By Chris M. Junior
After more than 40 years, and despite numerous lineup changes (most famously, its singer; most recently, its rhythm guitarist and drummer), AC/DC’s look, sound and overall musical approach have been consistent but never flashy.
When it comes to the band’s stage show, well, that’s where the spectacle comes in. And even though its current North American tour supporting 2014’s “Rock or Bust” consists of a mere 14 dates, AC/DC has not cut back on visual extras.
Just like on the “Black Ice” tour, which made a stop at the former Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., AC/DC opened this show at the neighboring MetLife Stadium with a video presentation, then launched into a track from its new album. Singer Brian Johnson and guitarist Angus Young wasted no time in working the entire length of the main stage, while bassist Cliff Williams and guitarist Stevie Young (who is standing in for his ailing uncle Malcolm) mostly hovered near the long wall of Marshall and Ampeg amplifiers between drummer Chris Slade (who is sitting in for the legally troubled Phil Rudd).
On the sides of the stage, giant video screens projected clear, close-up images of all five musicians as they stormed through an 18-song main set that only slightly favored the Johnson era (highlighted by “Shoot to Thrill,” “Have a Drink on Me” and “Hells Bells”). The late Bon Scott’s days were represented by such standards as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “T.N.T” and “Whole Lotta Rosie.” During the extended set-closing “Let There Be Rock,” Angus Young traveled the stage as he played a lengthy solo, and while on an elevated portion of the catwalk, confetti rained down over the crowd, which had a reddish glow throughout thanks to those wearing blinking devil horns.
Playing a Gretsch guitar with missing pickups, just like Malcolm Young did for many years, Stevie Young did a solid job handling rhythm duties and shout-along backing vocals. As for Slade, who was a member of AC/DC in the 1990s, he pushed the tempo a little too much on a few songs, but on the plus side, he did add a few much-needed fills at times that broke up the rhythmic repetition.
For encores, AC/DC played the now-standard pairing of “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” The former featured bursts of fire shooting skyward during the chorus, while the latter had the requisite cannon blasts. A brief fireworks display capped the concert.
Starting the show with a bang was the classic-soul-driven and well-dressed Vintage Trouble, led by singer and New Jersey native Ty Taylor. Wielding an old-school-style microphone, Taylor displayed great dexterity and flexibility, channeling the spirits of James Brown and Jackie Wilson in the process. Vintage Trouble, which released its second album, “1 Hopeful Rd.,” earlier this month on the Blue Note label, also has the material to go along with Taylor’s moves.
AC/DC’s North American tour heads to Quebec City on Aug. 28 for the first of four concerts in Canada before returning to the United States for a Sept. 8 show at Ford Field in Detroit.