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Concert Reviews:
AC/DC delivers high voltage show at the Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- The second time may not have been an attendance charm for AC/DC in the Detroit metro area.

But it sure worked as a performance.

The iconic hard rock group's show Friday, Sept. 9, at the Palace came a year and a day after AC/DC visited Detroit's Ford Field on the first North American leg of its Rock Or Bust World Tour. There the quintet played to 43,000; On Friday there was maybe a quarter of that number at the Palace.

It's hard to determine exactly why. That Friday's show was a makeup for a March 20 date postponed by frontman Brian Johnson's hearing issues certainly contributed. And skepticism about Johnson's replacement -- Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose -- likely kept some away, too.

But anyone in the latter group made a serious error in judgment.

Rose was as stellar on Friday as he was when GNR played its own Ford Field show in June. Clearly benefiting from being in two bands and performing consistently since April, Rose filled Johnson's shoes admirably, hitting the tone and timbre of his (and late predecessor Bon Scott's) parts with the accuracy of a longtime fan well familiar with the material, and with enough of his own flavor to make it a different -- and, frankly, better -- experience at the Palace.

While AC/DC's Ford Field show was entertaining but felt rote, Friday's concert stormed by with a renewed energy that was palpable. It was longer by four songs (24) and an extra 30 minutes (two and a half hours) and gave AC/DC aficionados some welcome treats in the form of relative rarities such as

"If You Want Blood (You've Got It)," "Rock 'N' Roll Damnation," "Live Wire" and "Riff Raff," while the essential hits -- "Back In Black," "Thunderstruck," "Hell's Bells," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Highway To Hell" -- were all delivered in reverent fashion.

Rose was visibly relaxed throughout the night and at times seemed as stoked as any of the fans to be in the same building with the band. His screech had a more body and muscle than Johnson's, and his screams on "If You Want Blood" and "Hell's Bells" were right up there with his predecessors. And while he sported several different T-shirts, jackets and hats over the course of the show and flashed a few of his familiar stage shuffles, Rose was largely deferential to bandleader Angus Young, often hanging near Chris Slade's drum kit or on the rear sides of the stage to let the guitarist provide the theatrics.

And Young certainly did that. In his green schoolboy's outfit and cap (all of which gradually came undone during the night), the guitarist prowled and duck-walked around the stage and down the long ramp that extended to the middle of the Palace floor. His solos were mostly tasteful, to the point and exciting, though he vamped a bit on songs such as "High Voltage and "Sin City." Unfortunately his showcase solo on "Let There Be Rock" has grown interminable, even as he rose towards the arena ceiling via a hydraulic lift at the end of the ramp.

AC/DC kept its other visual shenanigans well spread out on Friday: pyrotechnics that opened and closed the show; the giant bell swinging above the band during "Hell's Bells;" the giant inflatable character for "Whole Lotta Rosie;" the six cannon that fired during "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)." The focus was solidly on the group's riffy brand of heavy rock, a veritable textbook of hooks that has few peers in the rock pantheon.

At this juncture no one knows what AC/DC's next move is -- whether Rose will remain or Johnson will return, who will replace retiring bassist Cliff Williams, if there will be another six-year wait as there was leading up to "Rock or Bust." But on Friday those issues were on the back-burner, and AC/DC delivered all the "Rock & Roll Thunder," "High Voltage" and "T.N.T." that is songs promised.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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