Aftermath suspected AC/DC's return to Toyota Center might be a little similar to the ageless Aussies' December 2008 Black Ice tour stop here because, well, we cheated and looked up set lists from the band's Oklahoma City, Dallas and Austin stops last week on setlist.fm. Lo and behold, we were right. Sunday night, we saw the same songs (save two), the same borderline pornographic cartoon introduction, the same wrecked-locomotive stage set (and same train-straddling inflatable stripper) and the same eye-popping pyro. The band was even wearing the same stage clothes. We thought maybe guitarist Angus Young might have been wearing a maroon schoolboy outfit last year, but nope - we went back and checked, and it was blue. Most of all, though, we saw the same rock and roll train that ran over everything in its path. But with an additional 11 months of touring underneath their belts, AC/DC was looser, tighter and even more devastating. We thought about just writing the same review as last year, but instead here's a song-by-song account of what was going through our minds as AC/DC thunderstruck the nearly full arena.
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Rock N Roll Train: Some upper-deck seats are empty. That's the only difference I can tell so far. Singer Brian Johnson: "We just had to come back." Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be: Johnson is wiggling around the catwalk/stage like your drunk uncle at a family reunion. Back In Black: I think they managed to knock me out of this Xanax fog I've been in all day. Malcolm Young [rhythm guitar], Cliff Williams [bass] and Phil Rudd [drums] might as well be at Rudyard's, as close as they're standing to each other. Brian manages to make it seem like no one here is having more fun than he is - no mean feat. Big Jack: New song, same old question: Which piece of industrial machinery does this remind me of the most? Steam shovel? Dump truck? Backhoe? Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: I bet one person out of three is wearing some kind of AC/DC merch - blinking devil horns, T-shirts, ties(!), etc. I wonder if Angus duck-walks from his living room to the fridge whenever he needs a beer. Shot Down In Flames: There must be something wrong with this song - I didn't recognize it in the first three notes. There's probably just something wrong with me. Girl next to me: "Are you a reporter?" Yes. "But you have to enjoy it a little bit, right?" Yes. A little. This happens almost every show, especially at Toyota Center.
Thunderstruck: Big-screen close-up of Angus' fingers on the fretboard. Brian: "In Texas, we had some fun." Yes we did. As much as the crowd is gyrating and fist-pumping, how does AC/DC not have its own workout video by now? They could make a(nother) fortune. I think I realize what their secret is: Phil Rudd's drumsticks are actually billy clubs. Screw Xanax - rock is still the best antidepressant there is. Black Ice: Ah, their ZZ Top tribute song. If these two bands toured together, would it be as apocalyptic as 2012? The next morning, yes. The Jack: Brian: "We're going to do a song about a dirty woman, so dirty she make a grown man cry." Women that aren't dirty make this grown man cry. Brian, on Angus: "This boy's got the devil in his fingers and the blues in his soul." That, at least, is true and getting truer by the minute. The ladies on the video screen don't seem all that dirty, but someone should tell them "The Jack" doesn't mean "backstage pass." Well, it kind of does. Here comes Angus' striptease - sweet Lord, his family must be so proud. Same AC/DC boxers as last year, too. Hell's Bells: Does this make Angus the Quasimodo of classic rock? How many roadies does it take to get those big bells on and offstage, let alone hang them from the rafters? Shoot to Thrill: This riff is like snakebite. I lost the number for poison control. They pulled the trigger all right. Brian: "That's rock and roll right there. Just let it ease on through you. I love this shit, man." He's not alone. War Machine: New song. Music has been motivating people to kill for thousands of years. Why do I think the only way someone would ever be killed by listening to AC/DC would be in a drunk-driving accident? Has that train backdrop always had horns?
Dog Eat Dog: Huh? Do not recognize this at all, except it's the same basic riff as "Shoot to Thrill" and "A Touch Too Much." [Note: It's from 1977's Let There Be Rock.] Plus howling from Brian. Still, maybe the song I'd shoot into space on the Mars Rover to explain to aliens what pure badass rock and roll sounds like. Because these next songs would just be too obvious... You Shook Me All Night Long: Yep. TNT: Mm-hmm. With pyro. Whole Lotta Rosie: Uh-huh. She's going to puncture one of those gigantic inflatable breasts on the train's devil horns if the band rocks much harder. Or crush Malcolm, Phil and Cliff if that boot's guide wire gives way. [After] Jesus Christ, that was stiff. That's what she said. Let There Be Rock: And on the seventh day, there was rock. A lot of rock. And it was good. Very good. And nobody - least of all Angus, who unleashed a six, seven or eight-minute solo (we lost count) - rested. Ended in more confetti than the Yankees' World Series parade. A ballroom blitz that's anything but Sweet. Aftermath cut bait after that, skipping encores "Highway to Hell" and "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)." We're already far enough down the highway to hell that we weren't especially in the mood to be reminded, and if we stayed much longer the cannons of "About to Rock" would still be going off in our skulls this morning. But you get the idea. Bravo, boys. Come back anytime. Special thanks to Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle for graciously giving Aftermath his extra ticket after our review request was turned down by AC/DC's management. Evidently they think one Rocks Off review of the Black Ice tour is plenty, but we'd rather let our readers be the judge of that.