For those about to suck (we salute you)
The first thing I want when I arrive at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on a warm summer’s night is a cold beer. This isn’t easy though. First you have to buy a drink token, which takes around twenty minutes, and then you have to wait in the queue at the bar, which I was reliably informed would take another forty-five. We get the tokens but decide to try and find another bar, walking down to the standing area in front of the massive stage on which AC/DC will perform in an hour’s time. At this point, though, the stage is occupied by something called The Subways, and the best thing I can say about them is that at least I now know to avoid them at all costs in the future. Looking at our surroundings for the first time, my immediate reaction is simple: too many people.
Anyway, AC/DC make their entrance with the aid of an introductory video of such vigorous sexism that it would have made the late Benny Hill blush. We see the AC/DC locomotive smash its way through many a suggestive tunnel as a cartoon Angus Young strokes his devil tail like a big cock. For a second it looks as though we’ve been taken for a ride as one of the two perky, buxom girls who are shovelling coal on the train’s engine punches animated Angus in the face… but moments later, the same girl seems to have forgiven his aggressive advances and offers a flirtatious dance in which she appears to suck a gear stick like a big cock. As you’ve probably gathered, there tends to be a lot of big cocks at an AC/DC show, and they haven’t even played a single note yet.
I missed the full-size, actual train smashing through the screens; my mind was elsewhere. I have no idea what the first song was either - I’ve already forgotten, which means it certainly wasn’t “For Those About To Rock” as I had hoped. I also haven’t a clue if they played it to any degree of accomplishment because it’s rather difficult to judge a performance when you’re standing about a quarter of a mile away and you can’t really hear it. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t audible, of course, rather that the whole thing was just a typical outdoor dirge.
I spent most of the time watching the band on the massive screens erected at either side of the stage, all the while thinking that I could do this at home and then at least I’d have the advantage of being able to hear what the fuck was going on. Thankfully, the sound had marginally improved by the time they played “Back In Black”, but I still found it difficult to connect to the gig in any way. The band certainly seemed perfectly functional and as professionally skillful as one would expect from a thirty-six-years-old outfit, and had I the energy or inclination to plow my way through several thousand fans to get closer to them, then I might have gotten into it. But when it comes to live music, physical distance clearly equals emotional distance in my mind, and I felt pretty cold throughout the entire show.
Even when I rushed back from the portable toilets to see the second half of one my favourites, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, I still felt a bit let down. According to those big screens, they played the song with all the verve and zeal that I could have wished for, but I was so far away that I might as well have been watching the gig on an old telly through a neighbour’s window. How the unfortunate punters who paid to sit down at an even further distance from the stage could get any enjoyment out of the experience is beyond me.
There were some typically overblown rock show antics too, of course, including a less than welcome striptease by Angus – he was wearing AC/DC underpants all along! – and a huge, inflatable woman with gargantuan knockers and banknotes in her fishnets who straddled the AC/DC locomotive for the entirety of “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Presumably this was the titular Rosie herself, and the highlight of the gig for me was when this hundred-foot inflatable woman began tapping her foot in time to her own classic anthem. There followed about half an hour of Angus playing an unaccompanied guitar solo atop a risible platform that shot a worrying amount of ticker tape into the immediate environment while pumping dry ice skywards. It was at this point that we made the decision to leave and go to the pub instead.
Had I known that the next number was going to be “Highway To Hell”, I would have hung around for another five minutes, but as I overheard them thump out their undeniable rock classic on the other side of the stadium walls I consoled myself with the knowledge that the original LP will always be on a shelf at home and will always sound better than the gig I’d just attended.
I’m truly disappointed that I couldn’t get into it – not least because it cost sixty quid – and there’s no doubt that I was in the minority. In fact, I may well have been the minority tonight. My first experience of a gig at Hampden Stadium was not a favourable one, and left me seriously considering selling the two tickets I’ve got for Bruce Springsteen at the same venue in a couple of weeks’ time. And I absolutely love Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps an afternoon in the pub before the show is required – it seemed to work for just about everyone else at AC/DC.