Anybody who says Angus Young is too old to be prancing around in his schoolboy uniform simply doesn't get it. Not only do they miss the point of AC/DC. They don't understand rock 'n' roll.
Back from an eight-year hiatus and looking as if they aged 20 in that time (Young is 53, singer Brian Johnson is 61), AC/DC nonethless remains the ultimate juvenile, shirt-untucked, fists-clenched bad-boy rock band. Which is pretty much the same as saying they're the ultimate rock band, period.
If Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" were the blueprint for rock 'n' roll, with their troublemaker attitudes, vague sexuality and so-simple-they're-genius guitar riffs, then AC/DC is today's best living, breathing, crowd-mooning manifestation of that design.
The band hasn't grown up or changed one iota. Their new Wal-Mart-exclusive album, "Black Ice," sounds like it could have been the follow-up to 1980's "Back in Black" or 1990's "The Razors Edge." The tour that lands Sunday at Xcel Energy Center -- a second date was added Jan. 19 after this one sold out in five minutes -- features many of the same songs and same gimmicks as their outings of the past 25 years, i.e., the "Hell's Bells" ringing, the "For Those About to Rock" cannon salutes and the "Let There Be Rock" shoulder-ride around the arena.
And yes, Angus still wears that schoolboy uniform. That stupid, hokey, beautiful, velvet jacket, tie and shorts ensemble, which is to rock 'n' roll what Dorothy's ruby-red shoes are to cinema, or Superman's cape is to comic books.
Bring on the sameness. Not every band has to be like Lou Reed or Neil Young, trying to reinvent the wheel every time out. At least not a band like AC/DC, so steeped in rock's most basic principles that it would be laughable to see them try anything that actually requires much trying.
Here's proof that AC/DC remains as relevant a force in rock today as it was 20-30 years ago:
1 Second only to the Beatles in catalog sales. Since 2003, they've sold 23 million albums and DVDs worldwide. And they did that in spite of No. 2 ...
2 iWhat? Like the Beatles (and very few others), they still refuse to sell their music on iTunes. It's not the idea that they're an album kind of band vs. a singles band that's so cool, or that they should be cranked on a stereo instead of funneled through an iPod. It's just the audacity of it. Most acts would be shooting themselves in the foot if they did this.
3 No. 1 for two weeks. Available only via Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart.com, "Black Ice" took the top spot in Billboard its first week and remained there for one more, beating "High School Musical 3" and new releases by Toby Keith, Pink and Rascal Flatts. There is hope in this world.
4 No power ballads. They've never wussed out to attract teenage girls and/or get on the radio. Never. Mötley Crüe and Guns N' Roses can't say that. Aerosmith definitely can't. Even Zeppelin pushed the mush with "All My Love." The mellowest AC/DC ever got was "Ride On" -- a song that bikers, not chicks, came to love.
5 "War Machine." The best song on the new CD, it starts with a slow, lumbering, tank-attack beat and quickly builds to atom-bomb intensity, with Angus shredding his guitar as if it was the U.S. Constitution during the Iraq War.
6 Brian Johnson's tenure is now four times longer than Bon Scott's. The Scott-era AC/DC was meaner, wilder and better, but the late frontman (who died in 1980 following a drinking binge) has become a footnote to a majority of fans. No other band so successfully replaced a singer. Never mind that Brian's wheels-peeling voice wore out its treads years ago.
7 Mutt Lange, Rick Rubin and now Brendan O'Brien. Three of rock's biggest record producers, they've all left their imprints on other acts. But not AC/DC. That's a testament to the band's raw power.
8 "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "The Jack." Admit it. The double entendres and squirm-inducing details still make you laugh 30 years on.
9 No one ever parts with "Back in Black." True story: For years, I looked for AC/DC's seminal 1980 album in every used-CD bin I came across. Since it's one of the biggest-selling discs of all time (I also own a very worn-out cassette), it should be easy to find as a hand-me-down, especially since every classic-rock station in the country plays one of its songs hourly. Nope. I finally broke down and paid full price a couple years ago.
10 Still the "second-most-powerful surge that can flow through your body." That's how Steven Tyler described the visceral feeling of Angus and Malcolm Young's guitar work at their 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. All indications are the adrenaline will flow again at Sunday's concert.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658