Axl Rose Capably Leads AC/DC's Triumphant Return to Town

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Earlier this year, AC/DC singer Brian Johnson had to leave the band’s U.S. tour after being advised by doctors that he risked total hearing loss if he continued to perform live.

The group courted controversy when it recruited Guns 'N’ Roses singer Axl Rose to take his place; purists objected to the band’s decision to continue the tour without Johnson.

And yet, Rose, who admittedly had his hands full with a GNR reunion, seemed like an appropriate choice. He’s got one of rock’s most potent voices and the blues-based hard rock band certainly appears to have influenced GNR.

When Rose walked onto the stage last night at Quicken Loans Arena, he appeared to be an odd fit. Decked out in torn jeans, cowboy boots and a tight-fitting black T-shirt, he looked like he stole a few items out of Neil Young’s wardrobe. But the singer capably conducted himself from the start, effectively screeching his way through “Rock or Bust,” the title track from the band’s 2014 album. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Rose even seemed to borrow some of Johnson’s mannerisms, prowling the stage with a measured intensity and gesturing calmly with his hands as he belted out lyrics about death and damnation. He even stepped aside on numerous occasions to let diminutive guitarist Angus Young, decked out in a bright blue velvet schoolboy outfit, skip his way to the front of the stage to deliver riff after memorable riff of crunchy power chords. Sometimes, he'd just hang out by the drum kit, stomping his feet and playing air drums along to the tunes. He often appeared to be having as much fun as the fans that filled about three quarters of the arena.

Early on, Rose and Co. delivered a litany of hits, including “Back in Black,” “Thunderstruck” and “High Voltage.” Rose sounded appropriately demented in tunes such as “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” and “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap),” appropriately playing up the latter’s spoken word section like he was some kind of serial killer who takes a little too much pleasure in instruments of torture. And the band delivered "Hells Bells" with a giant bell dramatically swinging from the rafters above the stage.

Rose appeared to be in a good mood too. He dropped a “Hello Cleveland” early in the two-and-a-half-hour set and joked that he wanted to dedicate “You Shook Me All Night Long” to a “future ex-wife.” The set closing “Let There Be Rock” concluded with an extended Angus Young guitar solo that went on for so long (and found Young writhing on the stage floor as he continued to jam), it appeared to even give Rose time to go backstage and shower before he returned for the song’s final notes.

The epic concert’s encore included renditions of “Highway to Hell,” “Riff Raff” and “For Those About to Rock.” At a time when arena rock acts are hard to come by, these Rock Hall inductees, playing their first Cleveland show since 2009, proved once again that they’re capable of delivering a high voltage show. 

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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