Axl Rose is to replace Brian Johnston as AC/DC’s chief shouter in a move that has caused the sort of Earth-shattering consternation amongst the chattering classes not witnessed since the producers of “Call The Midwife” controversially staged a scene where someone was slightly rude to someone else.
There’s no truth to the rumours that new AC/DC / Axl Rose songs have been written, including “Ain’t No Fun Waiting Around To Watch A Millionaire”, “(I’ve Just Missed My Last) Rock n Roll Train” and “You Kept Me Waiting All Night Long”.
But why the fuss?
I have tickets to see AC/DC at the Olympic Stadium in June and I am delighted at the news.
I bought tickets for my 10 year old son – his first ever gig – as a Christmas present (for him, honest) as I thought this would probably be the last chance either of us would get to see AC/DC live. (I have seen both AC/DC and Guns n Roses before, but he hasn’t).
As it turns out we now have a unique chance to see one of rock’s greatest frontmen with one of rock’s greatest bands.
Here’s five reasons why this is fantastic news.
1. Given Malcolm’s illness, this is surely a last hurrah. Having Axl onstage is a fine send-off. It isn’t forever.
But if these are to be AC/DC’s last shows, then I don’t want to see the fella from Rhino Bucket or Krokus, as much as they might do a great Bon Scott impression. I want to see one of Rock’s Greatest Frontmen (as Axl surely is) chisel his own unique and charismatic style on rock’s most impermeable unit.
More selfishly, it’s also more interesting for me, as my memories of a vibrant Brian Johnson on the Blow Up Your Video and Razor’s Edge tours will remain intact.
Rather than seeing the last few shows of a limping, contractually bound, Malcolm-free AC/DC, we will see a fresh new version of the band.
2. The set list may have a long overdue revamp, with Axl doubtless having a view on which songs he’d like to sing – and this will bring a freshness to AC/DC’s shows. For example: Axl sang “Riff Raff” at the Coachella Festival when Angus Young joined Guns n Roses onstage this weekend. The Powerage classic has long been missing from Brian Johnson era AC/DC concerts: Setlist.fm lists just three plays in the 36 years since Bon Scott died. Having Riff Raff returned to the set list is worth the entry price alone.
3. Only Angus Young is irreplaceable. We have known for more than 25 years that even Malcolm might not be missed on tour: Stevie Young was a stand-in in the late eighties whilst Malcolm took time off.
I saw AC/DC around then – both Angus and Brian are not quite as energetic as they used to be, whereas when I last saw Axl, at Hammersmith Odeon with GnR a decade ago, he had plenty of fire in his belly, even if he didn’t go onstage until after 11pm. He is, in some ways, an upgrade on Brian.
But replace Angus? Put it this way: you really wouldn’t want to see Steve Vai or Yngwie J. Malmsteen wearing a school uniform onstage….
4. Axl is doing this for the right reasons.
Being AC/DC’s singer is the greatest job in rock n roll. Who wouldn’t want to sing alongside Angus Young in full spasm? Guns n Roses used to cover Whole Lotta Rosie in their early years – the London Marquee shows being one example, so we know he’s a fan. And he’s about to launch a new Guns n Roses tour which has already sold out, so it’s not as though he needs the publicity. We can therefore conclude he’s living out a lifelong dream.
Wouldn’t you in his shoes?
5. It’s not the first time a band has replaced a singer. We’ve all been here before and survived. David Coverdale replaced Ian Gillan in Deep Purple and Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath. Dio was replaced by Gillan in Sabbath and by Graham Bonnet in Rainbow, who was replaced by Joe Lynn Turner, who also replaced Gillan in Deep Purple in the eighties. For any more examples, you’ll need a copy of Pete Frame’s Rock Family Tree and a degree in in-band fighting…
So there’s been a lot of replacing of singers generally. Even The Replacements replaced members of their band.
So I shall be there in June, genuinely excited about seeing AC/DC with Axl.
It is probably going to be their last ever tour in the UK. It’s probably going to be brilliant.
Just as long as he turns up on time….
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