‘…LIP’ SERVICE

A full report on the band's Wembley Arena extravaganza... a rock's most definitely NOT out of the question...

AC/DC played the first of two sold-out shows at LONDON’s WEMBLEY ARENA last night (December 4) as part of their first UK tour in four years.

Playing only three tracks from acclaimed current album ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, the veteran rockers entertained fans instead with a host of faithful standards and a bagful of the rock and roll stage theatrics with which they have made their name.

NME.COM can now bring you the first review of the show:

A giant statue of Angus Young dominates the stage, a faux-bronze monstrosity that could’ve been salvaged from somewhere confused in Eastern Europe when the wall came down. Occasionally, its eyes glow. Smoke wafts mysteriously from its mouth. At key moments of satanic rapture, it sprouts cute glowing horns.

Nothing else much has changed, though, for this, AC/DC’s first UK tour in four years. The old faithful props are all present and correct: the cannons, the catwalk, the huge inflatable Rosie, the monumental bell. Brian Johnson still scurries around, hunched and wheezing, with what appears to be rock’s worst back problem. There is the bizarre and faintly troubling sight of Angus Young, a conspicuously small middle-aged man, doing the striptease out of his school uniform. Vast tracts of the setlist have remained intact for well over a decade.

Oh, and AC/DC are still the greatest live band in the world.

It’s not an ironic flirtation, or a kitschy nostalgia at work here. Rather, the simple fact that these five withered men in a selection of vests, crotch-hugging denim and ’50s velveteen schoolwear retain a firmer grasp on elemental rock’n’roll than anyone else alive.

The show is remarkable. Ever true to tradition, they only bother with three songs from the pretty excellent recent ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ album, concentrating on a run of bulldozer-boogie anthems that climaxes with ‘Back In Black’, ‘Highway To Hell’, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’.

As the lights flash onto the audience and Angus Young solos frantically on an ascending platform, the effect is both ludicrous and overwhelming. All the gimmickry, theatrics and indulgences of stadium rock we were long taught to despise, are suddenly revealed, in the gnarled hands of experts, as a better way.

Value systems have gone haywire, then. The screens are showing animals fucking and cartoon Vikings with giant erections. The roadies have to wipe the sweat off the floor between songs. Brian Johnson briefly collapses against the wall of amps, clutching his heart and gasping. The volume is terrifying. ‘Back In Black’ appears to be the single finest song ever written. What can you do? This is AC/DC, and this is all (I)they(I) can do.

Jaw-lollingly brilliant.

AC/DC play their second Wembley Arena show tonight (December 5).