In what has become an increasingly bizarre year for AC/DC, the sight of Angus Young offering a “We hope to see you all there” plea to Portuguese fans ahead of his band’s show at Lisbon’s Passeio Maritimo De Alges stadium on Saturday (May 7) was a dispiriting sight: since when do AC/DC, the world’s best rock ‘n’ roll band, need to go cap-in-hand to their audience?
The obvious answer here, of course, is ‘since they recruited Axl Rose’. Listening to Guns N’ Roses’ frontman discuss his reasons for filling in for Brian Johnson on the band’s upcoming European tour on BBC 6 Music it’s hard to fault his sincerity, but the very fact that AC/DC feel the need to embark upon a PR charm offensive ahead of their return to Europe speaks volume about the rancour which has been stirred up by their controversial decision to cut ties with their popular Geordie vocalist. It might be easy enough for Angus Young to close his eyes to puce-faced keyboard warriors who haven’t bought a ticket to see his band in decades, if ever, but when 7,000 AC/DC loyalists are moved to request refunds for a gig (as happened ahead of the quintet’s scheduled May 16 show in Belgium) the strength of feeling around the issue is hard to ignore.
As motivational speakers are fond of pointing out however, with every crisis comes opportunity, and here perhaps AC/DC have a chance to shake things up to their advantage. The Australian hard rock legends have always been a by-word for dependability, but when one looks at the set-list ‘DC are taking around the world in 2016 it’s noticeable that 12 of the 20 songs guaranteed to feature were also ever-present in their set 20 years ago. Kudos to the band for re-introducing Back In Black’s hilariously un-PC deep cut Givin’ The Dog A Bone to their set on their current run, but why stop there: there’s a ton of AC/DC classics that could be dusted off now that might actually benefit from having Axl on vocals.
Here are 10 songs we’d love to see slotted in alongside perennial favourites Highway To Hell, Whole Lotta Rosie and You Shook Me All Night Long.
RIFF RAFF (Powerage, 1978)
AC/DC might not have played Powerage’s most vicious cut for twenty years, but Guns N’ Roses have been performing Riff Raff regularly in concert for the past five years, and – as its recent airing during Gn’R’s headline Coachella set proved – Axl definitely has the pipes to carry this off. Swap this in for Got Some Rock ‘n’ Roll Thunder ‘early doors’ and AXL/DC’s debut will be off to a flyer.
TOUCH TOO MUCH (Highway To Hell, 1979)
Pressed for his current favourite AC/DC song recently, Axl name-checked Highway To Hell’s delightfully sleazy Touch Too Much, the last song Bon Scott performed with ‘DC (on Top Of The Pops), just two weeks before his death. Would anyone object if this was restored to the set-list in favour of, say, Rock ‘n’ Roll Train? We think not.
WALK ALL OVER YOU (Highway To Hell, 1979)
Like fish and chips, Keef and Mick, and er, Jack and Vera Duckworth, some things are just meant to be together. So if there’s space for Too Much Much in a revamped ‘DC set-list, then it’d make total sense to recall its companion piece Walk All Over You, the two fitting together like, well, like “a hand in a velvet glove.” Seriously, just imagine the scenes.
HEATSEEKER (Blow Up Your Video, 1988)
Once upon a time – 28 years ago, to be precise – the jet-propelled Heatseeker was used to open AC/DC shows, its thrusting riffs guaranteed to get arses off seats from the moment Angus climbed out of his dinky centre-stage rocket. Surprisingly, the opening track from Blow Up Your Video hasn’t been included on a ‘DC set-list since the summer of 1991: let’s rectify that this summer chaps.
MONEYTALKS (The Razors Edge, 1990)
As with Heatseeker, Moneytalks, AC/DC’s highest-charting US single ever, hasn’t featured in their live set for 25 years. Given the circumstances which have let to Axl Rose coming into the band, the irony of this ‘banger from the grammatically suspect The Razors Edge resurfacing would surely be too delicious to ignore: perhaps Axl could perform the song with a giant ‘winky face’ emoji on the screens behind him…
PROBLEM CHILD (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, 1976)
A bona-fide AC/DC classic, Problem Child hasn’t graced the band’s live show since 2001. But surely Bon Scott’s fabulously petulant, toys-out-the-pram lyric is one Axl Rose was born to deliver?
ROCK ’N’ ROLL SINGER (T.N.T., 1975)
Remarkably, if the good people behind the Setlist FM website are to be believed, AC/DC haven’t aired this swaggering Bon Scott standard in 40 years. High time it got a reprieve then. Though it’s difficult to imagine anyone but Bon fronting out this fabulously ballsy anthem, the idea of a fired-up Axl Rose spitting out lyrics such as “You can stick your nine to five living and your collar and your tie, You can stick your moral standards ‘cause it’s all a dirty lie” is rather appealing. Here’s a tip Angus: stick a photo of Bon on one side-stage screen, Beano on the other, and this tribute will bring the house down.
ROCKER (T.N.T., 1975)
Another golden oldie from the Bon Scott era, the self-explanatory Rocker hasn’t been a regular feature of ‘DC’s live show since 1981. It’s easy to imagine why Brian Johnson could have happily let this Dirty Deeds… anthem slide from view, as its frantic pace hardly suits his voice, but you could totally imagine Axl tearing into Bon’s “I’m a rocker, I’m a roller, I’m a right out of controller” lyric.
NERVOUS SHAKEDOWN (Flick Of The Switch, 1983)
Flick Of The Switch gets a raw deal among many AC/DC fans: had Angus Young’s band released this collection any time after 1990 it would easily be the best ‘DC album of the past 25 years. Stand-out track Nervous Shakedown is a song that has very rarely surfaced in concert, but go check out the 1983 live rehearsal video posted on YouTube and then tell us that Axl wouldn’t slay this stinging tale of corrupt coppers and bent judges.
BAD BOY BOOGIE (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
A set-list regular for over 20 years, Bad Boy Boogie hasn’t graced a ‘DC live show since 2003, but its timeless Bon Scott lyric is one which Axl could surely make his own, given a shot at the Let There Be Rock classic. It’s best that Indiana’s own self-styled ‘bad boy’ doesn’t get too immersed in the mind-set though, for any misbehaviour on this run will surely see Angus Young planting a size 5 boot up his arse. And no-one wants to see that, do they?
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