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AC/DC at the Forum, Monday, December 8Text By Falling James, photos by Timothy Norris
The once-fabulous Forum has clearly seen better days. Its curving, dark-gray walls look barren without the bright yellow Lakers championship banners and the retired numbers of such heroic former occupants as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, which were trucked over to Staples Center years ago. Anywhere you walked in the arena, on the senses-slamming closing night of AC/DC's two-night stand, the floors were coated with a disturbingly sticky substance, as if the ghost of Jack Kent Cooke had poured a gigantic cola through a hole in the Forum's roof. When singer Brian Johnson introduced a pulverizingly wicked version of "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" early in the set by saying, "This next song is perfect for this place," it wasn't clear if he was referring to dirty Los Angeles or the dirty Forum.
But they sure do crank it up in the old barn. The volume was almost palpable, with more warmth and physical impact than you get at Staples, and the mix was great -- punchy and loud, with guitars that were thick and fat instead of trebly and tinny. AC/DC are all about big gestures, and the gestures couldn't have been any more monumental, from the exploding fireballs during "T.N.T." to the six real cannons -- even louder than the band -- that served as well-timed percussive accents throughout the set-closing apocalypse of "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)."
A Macy's Parade-size stripper-hooker blowup doll, with ginormous self-inflating tits loomed over "Whole Lotta Rosie," mounting the giant smoking, wrecked locomotive (complete with requisite red devil horns) that was the stage's impressive backdrop. Singer Brian Johnson further shredded his already famously ravaged vocal cords on "Hell's Bells" while hanging from a giant bell suspended from the rafters.
While lead guitarist Angus Young didn't run all the way up to the top rows or moon the crowd like he did in his younger days, he was hardly the shy-and-retiring type: He whittled some deliciously juicy, amped-up blues solos while rising out of the crowd on a circular platform on "Let There Be Rock," and he stripped off the white shirt and dark-red velvet jacket and shorts of his schoolboy uniform on "The Jack," turning his back to the crowd and bending over mischievously . . . to reveal his briefs (flashing the requisite AC/DC logo, of course).
Following a sexy/sexist (in the finest Spinal Tap confusion of the words) and barely double-entendre animated video (in which devilish nymphettes fight with Angus over control of his shaft -- er, the one he's using to drive the train), the band emerged from the wreckage of the smoking locomotive to kick off the concert with "Rock N Roll Train," in case anybody didn't understand the symbolism. They rumbled through a good dose of other songs from their new CD, Black Ice (their strongest album in many, many years), mostly notably the propulsive "Big Jack," churning with wide-open, maxi-suspended Stones chords. Even lesser new songs like the idiotically apolitical "War Machine" (it's apparently more about foxy women soldiers than George Bush) sounded cathartically throttling and yet also sinuously sexy. The new lyrics use all the same old words -- "jack," "train" and, yes, "rock" (which is in the title of no less than four songs on the CD) -- but they're reassembled just randomly enough to result in inescapably catchy head-banging anthems.
It all starts with the trademark ringing chords of rhythm guitarist/band mastermind Malcolm Young before his brother Angus and singer Johnson can ravage things with their respective screeching sounds. Bassist Cliff Williams was laid back but firmly in control, and although drummer Phil Rudd rarely attempted anything even approaching a drum fill (which is so unlike most heavy-metal drummers), every time he smacked his snare with his long black sticks, it was a momentous blow and sounded like the crack of a rifle.
Long after AC/DC left the stage, the lights stayed blue and expectant -- still simmering murkily in the leftover smoke from the cannons-- even after the house lights finally came up, as if the band would have come out for a second encore. But the otherwise supportive crowd went away meekly in the end, without raising much of a fuss, physically exhausted from all the sonic assault.