There was something downright fiendishly delightful about walking into Xcel Energy Center on Valentine’s Day to an arena full of flashing red plastic devil horns. You could feel the heat radiating through the 16,000-plus fans present, many of whom likely brought their loved ones, friends, and families to see the Australian hard-rock band for the first time.
Still touring behind 2014’s Rock or Bust, AC/DC’s 17th studio album, the band burst out heavy Sunday, firing on all cylinders with the heavy yet grooving title track. There was Angus, in a green velvet schoolboy outfit, and lead vocalist Brian Johnson, decked out in a black T-shirt, jeans, and Chuck Taylor’s, with his trademark cab driver hat tilted forward to hide his eyes.
Johnson's signature gravelly voice took a minute to find it’s stride, but he impressively burned through every tune with ease at age 68. He gave the excited crowd due props.
“There’s nothing like the sound of the Twin Cities!," he said, backed by a towering wall of amplifiers. “We’re going to play some Rock and Roll and the party starts right now!”
While Angus gallivanted about the stage, duck walking with his guitar at a steady pace, he consistently got the crowd going with thick power-rock guitar chords and his one-of-a-kind leads, of which there were many. Keeping things moving in the rhythm section were bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Chris Slade. The latter member replaces longtime drummer Phil Rudd, who was booted from the band last year after being charged with attempting to procure a murder and drug possession.
Rhythm guitarist Stevie Young has filled in for his uncle, Malcolm Young, since he was forced to leave the band in 2014 due to illness and dementia. Interesting tidbit: Stevie is Angus’ nephew, yet he's only a year younger at 59. Regardless, he fit right in, maintaining solid support for Angus and his never-ending routine of frenetic guitar solos throughout the night.
Strutting his stuff up the catwalk, Angus pulled out the first of many songs the band would feature from possibly their most famous record, 1980’s Back in Black. The urgency could be felt from “Shoot to Thrill,” with Angus continuing to work the stage, rifling through each scorching guitar lead.
Bouncing around their extensive catalog, AC/DC pulled out many rockers from the Bon Scott era, beginning with 1977’s “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be." The deep cut may have mystified some of the younger fans, but they managed to get fists pumping and heads banging with “Back in Black," “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," and then pulled out all stops with “Thunderstruck” — a song tailor made for hockey arenas.
Invoking an '80s heavy metal video come to life, AC/DC thoroughly worked the audience top to bottom as Brian and Angus worked to the catwalk that lead out to a circular center stage in the middle of the arena. Angus’ dexterity showed in so many guitar solos and hammer ons. He commanded the band, giving cues to each grandiose ending as they wrapped a supercharged “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” from 2008’s Black Ice.
An enormous bell emblazoned with the AC/DC logo lowered toward the stage for “Hells Bells." Backing vocals from the unassuming rhythm section supported Johnson for the bracing boogie-woogie of “Given the Dog A Bone," a song the band unearthed for their current tour. The audience, whose flashing red horns seemed to be growing, loved every minute of it.
The thick chords of “Sin City” lit up the stage as Angus continued to disrobe, strangling his guitar with his tie during the song's crescendo. The inevitable “You Shook Me All Night Long” allowed for more air guitars in the audience and, ultimately, a massive sing-along, with the lyrics popping up on screen, karaoke-style.
“Have a Drink On Me” had Johnson stumbling around the stage and MGD tallboys hoisted upward in the crowd, but it was “T.N.T.” that elicited the hugest fist pumps and unified shouts. Angus, 60, seemed to gather up more speed, resulting in a cacophonous climax that ended with him spinning around, flailing on the ground.
A ridiculously large-breasted inflatable woman gave way for a galloping “Whole Lotta Rosie," but Angus truly pulled out the stops for an elongated “Let There Be Rock." Finding his way back out on the catwalk, his solo took on epic proportions as the center stage rose up from the ground, erupting in confetti. He somehow held the energy and allowed his fingers to continue playing as he reappeared atop the amps before returning down to finish up the set.
Rising up from a fiery hole in the stage, AC/DC returned for an encore and gave the crowd another pair of celebratory anthems — “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)." If everyone hadn’t already gone completely deaf, six rapidly firing cannons on stage most likely sealed the deal.
Critic’s bias: Huge fan of the AC/DC brand of meat-'n'-potatoes rock and roll. I mean, who isn’t? Right?!
The crowd: Seriously, a lot of families, bringing the kids out for Valentine’s Day.
Overheard in the crowd: Regarding “Back in Black”: “You got to imagine he’s sang that song about 50 million times!”
Random notebook dump: Was hoping AC/DC would pull out “The Jack” for a special Valentine’s Day dedication.
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Given the Dog a Bone
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink On Me
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)