Let's Get It UP

I’ve been coming to Download since 2005 and every single year without fail the band on top of everyone’s wishlist for the next year has been AC/DC so it’s no surprise that the crowd infront of the main stage is probably the biggest I’ve seen here since Black Sabbath. Well I say main stage, the simple fact is that AC/DC’s stage set up is so big and complex that they have their own stage and bring their own p.a! Extravagant certainly but right from the start it’s clearly a good decision.

Before the band take the stage video screens show the animated film intro for ‘Rock n’ Roll Train’, at the end of which the screens part, the band hit the first chords of the song and the huge prop of a steam train appears complete with smoking stack. The sound is immense! They are far louder than any band before or after and also far clearer (a fact not lost on the crowd in the subsequent days).

There are those that claim AC/DC have traded on the same riffs for much of their lengthy career and there is some truth in that, they certainly haven’t been quick to move with the times, seeming content to observe the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Nobody here seems to care about that though as the crowd sing along from start to finish and you can’t argue that when AC/DC are in full flow it’s almost impossible not to get carried along with them. The set list is based largely around older material with only four tracks from 2008’s ‘Black Ice’ album (‘Rock n’roll Train’, ‘Big Jack’, ‘War Machine’ and ‘Black Ice’) to balance it out. As usual only singer Brian Johnson and guitarist Angus Young do any moving about of note but they do so much it more than makes up for the rest of the bands immobility! Both make full use of the 50ft walkway that extends out into the crowd and although Young’s customary strip during ‘The Jack’ and solo spot during ‘Let There Be Rock’ are way too long the crowd lap it up.

As you might expect for a band that has been playing these songs for so long they are faultless in their delivery. They play pretty much every song you would want to hear if you were putting a greatest hits compilation together, ‘ Back In Black’, ‘Dirty Deeds’, Hells Bells’, an epic version of ‘Thunderstruck’, ‘High Voltage’, ‘Shoot to Thrill’ and ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ all lead up to a quite stunning finale. The pyrotechnics kick off for ‘TNT’ before a giant inflatable woman appears riding the train for a mass sing along to ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’. What else could they play for the encore but the seminal ‘Highway to Hell’ before a quite brilliant version of ‘For Those About to Rock’ complete with cannons brings the show to a close. It might be familiar and most of the songs might be over 25 years old but the simple fact is that nobody does it quite like AC/DC and that they still manage to put this much effort into the whole performance is testament to their enduring legacy. AC/DC at Download has been a long time coming, was it worth the wait? Oh yes.