With AC/DC fans asking if Axl Rose was ready to step up to the challenge, Getintothis Craig MacDonald was there to find out.
On a humid and murky night in Manchester there was a distinct sense of trepidation growing within the vast surroundings of The Etihad Stadium as the crowd waited for the arrival of AC/DC and stand-in frontman Axl Rose.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ll know the reason for the Guns and Roses singer taking a busman’s holiday and fronting the rockers is that back in March, regular frontman Brian Johnson was forced to quit the iconic group due to severe hearing problems.
Within days of Johnson stepping down from the helm, it was announced that having recently reconciled with his GNR bandmates, Axl Rose was to step in and join the group on their world tour.
Queue an almighty shit storm exploding that found every man and his dog taking full aim at the Australian group and their choice, with this writer, this website and even the likes of Roger Daltrey, quick to get a pop in. Given the unpredictable nature of Rose, it is easy to see why so many would question his appointment to front the biggest rock band in the world.
Tearing into Rock or Bust, it became apparent that all those fears would be washed away in an instant. With enough bling around him to keep HS Samuel in business for the foreseeable future, Axl Rose came, saw and proved that he was more than capable to live up to the job.
With a sea of horns raised to the heavens, AC/DC roared though showing an energy that some people half their age would struggle to achieve, with the supercharged Angus Young a true colossus of vitality. And yes, Angus Young really should think about giving up wearing his school uniform, but then it wouldn’t be Angus Young, would it?
Under an impressive wall of amps, AC/DC are an unrelenting wall of rock that fails to dampen from start to finish. In Young, they posses truly one of the best guitarists of all time and to think he is able to do what he does night after night is nothing short of miraculous.
Back in Black proves the first real firm favourite of the night, with Axl leading the stadium as one into a mass sea of joy as he makes the night his own. Sensing that he has won over the crowd, he briefly attempts to twist his hips like it was 1991 again but those days have long since gone.
Starting with the rumbling drums of Chris Slade, Thuderstruck kicks in and the night takes a notch up. With Stevie Young and Cliff Williams keeping the wild ship tight, Young and Axl race around the stage with the Guns and Roses frontman clearly enjoying himself more and more as the night progresses.
Following a riotous outing of Runaway Train, costume changes become the order of play as a huge bell drops down above the stage before they kick into Hell’s Bells. With You Shook Me All Night Long and Whole Lotta Rosie proving the size and scale of the AC/DC monster, Young yet again somehow finds enough energy to power the whole of Manchester as he runs into another of his customary marathon-like guitar solos.
Coming back on stage with Highway To Hell, AC/DC not only show just how good a stadium band can be, but also what a wise decision they made in taking on Axl Rose. He will never be Brian Johnson, but tonight he was more than capable of living up to the task for those about to rock. AC/DC and Axl – We salute you.
Pictures by Sakura Henderson