AC/DC skids on Black Ice, but the hits keep the pace

by Ryan Snyder

Of all the places to stage a religious protest, an AC/DC concert might seem like the most antiquated place to remind people that they’re just whores and sinners moments away from an eternity in the lake of fire. According to a group of resolute Jesus freaks haunting the AC/ DC Black Ice tour, the “Highway to Hell” is real and those in attendance at Sunday night’s show at the Greensboro Coliseum are on it. The sign- and bullhorn-toting fanatics weren’t locals, however, as they’ve shown up at the aged Aussie rockers’ Fresno and Tacoma dates with the same schtick. Their over-the-top methods and ubiquitous nature begs at least a modicum of skepticism that they aren’t merely agents used to drum up publicity and mystique over a band that only those imprisoned in carbonite for the past 20 years would find edgy.

It’s unfortunate that such oppositional fervor couldn’t have been’  directed at Sunday night’s openerthe Answer, because they seem hell-bent on keeping cheesy cock-rockalive once AC/ DC hangs it up. The Irish offering came out with theirhuge, recycled arena sound that introduced little into the rockequation, but are destined for fleeting radio fame nonetheless. Frontman Cormac Neeson looks as if he stepped out of an early Bad Companypromo photo and used his ear-splitting operatic tenor to wail about“Demon Eyes” and “Evil Man,” while guitarist Paul David Mahon shreddedon some wanky, fret-tapping solos. They did bring a ton of energy andenthusiasm, which clearly left the house ripe for the evening’sheadliner.

With thousands of flashing devil horns — devil horns! —scattered throughout the audience, the house lights dropped and a racyvideo montage of scantilyclad cartoon she-devils and phallic referencesrumbled throughout the building. The World’s Oldest Schoolboy himself,Angus Young, and lead singer Brian Johnson made their triumphant,swaggering entrance to their latest radio smash “Rock N’ Roll Train,”instantly heading for the catwalk that was clearly off-limits to theAnswer’s Neeson. Johnson hulked around stage with his mechanicalstruts, while Young skidded up and down the catwalk, opting for hissignature duck-walk instantly.

Theyrebutted the cries of the protesters outside with the Bon Scott-eranumber “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” as a precursor to the first bigone of the evening, “Back In Black.” They shied away from stringingtogether too many classics consecutively, instead slyly weaving in newmaterial to keep the rat tails and leather jackets hankering for theGolden Era tunes on their toes. They scattered six tracks from the pastdecade into the first two-thirds of the show, of course saving many ofthe greats for the finale. Most of the new album consists of tedious,worn-out versions of their greatest hits, including the title track,which might have gotten the most lukewarm reception of any point in theshow.

The nightmade a complete 180 immediately afterwards, as “The Jack,” a song abouta clap-laden dame, ironically featured several female fans on thestage’s projection screens. The joke flew over the head of a few, whotook the opportunity to audition for their local gentlemen’s club usingthe stair railing as a pole and prompting one nearby ’80s refugee toabandon his raging air guitar long enough to shout out “Show us thembewbies!” Not to be outdone, Angus gave the crowd his own twistedstriptease, getting down to his brand-name AC/ DC knickers as agigantic bell was lowered from the rafters. Guess what came next?Johnson bolted down the catwalk and swung from the ringer Tarzan-styleas the bell (not real) “chimed” out the intro to “Hell’s Bells,”further poking fun at the marchers outside. Continuing with thestripper theme, Johnson chose the form of his destroyer and it arrivedas a gigantic, massively busty blow-up doll that creepily tapped itsfeet to the pole-dancing ode “Whole Lotta Rosie.”

Sohurried to engage in rigorous ontological debate with those outside,AC/DC eschewed the encore drama and crammed the final two songs,“Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock,” onto the end of theregular set without pretense. The show was as rocking as it wasinconsistent, with a little too much undesirable new material keepingthe show’s momentum from truly peaking. Yet, for a name band like AC/DCto saunter off without playing the encore game, well that takes balls.

Angus Young (left) and Brian Johnson (right) bring electricity to AC/DC’s Sunday night performance. (photos by Ryan Snyder)