With all the gloom around at present it’s hard to totally escape for a few hours and put it all behind you. It’s probably why the entertainment sectors always do quite well in a recession; people really need time out. They also need to go out rather than trying to distract themselves at home. While it’s great to watch a film or listen to music in the comfort of your own living room there is always the danger of the phone ringing, the neighbours calling round or some other distraction. A proper venue has a sense of occasion about it. It can be as simple as a night at the local cinema or a rock concert in the capital. This weekend I escaped to the latter and to my great surprise thoroughly enjoyed the legendary AC/DC at the O2 in Dublin.
The thing is I am an extremely easy going individual who believes that variety is the spice of life and am willing to try (almost) anything at least once. My significant other and I share a love of music and while we have agreeable tastes in some areas there are places where our likes diverge and one or two areas where we are quite opposite. When it was announced that we were going to see AC/DC in concert in April ‘09 I was quite looking forward to it although I did make a mental note to bring some earplugs as I am quite partial to my good hearing. While often a little on the heavy side for my personal tastes I have always believed AC/ DC to be quite good fun and the song ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ would certainly be in the soundtrack of my youth, having been played without fail at the end of every disco in the 1980s.
Heavy metal hair!
So I found myself walking down the quays in Dublin towards the O2 on a beautiful spring evening wondering what to expect of the night. Fortunately I have the hair for heavy metal and therefore I blend in effortlessly with the rock fraternity. (Stick me in a bit of denim and leather and I could be mistaken for a life long devotee.) There was excitement in the air as we bounced along, shoulder to shoulder with the hundreds of others all obviously going in the same direction. Our common destination meant we jovially smiled and exchanged lighthearted comments with total strangers. Given the longevity of AC/DC the crowd was a fascinating study in generations. The ages ranged from 7 to 70 without a doubt. Some had lost all their hair, others had just lost the top bit but were holding on to some long flowing locks on the side. As you would expect some looked like bikers, others looked like they’d spent the day on the golf course while a few of the predominantly male crowd wouldn’t have looked out of place pottering around a suburban garden. There were the teenagers who had discovered AC/DC only recently and were embracing a gothic image and then there were children; only a few, but present all the same clad in minature AC/DC t-shirts and bobbing along with happy parents.
One of the trademarks of AC/DC is that their guitarist, Angus Young, always appears on stage in a full schoolboy’s outfit including short pants. Isn’t it strange that a grown man in schoolboy attire is very amusing while a grown woman in a schoolgirl’s gymslip is another thing altogether? Anyway there were several fans paying sartorial homage to Mr Young. One such gentleman around 50 years of age was walking just ahead of us. There he was in full uniform including short pants and cap and a blow up guitar. It was hilariously funny and it seemed to up the anti on the anticipation in the air.
Ride of a lifetime
And so eventually it started. The lights went down, the roar went up and the big screen fired into life on the back of a stage with a large runway protruding from the front. On the screen a train is hurtling down a track. There’s some pretty adult animation involving sexy girls in short skirts and while that screams 1970s political incorrectness, the story narrative saw the women coming out on top. In the film an animated Angus Young is tied up and it looks like the train is going to come crashing out of the screen at its climax. It actually does! As the band appears on stage so does a massive smoking train carriage and we’re off on the rock n’roll ride of a lifetime.
Now being near to pensionable age the only thing I insist on at concerts is a seat. I’ll go anywhere to see any band but get me a seat. Sadly I no longer see the merit in being pressed on every side by sweaty moshing bodies in a standing area. At AC/DC the seat was a total waste of money. At the opening bars the two 50 year olds in front of me surprisingly jumped to their feet and didn’t sit down for the rest of the night. Ordinarily I would have tapped them on the shoulder and suggested they sit down. (Not only were they blocking my view but I was also concerned for their health as they looked decidedly out of shape) but suddenly it just didn’t feel very rock and roll. I decided to just join them. It set the pace for the rest of the toe tapping night. AC/DC belted out most of the hits, stomping around the stage like youngfellas even though the lead singer is now 61 years old. While it all looked like tremendous, spontaneous fun the show was highly choreographed. The train was augmented with different things from time to time.
A Whole Lotta Rosie
For a Whole Lotta Rosie a 40 foot high (I kid you not) blow up doll with the largest breasts I’ve ever seen straddled the train and magically tapped her foot all the way through. When it came to Hells Bells a gigantic bell was lowered from the ceiling and the singer swung from the rope. Angus Young emerged from a flaming pit for the absolutely brilliant Highway to Hell and to top it all off several large cannons fired throughout ‘For Those About to Rock; We Salute You’. As a spectacle it was beautifully executed and a feast for the eyes as you just didn’t know what was coming next. While the stage graphics, the big screen and the effects were all the work of modern day technology there was something deliciously old fashioned and innocent about it all. While rock music is often associated with anarchy this crowd, singing along practically word for word, were there for the fun and simple love of a thumping tune.
As the night progressed and I looked around the O2 everyone just seemed to be having the time of their lives. When you looked at the age profile of the crowd there was no doubt a large majority with similar concerns about mortgages, jobs and kids but on Saturday night they were escaping; escaping back to their youth; to the heady days when it was all about simply great rock n’ roll.