I’ll go ahead and skip the usual band introduction paragraph for this review, because, 1) I have already done it with my three other AC/DC concert DVD reviews, and, 2) if you are not already familiar with AC/DC, then you have probably been holed up in some cave in Afghanistan awaiting further orders from Bin Laden. Don’t hold your breath. Wait…do hold your breath. I will say one quick thing about AC/DC, though, it is goddam miraculous that these old Aussies are still going strong and putting on some of the most thrilling rock concerts in the business.
AC/DC’s Black Ice World Tour was my first opportunity to see this legendary band live, and I rate it right up there with some of the best rock concerts I have ever seen – and I have seen a lot. Live At River Plate brilliantly captures AC/DC’s three-night stand in December of 2009, at River Plate stadium, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during their world-conquering Black Ice World Tour. Black Ice was the band’s first album in eight years and it reached #1 in 29 different countries, including the United States. The tour featured 168 shows in 31 different countries, and lasted almost three years. It is now the third highest-grossing concert tour of all time.
A total of about 200,000 fans showed up for the three sold-out Buenos Aires shows to welcome AC/DC back to Argentina after a 13-year absence. And welcome them back they did! Typical of every concert DVD filmed in South America (see Rush – In Rio, and Megadeth – That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires for starts), these fans simply lose their collective minds during these concerts, jumping up and down and singing non-stop for the entire two-hour show. It’s got to be a bit of a letdown to play anywhere else in the world after playing in front of these insane crowds for a few nights.
I didn’t really know what to expect from these guys, seeing that they were all closing in on 60 years old (Brian Johnson was 61 at the time), and because they hadn’t toured since 2000/2001’s Stiff Upper Lip world tour. Well, this video will certainly drop-kick any doubts out of your puny skulls as to whether these balding rock gods can still deliver the goods. From the opening power chords of “Rock N Roll Train,” to the closing cannon blasts of “For Those About To Rock,” this band was more well-oiled than that big freight train that comes crashing through the back of the stage to open the show.
The opening sequence of this concert was one of the coolest I have ever seen. It begins with a hilarious animated video that has the boys riding on an out-of-control, “666 Express,” steam locomotive just before it crashes into a huge ball of flames at the end of the station line. As the smoke and fire and explosions begin to subside, a full-sized, steam-engine replica becomes prominently displayed at the back of the stage, as if it had came crashing through the back of the arena. And what better an excuse to open the show with “Rock N Roll Train,” from the new album. The song is an instant AC/DC classic.
OK, so the setlist is pretty much the same as their last few DVDs – what, are they not going to play “Back In Black,” “Whole Lotta Rosie,” “Hells Bells,” “Highway to Hell,” “T.N.T.” and “For Those About To Rock?,” – but they do also mix in four songs from the new album. I can understand the need for AC/DC to play all of the same classic songs every tour, but if they are going to film multiple nights for a new concert video, they could at least vary the setlists a bit each night to allow for a few more deep cuts to make the release.
I was amazed at the energy these guys displayed 10 years ago on the Stiff Upper Lip tour, and I am even more amazed at how they topped themselves on this latest tour. Brian Johnson still looks and sounds like he did 20 years ago, and Angus…well Angus is just a freak. For one, the guy moves non-stop, visiting every inch of the stage to give his fans an eyeful of his string-bending mastery. He must sweat off about 10 pounds every show – and that’s a lot when you only weigh about 90 pounds, soaking wet.
His extended guitar solo during “Let There Be Rock,” which he plays 20 feet above the crowd on a lift that rises out of the end of a long catwalk that extends nearly halfway out onto the stadium floor, is still a thing of beauty. Sure, Angus can be a bit sloppy at times, a la Jimmy Page, but his incredible vibrato, string bends, and ability to play a song within a solo, makes him one of the best rock guitar soloists in the business.
The BD version of Live At River Plate features three outstanding audio mixes; LPCM 2.0 Stereo, LPCM 5.1 Surround, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The bass is booming and every instrument is clear and distinct in the mix, with the guitars sounding like you are standing right in front of the Young brother’s amps. Just the right amount of crowd noise and live ambience is included to make you feel like you are in the front row at the show. Although the video was filmed in 1080p HD, some of the images are not as reference-quality sharp as some of the other BDs I have seen. That is not to say that this BD does not look great overall, but the picture can be on the soft side at times, probably due to the killer light show that was blaring down on the cameras all night.
Before picking up this BD, I had read a lot of negative reviews vilifying the camera work for it’s split-second camera-angle changes and excessive crowd shots, so I was a bit apprehensive going in. The good part is, it’s not quit as bad as some people made it out to be; the bad part is, it’s almost as bad as some people made it out to be. Acclaimed music video director David Mallet was at the helm for this one, and although he has done a fantastic job on several other concert DVDs that I own, he perhaps got a bit carried away with trying to capture the energy of the crowd and the excitement of the show, instead of just letting the performance speak for itself. Literally every other shot was of the crowd, and the cuts usually came every few seconds. I would have been much happier if he had just focused on that magnificent shot from the back of the arena that framed the entire stage.
One last thing to nitpick about. The concert-intro segment was nearly ruined by the director’s haphazard editing that cut the animated video down from almost three minutes to about one, while cutting back and forth every two seconds to other shots in the stadium. For the viewer to properly experience what it was like to see this intro segment live, he should have let the whole thing play while showing the entire stage. What’s an extra two minutes?
The Blu-ray contains a behind-the-scenes bonus feature entitled “The Fan, The Roadie, The Guitar Tech & The Meat,” that features some fan and band member interviews, along with some great footage of what goes into setting up such as large show. The full animated intro video is also included as a bonus feature.
Aside from the camera editing gripes, AC/DC Live At River Plate is still one of the best concert videos I have seen so far this year. The band is in remarkable form, and the show was all rock concert spectacle at its best. I’ll be frightened to see what these guys look like if they wait eight years for the next tour though.
01. Rock N Roll Train
02. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
03. Back In Black
04. Big Jack
06. Shot Down In Flames
08. Black Ice
09. The Jack
10. Hells Bells
11. Shoot To Thrill
12. War Machine
13. Dog Eat Dog
14. You Shook Me All Night Long
16. Whole Lotta Rosie
17. Let There Be Rock
18. Highway To Hell
19. For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
Performance – 9/10
Production – 9/10