Wednesday, June 16, 2010

AC/DC, Stuggart 13/06/2010

Jesus meets Angus Young! Blasphemous as I may sound, but that’s the impression I got seeing AC/DC (after not even a month that I had seen them in Udine on May 19th!) at Stuggart’s massive Cannstatter Wasen campground. I say this because it looked like Jesus himself had descended upon the German town (hqs of both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, not to mention the home of where the motorbike and the four-wheel automobile were invented. Also, the very first prototypes of the VW Beetle were manufactured in Stuttgart based on a design by Mr. Ferdinand Porsche), that’s just how many people showed up, more than 70,000!

I got to Stuggart (pop. 600,000) on Saturday from Udine, by car and by myself. It was “only” a two-way trip of some 1,354 kms (or 841 miles for my American friends). Yes, I know, I’m not too normal, but for AC/DC…It’s always soooo cool to be travelling in Europe, especially by car, as in my case I touched down on three different countries to get there: Italy, Austria and Germany and with no passport checks either (Stuggart is about 200 kms from Munich and in between is the town of Ulm, where Albert Einstein was born). It was also my second time (and fourth as a visit) driving on Germany’s legendary autobahn highway. As I was travelling at 120 kms/hr (80 miles/hr), there were Audis and Porsches literally whizzing by me at about 200 (124)! But the funny thing is that unlike Italians (n.b. I’ve been driving in Italy now for only 20 years, from the very northern tip all the way to Sicily—and ALL points in between—so I think I know a thing or two about how Italians drive, especially after having driven for 15 years in Canada’s notorious winters!), the Germans know how to drive, so I actually feel SAFER driving in Germany than in Italy (Italians have this very nasty and annoying tendency that as they’re approaching you from 10 miles away, and you’re in the passing lane, they begin to flash you with their high beams, meaning to say: “Hey a-hole, get the hell out of the way because I’M important and I’ve got a Ferrari, and you have instead some tin-can cheap car (it’s actually happened to me once with a Ferrari right on my tail)”! In Germany? No, they pull up, keep the correct safety distance from you (the Italians in general practically pull right up to your rear bumper) and eventually wait for you to return to the right lane, and then calmly whiz by you. The Italian style instead does nothing more than cause tension, and with VERY catastrophic results too!).

The city itself was nearly completely destroyed during WWII, with some pretty heavy bombardment by the Anglo-American forces in 1944: the heaviest raid occurred on September 12th, 1944 when the Royal Air Force bombed the old town with over 184,000 bombs, including also 75 blockbusters. As a result of a total of 53 bombing raids, 4,477 people died during the war. If you think about it, peace can take a long time to happen (will we ever see it with the Palestinians and Israelis?), so more than 60 years later, it was no doubt an amazing achievement to take in a concert such as AC/DC, when towns like Stuggart were once reduced to mere rubble and its people no doubt were starving to death. Now, in 2010, with a general world economic crisis, here were more than 70,000 people who no doubt dished out about 80 euros to see just a two-hour concert! As I said, to see the positive effects, peace takes a long, long time…

The main avenue is littered with shops. An odd thing happened to me: Germany in has a rather large Muslim community, more than in Italy. There were several women who were covered from head to toe (not though with the burqas). From a distance, I took a pic of two women who were sitting on a bench. I didn’t think much of it afterwards, until about 10 minutes later the two—a mother and her daughter—accosted me and began muttering something in German (a language that I don’t unfortunately speak). The daughter then said in English that I had taken pics of them, and they didn’t like it. I asked them if they belonged to the German police, believing that I was after all in a democratic country, and taking pics was not an illegal gesture (with the exception perhaps of military instalments, diplomatic missions or say small children on beaches without the consent of their folks). I simply walked off but took several different routes (just in case I was followed by some of their friends or relatives!). I eventually did eliminate the pics (one actually), just in case I were to again meet up with them (which I didn’t naturally).

The U.S. was playing against England (1-1) that night so I got a chance to watch the match in an outdoor restaurant. There were also some American fans in a very festive mood that night as the U.S. managed to tie that match.

Sunday was concert day. Unlike Americans or now even Italians, the Germans respect Sundays as all the shops were closed. I wasn’t terribly far from the main train station, so I hopped on the special subway train which brought fans right up to the venue (about 20 minutes away). Gates opened at 3 pm and that’s when I got there. I immediately made friends with a kid (Stephan) from Munich. He wanted to go right up under the stage. Not having this time the press pass, I thought I’d follow him. Sure enough, I got right under the extended stage where Angus is eventually lifted up in the air on a hydraulic platform during his epic performance of “Let There Be Rock”! Germans, and Austrians too, are rather strict when it comes to bringing in professional cameras, but small ones are allowed, so I managed just the same to get in some interesting shots, this time of the fans.

The weather was iffy, but luckily it didn’t rain. It was nice and cool which was great having to stand around all those hours. I was at one point somewhat thirsty, but luckily the Beck’s beer boys passed by as I didn’t want to miss my great spot where I was standing (I was also right next to the special air cannons that shoot out pieces of paper as Angus is squirming about on the extended stage). An interesting way to serve beer: it looked like they were carrying the containers that WWII American soldiers used to carry, the ones used for flame throwers. These instead contained beer, and the containers were connected to a short tube! If you didn’t have a cup, no problem, for 2 euros you got the AC/DC official beer cup. Wanted a nice cold beer to go with that cup? No problem, 4 euros would get you that beer! And you wanted another one? No problem with that either: you already had the cup, so that extra beer would cost you again 4 euros! That saved my thirsty afternoon, for sure.

Things finally got under way around 6 pm with an opening band, followed by another band called Accept (the lead singer almost sounded like a younger version of Brian Johnson). The boys instead opened at around 8:15 pm, and naturally with the exciting video which leads up to “Rock And Roll Train”! After having already seen them four times in now two years’ time (March and May 2009 and now May and June 2010), they NEVER cease to move and excite me, and I’m not only the only one as there were literally people of ALL ages—from 6 to 60 (and even older)! And they also came in ALL shapes and sizes, as one can see from the pics I took. And looking at Angus and his buddies, I couldn’t help but think that alas, they too are getting a wee bit older, and who knows, with Brian at age 62 and counting, when and if we’ll see them again on stage. As Angus was strutting about in his green schoolboy outfit, I couldn’t help for a split second to be overcome with a wee bit of sadness at the thought that this just could perhaps be their last world tour (and we certainly hope NOT)…

One amazing thing that I did notice was the truly incredible beer bellies that the German men have! As I was standing from 3 pm until show time, I had only two beers. The folks that surrounded me had instead at least five beers, if not more! Again, you can see from the pics some of their enormous beer bellies (something which you don’t readily see in Italy).

The concert was great with basically the same repertoire and with Angus mooning us during “The Jack” (oh, and yes, the cameras again showed some of the wonderful lassies in the crowd, many who probably don’t even know the real significance of that title!). In Vienna instead he mooned us during “Bad Boy Boogie”, which also happens to last about 13 minutes. I’ve noticed that with certain artists, where they play is related to the length of their shows. In Florence in 2003 The Boss and his epic E-Street Band played for 3.5 hours and with a whopping 3 encores! In Udine last summer he played for 2.5 hours and with only 1 encore.

Nevertheless, “High Voltage”, “Shoot To Thrill” and “Whole Lotta Rosie” are ALWAYS divine to hear live and in concert. The show lasted exactly 2 hours and concluded with “Highway To Hell” and of course “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You”) with the usual cannons and fireworks from behind the stage at the end! An interesting thing though happened just before Angus and the boys got up on stage, and I don’t know just how many fans, especially the youngins’ noticed this: there was a song blaring on the speakers called “Thirty Days”. It’s by Chuck Berry. I was listening to it and said to myself: “Here’s the “father” of the world-famous duck walk, and in just a few minutes we’re all about to see Berry’s “son” render homage with his own fantastic version of Chuck’s great duck walk”! How coincidental life can be at times.

German precision: the subway ran until well over midnight in order to help fans get back home. Seeing that I was close to the stage, as I was heading back to the subway stop I had to walk together with all the other fans. And then I REALLY realised just how many people there were that night!

The wait was only about 15 minutes and as I stepped outside of the stop at my final destination, the part atmosphere continued well and into the night: Germany had just won 4-0 against Australia in their very first World Cup match in S. Africa, so Germans were out in force honking their car horns and waving German flags. I had a chuckle as it reminded me of 2006 when I was in Rome and Italy won that World Cup event in Germany. I must say that the night finished off rather well.

I admit that the following morning when I got up at 7 am at the hotel I wasn’t terribly keen of the long drive back, but I had no choice. And what did I do to keep awake? Well, I naturally listened to AC/DC full blast on my iPod which was connected to my car stereo! At one point there was a long stretch of highway. I programmed Annihilator’s cover version of “Riff Raff” (which was originally sung by Bon Scott). It’s one of my all-time favourite AC/DC songs and it REALLY kicks ass (Greenroom also has a great version of the same song)! Well, it got my adrenalin going so much that all of a sudden I felt like an F-16 jet fighter that was ready to take off! I felt like I was going at about 300 kms/hr! Listen to it and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

Another great, great, great concert by Angus and Co. (pic of Angus in green jacket by Stuggart’s local newspaper. All other pics by M. Rimati).

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