Is Axl Rose having his best year ever?
The Guns N’ Roses tour that reunited him with Slash and Duff McKagan was an astounding success, both business-wise, grossing $112 million this summer, and musically. Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, fronting heavy metal legends AC/DC, Rose often looked as giddy as the schoolboy guitarist Angus Young still dressed as, smiling and bantering with the crowd amiably in a way that he rarely does with Guns N’ Roses.
“You getting warmed up?” Rose asked, before a stunning version of “Thunderstruck.” “We’ve been looking forward to this.”
Questions about how well Rose could handle the material were quickly answered, as he powerfully delivered classics like “Back in Black” and older cuts like “Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” that the band rarely has touched since original lead singer Bon Scott died in 1980.
However, make no mistake, Rose was not the focus of the “Rock or Bust” show. Young was.
Rose would settle into the background when he wasn’t singing, letting Young have the spotlight to himself.
AC/DC is in the midst of turbulent times. Singer Brian Johnson had to leave the tour to save his hearing, guitarist Malcolm Young left the band in 2014 because of dementia, drummer Phil Rudd was fired last year after being convicted of drug possession and making death threats, and bassist Cliff Williams has already said he would leave the band after this tour ends next week. But all that drama fades away when Young duck walks across the stage shaped like a guitar neck and those mammoth, unforgettable riffs start roaring out.
The current band — Rose, Williams, Young’s nephew Stevie Young on rhythm guitar and drummer Chris Slade — is strong, giving classics like “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” new swagger. While Rose’s voice would often climb higher than the originals, creating a more charged performance, Angus Young’s inventive guitar playing made nearly every song a thrill, even when he was using his necktie as a pick during “Sin City.”
No matter what the future may hold for AC/DC and Rose, their show at The Garden will be one to remember.
SET LIST: Rock or Bust /Shoot to Thrill / Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be / Back in Black / Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder / Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap / Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation /Thunderstruck / High Voltage / Rock ’n’ Roll Train / Hells Bells / Given the Dog a Bone / If You Want Blood (You Got It) / Live Wire / Sin City / You Shook Me All Night Long / Shot Down in Flames / Have a Drink On Me / T.N.T. / Whole Lotta Rosie / Let There Be Rock // ENCORE: Highway to Hell / Riff Raff / For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)