AC/DC

support Vintage Trouble + Helhorse
author AP date 15/07/15 venue Dyrskuepladsen, Roskilde, DEN

Approximately once a year, the middle agers of Denmark dust their leather and denim jackets for that one mammoth size concert, whether it be Metallica, Paul McCartney or, as is the case tonight, AC/DC. Indeed, even before the main event, an alarming number of people who could be my parents are already sloshed, the first fights have broken out, and the first concert goers are stone cold passed out. Welcome to the province party. Where the opposite was true two weeks ago on these very same fields (Roskilde Festival), it is the young among the crowd that look most sober, most interested in the actual music on the menu. I count myself among that segment, and although as they say, if you’ve seen AC/DC once, you’ve seen all of their shows, I entertain a glimmer of hope that tonight’s proceedings won’t simply be identical to the Aussie legends’ performance at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen six years ago. Do AC/DC still have the capacity to surprise, to stage a thrilling concert? We shall find out, once the night’s two support acts have been examined.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen

Helhorse

Is there a greater honour than to be selected as the local opening act for AC/DC? The significance of this opportunity is certainly not lost to Mikkel Wad Larsen, whose band of blues digging metal’n’rollers are an unexpected choice for warming up the 55,000-strong audience, most of whom rarely attend concerts, let alone the more underground types Helhorse tends to put on. Despite having none of the production available on AC/DC’s colossal stage — the lights, the LED monitors, etc. — Larsen is positively fired up, roaring his enthusiasm at the enormous crowd as opening track “Fuck Art, Let’s Kill” fades out.

It’s a little difficult to see from my vantage point at what must look like the horizon beyond an ocean of heads to Helhorse, but the tiny dots that constitute the six piece cannot be blamed for lacking energy. No, they’re their usual rowdy selves, though the sheer size of the stage does reduce some of the intensity so integral to the band’s performance. That is perhaps the reason why, with the exception of the turbocharged “Hell Hath No Fury”, Helhorse have opted for a less aggressive setlist, preferring instead the likes of “Death Comes to the Sleeping” and a trio of new tracks all of which up the swagger and focus more on the group’s rock’n’roll inspirations than on sludge, stoner and doom. Of these the stomping “One Hell of a Ride” sounds an instant crowd pleaser, while the likewise new song tasked with concluding the 25-minute proceedings, which sees Larsen’s girlfriend Rebecca Lou Armstrong join the band on stage for a vocal cameo during the chorus, is sure to prove a live staple with its infectious, if a little contrived refrains of “Brothers! Sisters!”. It’s a very decent show then, as one has come to expect from the band dubbed as one of Denmark’s brightest prospects both live and on record. But although Larsen looks bred for a setting of this magnitude, making use of every fixture, extension and platform available on stage and emanating pure charisma, this sort of brief blast without any production, and with most concert goers clueless as to who Helhorse even are, is far from the ideal place to experience them.

7

Vintage Trouble

Next on the menu for an already worryingly intoxicated audience is Vintage Trouble — a totally foreign entity for the undersigned. And that is not because the four piece comes from Los Angeles, CA — it is the soul and rockabilly mixing style they profess that catches me off guard. Unlike Helhorse, these Californians have access to the lighting rig (not that it makes much of a difference in the early evening sun still glowing in the sky) and video screens, and yet what fixates the eye is their vocalist, Ty Taylor, who for lack of a better description looks and behaves like a black Elvis. Not one moment passes without the stylish suit-clad Taylor mimicking the King’s moves, spinning repeatedly in sensual circles, and swinging his old school microphone around in ways that would make the r’n’b superstars of our day green with envy. This guy is an entertainer of the highest order, and thus he has a sizable portion of the audience in his palm by the time the second song, a more blues rock influenced piece than the opening rockabilly banger, comes to an end.

Armed with these uncanny entertainment abilities and an incredible vocal range, Taylor carries the weight of Vintage Trouble’s performance on his shoulders, even though guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson aren’t shy about showing their own enthusiasm either. Having just managed to send waves through the audience left and right, front to back, Taylor finishes his evening by launching himself into the audience to crowd surf his way through the last song, “Run Baby Run”, thereby providing the icing to a thoroughly captivating show. Like Helhorse, however, Vintage Trouble would benefit from a more intimate setting than here.

7

AC/DC

On the three video screens — one behind the band, two flanking them — a meteorite crashes into Roskilde accompanied by explosive pyrotechnics on stage, to announce the arrival of AC/DC some five minutes ahead(!) of the scheduled show start. And once the elderly gentlemen, lead guitarist Angus Young, vocalist Brian Johnson, rhythm guitarist Stevie Young, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Chris Slade, enter from left and right, the roar of approval that resounds from the field in front almost parallels the deafening volume at which “Rock or Bust” — the title track to the group’s latest album released last year — is delivered. No reason for denial: AC/DC have a knack for commencing the festivities in style. What they also excel at, for better or worse, is delivering exactly the concert desired by their core fanbase. With such history and experience notched on the belt, AC/DC go about it with the utmost professionalism, leaving very little up to chance.

What follows thus, is the usual parade of mega-hits interspersed by select picks from “Rock or Bust”. Skeptics would say they’re playing it too safe, and yours truly is prone to agree. But judging by the general reaction, those decrying the fact that just “Have a Drink on Me” deviates from the typical slew of classics like “Back in Black”, “Thunderstruck”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “T.N.T.” and “Whole Lotta Rosie” are a minority amongst an audience embracing the rock’n’roll party they expected to have for their money’s worth. Fortunately, the fact that tonight’s concert proceeds like a déja vù for anyone present at AC/DC’s concerts in Copenhagen and Horsens in 2009 and ’10, respectively, is but a minor setback in what can only be described as another triumphant showing from one of rock music’s most celebrated acts.

From the sound of the start pistol, guitarist Angus Young reverts himself to his adolescent years, dispensing every reservoir of energy, pulling his signature face expressions, and emanating the sort of youthful exuberance one has come to expect from the man. His red suit jacket (which he raucously sheds during “High Voltage”) and shorts stands in stark contrast with the more conservative black attire of his band mates, as if correctly to emphasise that he remains the heart and soul of this band. Vocalist Brian Johnson’s personage and singing provides the other focal point, so that the brunt of entertainment is, as expected, borne on these two gentlemen’s shoulders. Arguably, AC/DC’s showmanship would reach another dimension were the remaining stood-up members, guitarist Stevie Young and bassist Cliff Williams, to assume a greater role in the performance — at present, the two look like mere extras, resigned to the eclipse of the two beaming icons in front of them.

Regardless, the rock’n’roll train powers on with no relent, and one massive sing-along succeeds another like the fulfilment of a prophecy. What does distinguish tonight’s spectacle from the last time, however, is that AC/DC have opted for a more stripped down, basic setup on stage for much of the concert. That is, the custom built stage adorned with horns obviously functions as one enormous lighting and fireworks rig. But on the stage floor, the band’s only companion is a neatly stacked wall of amplifiers — a decision much to my taste as the focus can thus be placed on the music, and not gimmicks like a full-sized train. During “Hell’s Bells”, AC/DC’s customary church bell does make an appearance, but outside of that feature and a far more elegant take on the Rosie blow-up doll than last time, there’s little here to suggest AC/DC should be pompous, over-the-top rock stars.

A very enjoyable evening it has been then, as eighteenth track “Let There Be Rock” concludes the ordinary set ahead of the foretold encore featuring the beloved “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” to the backdrop of crackling fireworks. Regrettably, before either of those songs can be aired, Angus Young feels the usual need to demonstrate his prowess with a ‘guitar solo’ lasting close to 15 minutes — which wouldn’t be half as testing if Young’s ideas in this department weren’t so fucking basic and repetitive. It’s a passable hick-up in an otherwise successful performance, and I’m sure I speak for everyone in attendance when I say no one could have gone home with a grimace.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. Rock or Bust
  • 02. Shoot to Thrill
  • 03. Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  • 04. Back in Black
  • 05. Play Ball
  • 06. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
  • 07. Thunderstruck
  • 08. High Voltage
  • 09. Rock ’n’ Roll Train
  • 10. Hell’s Bells
  • 11. Baptism by Fire
  • 12. You Shook Me All Night Long
  • 13. Sin City
  • 14. Shot Down in Flames
  • 15. Have a Drink on Me
  • 16. T.N.T.
  • 17. Whole Lotta Rosie
  • 18. Let There Be Rock

—Encore—

  • 19. Highway to Hell
  • 20. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXIX Rockfreaks.net.