” rang out. The moment that sound hit, Wembley stirred to life. In full voice, full of energy and ready to take everything thrown at them, the crowd was on fine form, as were the band.
As you’d expect, there was little messing about from the kings of rock. It was all business as the AC/DC machine just kept going. Track after track with little in the way of stage talk or time filling/killing (delete where appropriate), we were treated to the staple live classics of “Shoot To Thrill”, “Back In Black”, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Thunderstruck”, “High Voltage” with some newer material thrown in to help pad it out. As with the last time I got to witness AC/DC live, there was a better reception for the Bon Scott era songs, but the way Brian puts his own twist on them, sounding similar in delivery but with his own charm and take on it was as great as ever. Still vocally strong and able to belt out the classics, Brian led the crowd throughout the entire evening and the perma-schoolboy Angus Young did what he does best – pentatonic wizardry, duck walking and looking exhausted after the first song but still full of life throughout the entire gig.
As with any AC/DC gig, we got the huge bell lowered down from the stage for Hell’s Bells and the hair raising, spine chilling intro really set the mood up before a rather unexpected treat in the form of “Sin City” graced us. “TNT” brought the obligatory “Oi!” chants with fist pumps a plenty and to hear a sold out Wembley crowd all chanting the chorus in unison was something to behold, but we cannot forget the other stage presence – Rosie. The huge inflatable Rosie popped up on stage for her track and once again, the crowd in true AC/DC fan fashion did the “An-Gus!” shouts at the usual spots in the song’s intro riff before really kicking it up a gear, getting more animated as the night went on. Sadly though, it had to come to an end, and when the opening bar’s of “Let There Be Rock” were played, you knew what was coming. The extended, live rendition of the classic Scott-era track, complete with extended-extended soloing from Angus was the reminded for everyone that the end was in sight and just when we thought the soloing had finally stopped and the band had gone off before the usual “make them wait then come back out” spot, we were treated to more soloing which led into “Highway to Hell” which managed to give the crowd that one last kick they needed and one last chance to get it all out of their system in the big sing along choruses.
As customary, “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” closed the evening off and personally, it was the highlight of the night for me. The phenomenal atmosphere it created with that iconic gradual build intro, its teasing steady pace up until the first real lead break, the sight of cannons on the stage… It was all there for that Iconic moment, the explosions of pyro on the command of Brian Johnson. With a huge shout of “Fire!”, the crowd erupted to life as the cannons blasted. They’d clearly picked up their balls and loaded the cannons for that 21 gun salute. With the periodic cannon fire, powerful vocals and intense, high energy outro, it’s a good job the current version of Wembley Stadium doesn’t have a fully closing roof because it would have been blown off by the performance and the fans.
In a way, this is possibly the best gig I will ever go to and also the worst. The best being it was catching AC/DC in a stadium, finally experiencing what I have seen and heard on the open air recordings, but the worst being that no matter what comes next in a stadium, nothing will ever live up to this, nor will anything be able to follow the standard set by this night.
Whilst America may have been celebrating its freedom, the Wembley crowd were celebrating arguably the greatest live band in rock. We rocked, AC/DC Saluted us, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
(Review and video Fraggle)
(Photo DJ Lucy Fur)