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AC/DC live in London review: Rock icons fail to truly electrify at Wembley show

There's moments of greatness, but it's all too often stuck in an inaudible mire...

3.0 rating

By Nick Reilly

AC/DC's Angus Young (Picture: Stuart Garneys)

“Let’s start where we left off,” comes the mission statement from AC/DC‘s grinning frontman Brian Johnson at the start of the group’s first London show in eight years – and the first with him at the helm in the capital since 2015.

To see the group return to delight 90,000 fans with songs such as ‘Back in Black’ – almost a sacred text of rock music – is an heartwarming thing. Their last tour was derailed when Johnson was forced to give up the day job due to hearing issues, while their subsequent hiatus saw the death of longstanding guitarist Malcolm Young and the retirement of bassist Cliff Williams.

It means that on this tour – an overdue celebration of 2020’s comeback album PWR UP – the group are hellbent on making up for lost time from the minute that a cartoon muscle car stops speeding across the big screens. It’s just a shame that their unbridled passion and earsplitting ferocity doesn’t necessarily translate into the greatness you’d expect.

From where we’re sitting, the group is let down by an audio mix that deems them inaudible at times. Johnson’s unique howl is quite often reduced to a screeching wail, while Angus Young’s legendary fretwork seems buried at times.

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (Picture: Stuart Garneys)

There’s the sense, too, that old father time might be catching up with the band. Johnson may have been let down by a questionable audio mix, but there’s no disguising the fact that belting choruses are often handed to the crowd to sing, while between-song chat is kept to a minimum. Both of these, you sense, are to save his voice. It means that there’s moments of disjointed silence between songs, which stops the momentum of the show from ever truly catching on.

Still, there’s plenty for the devotees of these demigods to enjoy. Angus Young is still charged with an energy that belies his 69 years and the shock of grey hair that sticks out from underneath his iconic schoolboy cap. He’s still capable of delivering his trademark duck walk at full pelt, while a twenty-minute guitar solo which sees him elevated above the crowd is among the show’s greatest moments.

The theatrics – if perhaps not on the same overblown scale they used to be – are impressive too. A giant cast iron bell descends from the rafters for the imposing chimes of ‘Hells Bells’, while a full line-up of cannons are discharged with a thunderous closing rendition of ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)’.

That last song is an unintentionally fitting closer, given that these legends spent the preceding two hours well, about to rock, but never quite getting there. Tonight’s show at Wembley will be one thing ticked off the bucket list for many, you sense, but you’re left wondering if AC/DC’s most electrifying days are now behind them.