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If AC/DC at Wembley Stadium was a goodbye, it was also celebration of a fun that cannot age

06 July 2015, 16:00 | Written by Dannii Leivers

You have to love AC/DC for their lack of subtlety.

Amid fireworks and smoke, guitarist Angus Young appears wringing out the first crunchy wails of “Rock or Bust”, the swaggering title track of their 16th album. He’s 60 years old and wearing a bright red, velvet school uniform. Seconds later, vocalist Brian Johnson lets out a screech that could strip the enamel from your front teeth. There’s not one person in this 70,000-strong crowd who isn’t grinning their face off.

As far as gigs go, they don’t come much bigger than this. The imminent arrival of AC/DC, the musical equivalent of a wrecking ball, can bring tears to the eyes of grown men and has fans spanning four generations foaming at the mouth. This isn’t the Aussie-British behemoth’s first time at Wembley Stadium. It’s actually their fourth. But there’s a very real possibility it might be their last.

Aging aside, drummer Phil Rudd is currently wrangled up in court proceedings. More significantly, band founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young has retired with dementia. Tonight Chris Slade is at the drum stool, Malcolm has been replaced by his nephew Stevie.

So for a band who have steadfastly rejected the notion of change for four decades, AC/DC are experiencing their fair share of it. Even their digital presence is in a state of revolution: only six days ago they relented to allow their back catalogue to be available on streaming sites.

But in the face of their recent struggles they remain defiant. For fourty years they’ve been derided by critics for sticking rigidly to their formula of rock’n’roll, booze, sex and gambling. It’s safe to assume that in the case of a nuclear war only cockroaches and Angus Young’s primal riffs would survive.

Of course people don’t come to AC/DC concerts for progression. They come to have their faces melted off. From start to finish tonight is a balls-to-the-wall battering of no-brainer heavy rock.

The slashing chords of “Shoot To Kill” cause two men in front of us to immediately rip off their tops and wave them in the air. “Back In Black”, the band’s most loved song, is thrown out fourth. Because it can be. Their famous giant inflatable woman appears for “Whole Lotta Rosie”. The crowd fist-pump and bounce along with joyous abandonment, drunk on blues-soaked testosterone. Every song, layers of thundering drums and molten riffs, sounds timeless: music which exists solely as a hedonistic celebration of fun will never age.

Stevie Young doesn’t have his uncle’s domineering presence, and remains in the background providing backing vocals with bassist Cliff Williams. As a result, tonight focuses on Angus and Brian. Johnson is forever giddy as a problem child on a sugar rush. His shrieks have taken on a smoky throatiness of late and he has to dig deep to hit the really high notes, but he still looks like he’s having the time of his life.

Similarly, Young performs with an exuberance that betrays his 60 years. He duck walks. He drops to his visibly bruised knees. He writhes like a man possessed on his back, all while blaring out gnarly, fluid solos with breath-taking speed.

After “Let There Be Rock”, topless and scrawny, he performs a ten minute solo on a raised platform in the crowd, a blizzard of ticker tape billowing around him, a sea of glittering devil horns flashing below. Above Wembley, the stadium arch glows a deep red. It’s a spectacle only topped moments later by an electrifying “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, Johnson screaming “Fire!” as cannons blast over thousands of raised fists.

We will never see a band like them again and everyone here knows it. If AC/DC decide now is the time to bow out, this was one hell of a farewell bang.

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