It’s hard to think of Angus Young as a guitar god. The ridiculous schoolboy outfit. The onstage theatrics and stripteases. These are the kinds of antics usually employed by guys who are trying to cover their less-than-stellar chops (the boys from KISS and Slipknot come to mind). And maybe you don’t consider Young to be up there with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rolling Stone sure doesn’t. In the magazine’s 2003 list of 100 greatest guitar players, Hendrix, Clapton, and Vaughan made the top ten.
Young was number ninety-six.
But what do editors know? In 2004, Guitar World polled its readers for fan favorites, and Angus and brother Malcolm (apparently, they come in a pair) ranked number three. The people had spoken: they love AC/DC, and it was never more apparent than at the Xcel last night.
It was the second of AC/DC’s sold-out stops in St. Paul as part of their Black Ice tour. I wasn’t at the first show, but the guy next to me was, and he said little had changed. AC/DC doesn’t put on a concert for their fans; they throw a party. For this celebration, a fire-spitting train crashed onto the stage to open the concert with “Rock ‘n Roll Train,” they lit up the arena with pyrotechnics during “TNT,” a giant blow-up doll named Rosie came out to tap her foot (really) to her signature song before disappearing backstage, and a giant bell descended from the ceiling just so lead singer Brian Johnson could swing on it to start off “Hell’s Bells.” Every song had some sort of theatrical element—whether it was a graphic cartoon playing in the background or crotch-shots of Angus doing his famous hop. AC/DC knows you’ve heard the songs before, so they throw in a little extra for your $100-plus seat.
But the most amazing ten minutes of the night came during Angus’s-the people’s guitar god—solo at the end of “Let There Be Rock.” Because once Angus took center stage—then a platform above the stage, then the catwalk and a platform in the middle of the arena that rose to ten feet, back to the middle of the stage, back to the catwalk—the fifty-three year old ran up and down the stage, playing the entire time, never missing a note. The crowd went crazy, and Angus loved every second of it. He had shed his shirt and jacket, leaving only his small schoolboy shorts, his long, sweat-drenched hair, his guitar, and 13,000 screaming fans. If he thought the crowd was getting bored, he would play one-handed for a while—while running, hopping, goading the crowd. It was the last song before the encore, and even without “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock” (my only disappointment of the night, no “Who Made Who”), the crowd would have left happy. AC/DC had put on an amazing show, with Angus at the center.
Sometimes the people are right.