AC/DC Silences the Critics in Buffalo

By on September 12, 2016


Brian Johnson & Angus Young (Mark MacGauley Photography)

Axl Rose & Angus Young (Mark McGauley Photography)

When the Rock or Bust World Tour was halted last March due to singer Brian Johnson’s hearing loss, AC/DC fans feared for the worst. A total of 10 shows in the U.S. were postponed instead of canceled, giving fans some hope that the singer would return to the road once he was able to. Shortly after the news, rumors started flying around the Internet that AC/DC was not waiting for Johnson to be medically cleared, but instead looking for a replacement for him. There was speculation about whether the band could get someone to respectfully replace Johnson, if that was even possible. Brian Johnson, who replaced singer Bon Scott after his death in 1980, had been in the band ever since and die-hard fans did not want to see him replaced at all.

Angus Young & Cliff Williams (Mark McGauley Photography)

Angus Young & Cliff Williams (Mark McGauley Photography)

On April, 16th of this year, the news broke that Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose was going to be the guest vocalist for the upcoming dates that remained on the Rock or Bust World Tour. When this was officially confirmed, fans weren’t exactly happy. Some of the European fans boycotted the shows and thousands of tickets were returned because they didn’t want to see AC/DC without Brian Johnson. Regardless of ticket refunds and people refusing to support the new lineup, the shows in Europe sold well. When the tour resumed in Lisbon, Portugal, reviews of the show were quite positive. That seemed to be the case for the remaining shows in Europe before Axl did his Guns N’ Roses tour back in the U.S. that cashed in over $117 million dollars and sold more than one million tickets.

Angus Young (Mark McGauley Photography)

Angus Young (Mark McGauley Photography)

After the Guns N’ Roses tour wrapped up, Axl and AC/DC were ready to finish their 10 remaining dates in the States. On Sunday, September 11th, AC/DC came back to Buffalo, NY, for a show at the First Niagara Center. The arena wasn’t completely sold-out, but looking around after opener Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown played, the only available seats seemed to be way up in the 300 section of the arena. For a tour that took such backlash just months earlier, fans certainly still came to see the show in Buffalo.

Tyler Bryant (Mark MacGauley Photography)

Tyler Bryant (Mark McGauley Photography)

Before fans got to judge Axl’s performance for themselves, they got to watch Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown for a while. This young band out of Nashville, Tennessee brought a hard rock and blues feel to the arena. Singer Tyler Bryant, who is just 25 years old, commanded the stage like any long-time artist would. Although they had a short setlist, it’s certain that the people who stood and watched Bryant and his band play, saw and heard the incredible potential they have to one day make it big.

Graham Whitford (Mark MacGauley Photography)

Graham Whitford (Mark McGauley Photography)

Shortly before 9pm, the house lights dimmed and flashing red devil horns illuminated the First Niagara Center. The show started with an animated video on the screen underneath the giant AC/DC arc over the stage. As the video ended, firework blasts went off and the band kicked off the night with “Rock or Bust.” From the get go, everyone could tell they did the right thing by coming to the show. Not only did Axl Rose sound simply amazing, but also the rest of the band came together perfectly. Even though Rose is in the spotlight most of the time with Guns N’ Roses, he definitely takes a step back in AC/DC and lets guitarist Angus Young steal the show.

The night proceeded with all the typical bells and whistles that AC/DC fans would expect. The group also stuck with the usual setlist for this leg of the tour. For fans that don’t look at the setlist ahead of time, they were in for a treat. With the addition of Axl Rose, AC/DC is now playing longer sets than they did with Brian Johnson. Along with playing more songs, they’re also digging into their older catalog and playing songs that haven’t been performed live in quite some time.

Brian Johnson (Mark MacGauley Photography)

 (Mark McGauley Photography)

All throughout the night it seemed like all eyes were on Angus and all ears were on Axl. All credit can’t be given to Axl and Angus though, as bassist Cliff Williams, rhythm guitarist Stevie Young and drummer Chris Slade all did their parts. Cliff Williams, who’s set to retire after the tour looks and sounds like he could continue with the band for as long as Angus wants to go for. Unfortunately though, Williams feels like it’s time to step down after the recent lineup changes which not only include Brian Johnson, but Malcolm Young and Phil Rudd. Some fans at the show may not have known, but Stevie Young, who’s Malcolm’s nephew, filled in for Malcolm due to Malcolm’s recent health issues. Also, drummer Chris Slade rejoined the band, which he was a part of from 1989-1994, to take over for Phil Rudd who’s been battling a slew of legal issues. Both, Slade and Stevie Young stepped up to the plate like Axl has and brought a serious boost of energy to AC/DC.

Brian Johnson (Mark McGauley Photography)

 (Mark McGauley Photography)

The band performed all its classic hits such as “Back in Black,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and “Thunderstruck.” As expected, a giant AC/DC bell descended from above the stage swaying back and forth at the start of “Hells Bells.” After hearing Axl sing the hits, it was clear he had the voice for it and can knock it out of the park. Everything from the high notes to the low notes, Axl handled them with ease. Some of the “new” songs the band is performing with Axl now are, “Rock and Roll Damnation,” “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It),” “Live Wire,” and “Riff Raff,” which is part of the encore. Any Guns N’ Roses fans knows that Axl typically throws a cover or two in his sets when singing with Guns. Some of the songs they’ve covered before are “Whole Lotta Rosie” and “Riff Raff.” Now those songs that Axl once covered are being performed alongside AC/DC which must be incredible from Axl’s standpoint.

Brain Johnson (Mark McGauley Photography)

 (Mark McGauley Photography)

The highlight of the show belonged to Angus Young during “Let There Be Rock.” Just as the previous Black Ice Tour, the end of the runway featured a hydraulic lift that brought Angus even higher above the crowd while he performed an extended solo. While in the air, the confetti cannons filled the air First Niagara Center. After the solo was done, Angus had more for the crowd. The encore started out with “Highway to Hell.” At the start of the song, Angus emerged from a trap door in the middle of the stage while the entire arena was dark with a red fog ambiance. The band joined Angus shortly after on stage along with a wall of pyro that blasted over the top of the wall of amplifiers. This was one of the many songs of the night where the crowd could take over singing duties for Axl because everyone in the arena, all ages included, knew the words.

Angus Young (Mark McGauley Photography)

Angus Young (Mark McGauley Photography)

The second song of the encore was “Riff Raff.” Unbelievably after 2 hours of performing, Angus still had some energy left. The 61 year old ran, slid and jumped around on stage all night, showing up most musicians less than half his age. The night ended with the iconic AC/DC cannons on stage for “For Those About to Rock.” Although the final encore song was expected and certainly wasn’t anything new, it never gets old and this time it was a new voice. As the show ended, it felt that the band was still able to do another handful of songs, even if Angus was a sweaty mess. It was an incredible to see an iconic classic rock band play as long as they did when bands half their age can only do a 16 songs set.

Brian Johnson (Mark McGauley Photography)

(Mark McGauley Photography)

All in all, the addition of Axl Rose in AC/DC has definitely brought a new spark to the band. His vocal range and showmanship are a perfect fit in the group. The questions whether or not Axl Rose could fill the void left by Brian Johnson were answered after Sunday night. The answer to those questions is, absolutely without a doubt. Fans left the First Niagara Center impressed and blown away, even some of the biggest critics. Those who don’t believe that Axl Rose can continue with both Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC should do themselves a favor and catch one of the final shows in the United States or wait to see if there’s a next time. Watching clips of the shows on YouTube won’t cut it, this is a show that fans need to see and hear live in person.


AC/DC Setlist:

  1. Rock or Bust

  2. Shoot to Thrill

  3. Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be

  4. Back in Black

  5. Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder

  6. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

  7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation

  8. Thunderstruck

  9. High Voltage

  10. Rock ‘n’ Roll Train

  11. Hells Bells

  12. Given the Dog a Bone

  13. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)

  14. Live Wire

  15. Sin City

  16. You Shook Me All Night Long

  17. Shot Down in Flames

  18. Have a Drink on Me

  19. T.N.T

  20. Whole Lotta Rosie

  21. Let There Be Rock

  22. Highway to Hell

  23. Riff Raff

  24. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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