Concert review: Ageless AC/DC jacks up the house

Angus Young and Co.'s same old cheap tricks delighted the multigenerational headbangers.

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AC/DC in performance at the Xcel Energy Centerl. That's Brian Johnson on vocals and lead guitar Angus Young.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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If you've seen AC/DC before, then you really didn't miss anything new at Sunday night's sold-out, nearly two-hour concert at Xcel Energy Center. Of course, you still missed one of the biggest, baddest arena-rock shows that heaven (or hell) ever wrought, but that's old news.

That much we can agree on. Let's see if there's anything else:

Riemenschneider: What an opening! It started with a video of a train thundering down the tracks with an animated Angus Young at the wheel, two scantily clad babes trying to derail it and more phallic symbols than a high school health class. Then, to the opening riffs of "Rock 'n' Roll Train," a real (fake) train crashed over the long row of Marshall stacks.

Bream: Chris, maybe you need to get out more. Cher and Bette Midler have pretty spectacular, over-the-top openings, too. So do a lot of the country stars, from Tim McGraw to Rascal Flatts. But none of those appeal to the inner adolescent. That's what AC/DC does. Their opening was cool, but for me the visual highlight was the live video shot from underneath the stage through a clear plastic panel of Angus Young rockin' out during 'Thunderstruck." Now that was a new wrinkle in a band that looks very wrinkled.

CR: Better a view from beneath the stage than above, where we would've only seen Angus' growing bald spot. Thank God, he had official AC/DC boxers on under his shorts, sparing us the full moon in "The Jack."

JB: I would have preferred to have seen more Angus on the runway. That big, long catwalk extending from the stage was there for him to take a duck-walk for some extensive solos. He did it for "Let There Be Rock" and "The Jack," that blues thud that featured some of his most expressive guitar work. But otherwise, the runway belonged to Brian Johnson, who may be the frontman, but he's not the star of the band.

CR: Angus, 53, definitely did not come off as wild and woolly as he has in the past, but he showed his agility where it counted most: on his Gibson SG guitar. From the solos in "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be" and "Dirty Deeds" early in the show to the fiery preencore finale of "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Let There Be Rock," he sounded as fierce as he did 30 years ago.

Johnson, 61, was in surprisingly decent voice, too, which is rare for him nowadays. His turn in the new one "Big Jack" and the old staple "Shoot to Thrill" were ear-piercing. In a good way. But it's only a month into the tour. I doubt his shrieking voice will be as solid when the band returns Jan. 19 to the X.

JB: "Shoot to Thrill" was a highlight for me. And for the crowd of 15,419. It was truly a blue-collar crowd for a blue-collar band, though some of the prices wouldn't fit into an Obama budget plan. All the tickets were $91.50, but the real deal was the new CD, "Black Ice," only 13 bucks at the merch stands. Wal-Mart shoppers pay $11.88 plus tax for that exclusive. Heck, the blinking devils horns were $15 at the X. Not surprisingly, at intermission, the merch stands were as crowded as the ones at a Miley Cyrus concert

CR: The age of the crowd couldn't have been more varied. There were guys who probably saw them in 1974 alongside kids who weren't alive for their last tour eight years ago, plus lots of men in their 30s and 40s acting like they were 15. The best was the 5-year-old kid in front of me with giant headphones on (no doubt at mom's insistence). Seeing him pump his fist to "Back in Black" was worth the price of admission alone.

JB: That little dude will probably grow up to marry your daughter. Man, there were way more women at the concert than I expected, bobbing their heads along to the music. AC/DC has always been about macho good fun with a locker-room sense of humor, politically incorrect, sexist dudes who are lovably lowbrow. And they rock your socks off with a determinedly elemental blues-rock sound that is ageless and, I guess, now genderless.

CR: Too bad for the women they turned the cameras on during "The Jack," though. What lady wants to be on screen when the band's singing, "She's got the jack?!" That's AC/DC for ya.

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