July 20, 2024

The impossible return of AC/DC: ‘You could feel the electricity in the air’

At the end of an AC/DC show, Angus Young has a routine. After a couple of hours of perpetual motion in his schoolboy outfit, he heads straight for the shower and then, because he hasn’t been able to eat since noon – you can’t do an AC/DC show on a full stomach – he looks for food. “The first thing that enters my head is: I’m starving.”

When he left the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on 20 September 2016 – the last night of the Rock or Bust tour – he might have been running through that routine for the last time in the band’s then 43-year history. The final 23 shows had been completed with Axl Rose as singer (brilliantly, it must be said), after hearing problems had forced Brian Johnson to retire from the road; he could no longer find his pitch onstage, and every show made his hearing worse. That summer, their bassist Cliff Williams had said he, too, would be leaving the band.

The impossible return of AC/DC: 'You could feel the electricity in the air'  | AC/DC | The Guardian

Drummer Phil Rudd, the longest-serving member bar Young, had not even made it on to the tour, after getting himself involved in what Young had called “a bit of a pickle”: pleading guilty in a New Zealand court to charges of threatening to kill his personal assistant, plus possession of methamphetamine and cannabis. Angus’s brother Malcolm – the band’s de facto leader – had already left, owing to dementia, to be replaced by their nephew Stevie. Little more than a year after that final show, Malcolm was dead.

So when, in September 2018, photos emerged of AC/DC – including Johnson, Williams and Rudd – together at a Vancouver studio, it seemed miraculous. Johnson, his hearing now much better thanks to what he calls a pair of “prosthetic eardrums”, agrees. “It just shows the resilience and the bond that exists between us. We walked into the studio, and you could feel the electricity in the air. And, of course, Malcolm was there. He was there in such a strong spirit that it was palpable. I think everybody could feel it.”

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