NASHVILLE AC/DC have perfected the two-hour guitar solo, interrupted now and then by some incomprehensible vocals, fiery pyrotechnics and other sideshow divertissements all grandly entertaining. If this is what mainstream rock and roll has become, so be it.
Along the way, AC/DC have evolved rock and roll into wholesome family entertainment. At the band's sold-out concert Friday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the crowd epitomized rock and roll family values. Mom and Dad sporting their heirloom black AC/DC T-shirts came hand in hand with their children and proudly bought them their first, white AC/DC tees. While the preshow PA system pumped out the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," the kids were happily putting on their spanking new shirts, fitting their just-bought AC/DC flashing-red-light devil horns onto their heads and awaiting the oncoming circus.
And Angus & Co. didn't disappoint. From the first notes of "You Shook Me All Night Long", this was a very happy crowd, standing on its feet throughout the two-hour show. In addition to the marathon of metal from Angus Young and his attendant spastic antics, and singer Brian Johnson's jovial stage moves and guttural vocals, kids of all ages got:
1. fantastic fireballs shooting out of the stage scaffolding during "Highway to Hell";
2. the customary bronze Angus statue blowing clouds of smoke from its mouth and lighting up its red horns and yellow eyes and emitting sparklers;
3. a huge inflated hooker hovering and dancing above the stage during "Whole Lotta Rosie";
4. Johnson dangling from the giant AC/DC bell's clapper, high above the crowd, during "Hell's Bells";
5. stage lighting so varied and powerful that at times the stage looked (and sounded) like an out-of-control 747 coming in low for a violent crash-landing;
6. the booming salutes from six cannons onstage during the encore of "For Those About to Rock, We Salute You";
7. multiscreen videos depicting copulating animals during "Shoot to Thrill";
8. Young's usual striptease act, culminating in his dropping trou to reveal American flag underwear; and
9. a paper shower from confetti cannons at the end. The kids (of all ages) loved it all.
Seeing an 8-year-old boy singing all the words to "Highway to Hell" while his dad swigged from a giant, $7 cup of beer and furiously played air guitar and his mom smiled contentedly at old rock and roll memories ah, that's the power of music to unite generations. The occasional cloud of marijuana smoke wafting through the crowd only underscored the fact that this band's music has spanned generations.
Young and Johnson very effectively used the runway that jutted out into the crowd from the stage to get close to the fans very fan-oriented band, this. Both frequently darted down the runway and Johnson grabbed his crotch to teen squeals and then shook hands with fans, reaching out to tousle a small boy's hair now and then. Teen girls in little AC/DC halter-tops held up a "We Want BIG BALLS" sign (asking for an AC/DC song they didn't get). Everyone had a very nice evening, and left the arena whooping and hollering.
If, as is the case with AC/DC, a rock band can no longer break new ground, it can at least be proud that it has paved its own road seamlessly.