Live At River Plate


Columbia, 2012

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Though I never actually watched an episode of Beavis And Butthead, I always thought it was fitting that one of the two lead characters on the show was constantly seen wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. Because let’s face it, if there was ever a band that could be described as a rock and roll cartoon, it’s these guys.

Four years after their latest return from semi-retirement, the guys have delivered their third official live album, and first since 1992.  Live At River Plate captures the quintet in Argentina on the worldwide tour that followed the release of 2008’s well-received Black Ice, and it’s everything you would expect it to be. This was a massive stadium tour and these songs are performed accordingly; everything is huge. The thing about AC/DC, though, is that while decades of stadium concerts has caused their music to swell to a massive scale, they’ve never veered from its essential simplicity: two guitars, bass, drums, voice. Period.

AC/DC lost a lot when original frontman Bon Scott passed away in 1980, as evidenced by the setlist here, which is still, more than three decades later, split roughly equally between the six years Scott was in the band and the 32 that “new guy” Brian Johnson has manned the mic. Johnson still has that gargoyle’s-croak voice, vocal cords more shredded than ever today, but he barks out these songs with gusto and the Young brothers, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd remain one of the tightest musical units in hard rock history.

The setlist for River Plate is right on target, if somewhat predictable. I’m sure the superfans would have appreciated a few more rarities, but in terms of what your average fan buying a ticket on this tour would have wanted to hear, the boys delivered it. You’ve got classics from the Bon Scott era (“Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be,” “The Jack,” “Let There Be Rock”), classics from the Johnson era (“Back In Black,” “Hells Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long”) and four tunes from the then-new album: opener “Rock And Roll Train,” “Black Ice,” “Big Jack” and “War Machine.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Is there anything truly new here, though? Other than those four new songs, not really. These are the same performances the group has been delivering for decades. That might sound like a knock, but it’s like the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  So, no surprises here, but there’s certainly a meaty slab of head-banging hard rock for AC/DC fans young and old.

The Argentinians fans, it must be said, are everything you might have hoped for after listening to/watching an album like Rush’s Rush In Rio (and yes, I know Argentina and Brazil are rivals and neighbors, but the enthusiasm of their rock fans is definitely something they have in common). “Thunderstruck” gets a huge roar from the crowd, but the response to “The Jack” is so over the top it’s almost hilarious, as the crowd sings the guitar chords (all three of them) over the opening, nearly drowning out the band. The raucous horde then proceeds to do the same for the opening chords of both “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Highway To Hell.”

A couple of other song notes. There’s nothing you can do but surrender to the propulsiveness of “Shoot To Thrill,” surely one of the more underappreciated tunes in the band’s catalog; it’s great to see it getting some attention with this fiery rendition. Only one word could possibly describe Angus Young’s solo on “Let There Be Rock”: ridiculous. Everywhere else he’s concise and precise; here he goes on and on and on. I honestly don’t know how Phil Rudd’s arms did not fall off at the shoulder after playing a nearly double-time backbeat for the better part of 11 minutes straight—and after he stops, Angus goes on for another six and half minutes completely solo!

The mostly forgettable two and a half decades between 1982 and 2008 are mostly forgotten here, other than well-received runs at “Thunderstruck,” “Dog Eat Dog” and probably the best song of that entire 27-year trudge, “Moneytalks.”

The boys close out the show with “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” surely one of the most overrated songs ever to hold down the closing slot at a stadium concert, but what’re you going to do? When a crowd this fervent wants cannons… you give them cannons.

If the Black Ice tour turns out to have been AC/DC’s last – Brain Johnson, among others, has threatened to retire before, and at 65, who can blame him – they could certainly do worse for a swan song. Live At River Plate shows a band that’s still able to deliver all the fire required to light up a stadium of rabid fans, a living, breathing, duckwalking, guitar-shredding rock and roll cartoon.

Rating: B

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© 2012 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.