@London Wembley Stadium, July 4 2015
Still insanely popular. Still the consummate professionals. Still utterly predictable.
Given the turmoil that has engulfed the band during the last 12 months, one of the world’s best loved classic rock treasures could have been forgiven for allowing their standards to drop.
But this Wembley performance was the ultimate show of strength, the proverbial two-fingered salute to the hovering critics and the very embodiment of triumph over adversity.
Last summer Brian Johnson exclusively revealed to RUSHONROCK that work on Rock Or Bust, AC/DC’S 16th studio album, was complete. During the same conversation he admitted best buddy and band mate Malcolm Young was seriously ill with what would later be confirmed as dementia.
But worse was to follow. Phil Rudd was arrested and subsequently charged with several offences that could yet land the drummer in jail.
Briefly buoyed by the beast that is Rock Or Bust, the remaining members of AC/DC were in danger of breaking under the intense pressure emanating from within their increasingly depleted ranks.
Not for the first time a long and potentially arduous road trip was the solution. The purpose of the Rock Or Bust world tour was twofold – serving as both a welcome diversion from the internal strife and a bullish statement that the brand was stronger than ever. It was also make or break.
But on the evidence of the band’s second British date the decision to leave their troubles behind was AC/DC’s best call in years.
Inside the most iconic of English venues there was nothing new about the setlist save for Rock Or Bust and Play Ball. There was nothing remarkable about a stage show that leant heavily on previous stadium spectaculars. Angus Young played with the same basic precision that launched a hundred rock and roll anthems. And Brian Johnson wore a flat cap.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. But in the case of AC/DC it continues to inspire confidence, a sense of comfort and, right now, a belief that however bad the hand they’re dealt this band will always bear the hallmarks of quality and class.
There might have been a brief wobble during Back In Black and there might be a case for omitting T.N.T. when so many superior songs fail to make the cut. But it’s testimony to Johnson and Young that trying to find fault with an AC/DC set is like trying to find a guitar pick on the famous Wembley turf: virtually impossible.
Theirs is a gig so meticulously honed and expertly delivered that generations of music fans continue to converge on stadia across the globe for what increasingly feels like a last glimpse of classic rock royalty overseeing the final years of an historic reign.
In terms of sheer power, blind passion and universal appeal there is simply nothing to compare to an encore juxtaposing Highway To Hell and For Those About To Rock (We Salute You). It’s a knockout one-two inspiring wild adulation and glowing admiration.
But after the year AC/DC have had the band’s grand finale looks and sounds more and more like a grand gesture ushering in the beginning of the end.
At the end of their beginning are Vintage Trouble – the Los Angeles quartet finally ready to drop album number two, 1 Hopeful Rd, and taking the bull by the horns as the opening act on the Rock Or Bust tour.
The best new band you still haven’t heard, 2015 will be the year the charismatic Ty Taylor and his band of rock and soul brothers break into the big time. In future they might look back on the decision to open their Wembley set with High Times (They Are Coming) as an atypical mistake – with so many bona fide anthems in their armoury it was a puzzling choice.
But decades down the line and Vintage Trouble will also recall their biggest UK show to date ending on a triumphant note: sparkling versions of Total Strangers and new tune Angel City, California capturing the attention of a crowd already searching for stadium rock’s brand new heroes.