Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ten Metal Bands to See Before You Die: AC/DC

If AC/DC just sat there onstage while a tape played "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "T.N.T.," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Back in Black" and "Highway to Hell," they'd still earn consideration for this list. But as anyone who has seen The Who this century can tell you, playing great songs does not make you a great live band.

40 years into one of the most incredible careers in audio history, AC/DC are still claiming metal's greatest dancer, swinging from the clappers of Hell's Bells, giving us a Whole Lotta Rosie and leaving everything in their wake Thunderstruck. Getting had, getting took and telling folks it's harder than it looks.

By working their way into the 200 Million Sold club without ever deviating from the harder-than-hard rock formula that made them famous, AC/DC makes success look as easy as "The Jack." Then again, nobody has ever played those three chords with the kind of gleeful punch that Angus gives them, not to mention the wildman blues-metal freakout solo that often takes over "Let There Be Rock." The most famous Keith Richards quote about his guitars ("Give me five minutes and I'll make 'em all sound the same") can be applied to Angus Young. But give his admirers four decades, and none of them will sound like him.

No great guitarist this side of Prince has made his instrument such an enthralling part of his performance, without taking away from the playing. Watching Angus Young with a Gibson is akin to watching James Brown with a microphone stand. "I'm a rotten guitar player if I'm standing still," Angus has said, and while I don't believe it, you can tell that he does.

AC/DC does not have many of peers, but even the ones who come closest are put to shame by AC/DC's show. They're not pretending to like each other (Aerosmith, Van Halen,) physically ravaged by their decades of drug abuse (Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe) or dressing up their guitarist to look like the guy they kicked out (KISS, Guns N' Roses). AC/DC prefer to keep their drama beneath them, where it belongs. They continue to set examples for all younger artists, meaning nearly everyone, and meaning nobody who puts on a show like these guys do.

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