Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AC/DC, Datchforum Arena, Milan 21/03/2009

“The greatest band in the world” (a comment by a die-hard fan in the making of the “Rock’N’Roll Train” video) blasted its way through Milan’s Datchforum Arena on March 21st, 2009, exactly one week before my 50th And what a 2nd awesome and fantastic show it was too (the first one on the 19th sold-out in just 50 minutes)!

Yes, the boys are definitely back! Angus and his mates showed up punctually at 9 pm. And what a start too: the giant video screen at the back of the stage showed a cartoon version of the boys travelling on a train. As is usually the case with AC/DC and their hidden sexual innuendos (with songs such as “Big Balls” and “Can I Sit Next To You Girl”?), the cartoon showed Angus surrounded by a couple of cute and short-skirted women who mimicked oral sex. The train is seen chugging along at a high speed when all of a sudden it reaches its destination in a final crash. At that point, Brian Johnson, Malcolm (with his traditional sleeveless t-shirt, always his troglodyte and impish-looking self!) and Angus Young (decked out as usual in his schoolboy clothing, cap and all and slightly more than one week away from his on March 31st), drummer Phil Rudd and bass guitarist Cliff Williams (with his long and grey hair Williams is now pushing 60 along with Johnson who is 62) appeared on stage with the dynamic opening song, “Rock’N’Roll Train”! And the stage’s backdrop? A massive locomotive train with the logo “AC/DC” written on it, what else?

At that point the house, full of some 20,000 AC/DC fans (including yours truly who was about to see them live for the 5th time, the first having been some 31 years ago in Winnipeg at the Arena with the late, great Bon Scott on vocals), went literally berserk! Quite frankly, a better opening song they couldn’t have chosen. The kids who were surrounding me on the ground floor informed me that their eight-year absence from the world stage was due to an injury that Williams had had to his wrist. And we all know that a guitarist without a properly-functioning wrist is pretty well useless. My sources told me that Williams had to pretty well re-learn how to play the bass guitar, ergo the band’s absence for such a long period. Rudd also came back to the band many years ago (in the 1990s) after some health problems tied to hallucinations (so they say). I also asked my sources about this thing about him having had a physical confrontation with Malcolm. Apparently Rudd had made a move on Malcolm’s niece, or something of that nature. Nevertheless, here they were once again all together and “alive and kicking” and in the flesh for all of us to see up close!

The following song was a Bon Scott oldie, “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”, followed by a song from what many consider their finest album to date and the one with Johnson on vocals for the very first time since Bon’s death (even though I think that “Highway To Hell” is their all-time greatest album, an album that is now 30 years old!), “Back In Black”. In the meantime, Angus was strutting around the stage using Chuck Berry’s classic “duck walk” which has inspired so many rockers around the world (as Angus himself said in an interview, when they used to perform live at the beginning of their career Berry’s music is what they played the most. Ditto for another great group, The Beatles who played Berry’s music constantly during the early 1960s).

The rest of the set-list (which I had a copy from a rock magazine), consisted of the following outstanding tunes:

-Big Jack (from their latest album, “Black Ice”)

-Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (a Scott oldie)

-Shot Down In Flames (ditto)


-Black Ice (the title of the latest album)

-The Jack (this is Australian slang for venereal disease. As the song was being played the three screens zoomed in on some of the fine-looking ladies in the crowd. Poor things though: I wonder just how many really understood the true meaning of the song! At this point Angus performed his now-famous striptease with his now-famous “mooning” of the crowd, leaving him this time in AC/DC underwear. In other concerts he’s also shown the crowd his bare ass!)

-Hells Bells (with Johnson swinging from the bell’s hangman’s cord)

-Shoot To Thrill (one of my all-time favourite songs. At 62 Johnson was STILL at his best with this song!)

-War Machine (from their latest album)

-Anything Goes (ditto)

-You Shook Me All Night Long (one of their “funner” tunes)

-T.N.T. (another Scott oldie)

-Whole Lotta Rosie (from the pics you can see old fat and sexy Rosie in the background. Another great AC/DC-Scott song!)

-Let There Be Rock (perhaps the “Bible” of AC/DC songs. At this point Angus strode down the short ramp from the main stage, got up on a pedestal and was raised a few feet in the air for everyone to see him. Having seen this already in the great “Stiff Upper Lip” video which was shot at the Olympic stadium in Munich in 2001, as I got to the Arena I knew immediately what was going to happen during the show, so I got positioned close to the pedestal to try to get some good shots of Angus).

The show closed with that song. Their encore came about not even 10 minutes after. It consisted of my all-time favourite song (together with The Beatles’s “Hey Jude”), “Highway To Hell”! And for this song Angus came up from underneath the stage surrounded by smoke and flames and wearing his classical horns (the plastic ones, made in China, which were on sale in the Arena for 5 euros, the ones that also light up! Naturally, I had to also buy a pair). Quite the emotion singing along to that song with 20,000 other people. It couldn’t have gotten ANY better than that!

The true businessmen that they are and the “tight” band that AC/DC really is (as Keith Richards, one of their fans, once said about both Malcolm and Angus), the very final song was their calling card: “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”! In 1991 at the spectacular Monsters of Rock show in Modena (with on the very same bill Sepultura, Black Crowes, Metallica and AC/DC), the band had set-up on top of the truly enormous stage 21 canons for the famous 21-gun salute during that song. Seeing that the Datchforum is much smaller, the stage had six canons this time, but that went off VERY loudly just at the right time after Johnson yelled out “Fire”!

The so-called AC/DC “mass” was now over. All fans, including this one, could now go home in peace (even though a very young Italian couple stood around hoping that they’d still come on for yet another encore, at which point I told them: “You can wait until tomorrow but they ain’t coming out because they ALWAYS end their shows with that song”!). It was now 11 pm, a solid and highly volatile two-hour rock show had unfortunately come to a close. And how was Angus? Well, with just a few small inches of fat around his waist, he was in a superb duck-walking form (an honour a few years ago that I actually got to see Chuck Berry live in Rome. At 79 years of age he performed the duck-walkfor about 3 seconds!) and, sweating profusely, still full of high voltage rock’n’roll in his veins. My sources also told me jokingly that if Malcolm and Cliff were to exchange positions (looking at the stage Malcolm always stands to the left of Rudd while Cliff is on his right), they wouldn’t know how to play! And it’s perhaps true as for the last 35 years or so that’s exactly where they’ve always stood on stage, sort of as guardians guarding the queen on her throne, in this case Rudd being the queen (who is one of my favourite drummers in the world as he isn’t flashy and always manages to keep that great old rock’n’roll beat). Speaking of which, Rudd is now the third AC/DC drummer that I’ve seen so far. In the 1980s I saw the band at the old MontrĂ©al Forum with Simon Wright on drums (he’s part of the “Who Made Who” album which is part of the soundtrack of the film based on one of Stephen King’s novels on trucks which go berserk. King by the way is also an AC/DC fan) and in 1991 at the Modena show I saw Chris Slade behind the drum kit (his is also an extraordinary performance which was eventually turned into the video from the 1991 Donnington show).

Age can at times also bring respect from the youngins: I got to the Arena at around 6 pm. While standing around and (very) patiently waiting for the clock to tick by, I was talking to some of the other fans, many who were much, much younger than me and who would be seeing the band for the very first time in their lives. When I told them that I was about to see them for the 5th time and that I had also seen them with Bon, they were all ears and quite envious of the fact that I had had the privilege of even seeing them with poor old Bon. I had after all last seen them live in 1998 at Rome’s Palaeur arena. From a historical purpose and given the fact that I saw them exactly one week before my big 5-0 and we had all waited some eight years to see them live again, well, this was certainly THE best concert so far of the 179 that I’ve seen to date!

On a final note, Bon once sang a very appropriate song which pretty well applies to all bands such as The Beatles, the Stones, The Who, Genesis Oasis, etc.: “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock’N’Roll”! In the case of AC/DC it’s certainly true as pretty-well everywhere in Europe (and also elsewhere around the world from what I’ve heard) they’ve sold-out ALL of their shows. But they deserve that and all the money people like me and a zillion others around the world have dished out for Angus and Co. as they’ve certainly made it to the top of rock’n’roll, along the way making millions of fans happy too (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Answer, Datchforum Arena, Milan 21/03/2009

The Answer, a VERY hard rocking band from Belfast which opened up for AC/DC (actually, not bad for a back-up band as many usually really suck). The lead singer of this four-piece band belted out songs like Led Zep’s Robert Plant. Their repertoire was short actually, a mere four songs, but no doubt more than one person downloaded one of their tunes after their rather fine performance (all pics by M. Rimati).

Renzo Arbore e l’Orchestra Italiana, Teatro Sistina Roma 14/03/2009

A packed house (mostly with old folks and ex Italian movie stars) who took in this splendid three-hour concert with Renzo Arbore and his outstanding 15-piece band. Arbore entertained all of us with some traditional Neapolitan songs as well as Roman and American ones. The show actually began with scenes of Arbore’s concerts around the world, including China. This naturally made the Chinese ambassador happy as he and the director of the Japanese Cultural Institute of Rome were in the crowd. Arbore, an old master of musical diplomacy, managed to also muster up something in both Chinese and Japanese. He also wouldn’t quit as he came on for about four encores. No doubt Neapolitans are always touched by his melodic songs as he tours the entire world with this marvellous band (all pics by M. Rimati).

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