AC/DC at Verizon Center

By Christopher Porter
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, November 17, 2008

The government could learn a thing or two from AC/DC. The 35-year-old hard-rock band is a model of efficiency and consistency, and the thunderstruck audience members who paid around $100 a ticket for AC/DC's insanely loud Saturday show at Verizon Center didn't waste a cent on a worthless pork-barrel concert.

There are also no bridges to nowhere in AC/DC songs; they always lead to an Angus Young solo. The 53-year-old guitarist still dresses in a British schoolboy uniform, and he started the show in a royal-blue cap and matching tie. But he flipped his lid off five songs in, and the duck-walking, cud-chewing-faced Young spent the rest of the show proudly rocking despite his follicular challenges. The hat wasn't the only thing Young doffed: He broke out his well-worn striptease routine during "The Jack," removing his shirt and yanking down his shorts to display AC/DC undies.

Young's burlesque act was one of many things familiar to an AC/DC concert -- despite singer Brian Johnson's proclamation after the opener, "Rock N Roll Train": "We're going to be mixing it up tonight, so you gotta come along for the ride!" Nothing was mixed up, which is what makes AC/DC so dependably great. Did the giant bell descend from the ceiling during "Hells Bells"? You betcha. Did a huge inflatable strumpet doll come out during "Whole Lotta Rosie"? Darn right. Did Young rise out from under the stage wearing devil horns during the encore performance of "Highway to Hell"? 'Course he did. And by golly, yes, the cannons did fire during the show-closing "For Those About to Rock."

The only real change to AC/DC's concert routine was the addition of five songs from 2008's "Black Ice," including the Washington-appropriate "War Machine" and "Anything Goes." But considering the CD has already sold more than a million copies in the United States, plenty of people in the crowd were familiar with the tunes. The arena was rollicking for all 100 minutes -- that's $1 for every minute of headbanging -- and it seemed every other person had bought a set of red-light devil horns from the merch table, dotting Verizon Center with what looked like satanic Christmas lights.

Johnson's cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof yowl and Young's steely riffs and screaming solos are the main focus of AC/DC. And here's a vote for the rhythm section: Drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams keep it simple but not stupid, providing rock-solid foundations for the band's blues-based-metallic excursions. But AC/DC's unsung hero is Malcolm Young -- older brother to Angus, song co-writer and machine-like rhythm guitarist. Malcolm's slicing Gretsch guitar, which has only a treble pickup, acted like the vice president to Angus's Gibson SG ax in chief, backing his bro with precision riffing and a robotic dedication to staying on message.

That utter reliability of AC/DC was sustained right down to the song intros, as Johnson started "The Jack" same as always: "This is a song about a dirty woman!" Johnson did go off script when he prefaced "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" with the quip "Boy, are we in the right place for this song!"

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