For those about to rock, AC/DC’s No Bull is a great place to start. Recorded live at the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas bullfighting arena in Madrid, Spain, the DVD captures the band in the midst of their 1996 world tour in support of Ballbreaker, the album that featured the return of Phil Rudd to the drums. Director David Mallet was disappointed with the previous video release, which was rushed out that same year. Although why is not made clear, this new director’s cut won’t leave any fan disappointed.
AC/DC is an authentic rock ‘n’ roll band. They don’t receive the same recognition as their contemporaries because they weren’t trendsetters, but they epitomize the idiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You can trace what they do back to the 1950s. The music is louder and faster, but they are using the same template, singing about girls and rebellion. Even Angus’ duck walk is a nod back to his idol Chuck Berry who had a similar strut around the stage.
The concert opens with a wrecking ball knocking down a building on stage. Then Angus, clad in his traditional schoolboy uniform, runs out, and he and the band start playing the opening of “Back in Black.” I was surprised to see them start which such a classic song, but it makes clear immediately that the band is ready to have a rockin’ good time.
Brian Johnson’s vocals are stunning because it’s baffling that he can sing — no, make that scream — with such ferocity throughout the night. Most people would surely damage their vocal chords. What is most appreciated by AC/DC fans is that unlike some lead singers who are afraid of comparisons to earlier incarnations of their band, Johnson isn’t put off or intimidated by AC/DC’s history, so even though his tenure with the band is twice as long as previous singer Bon Scott, the setlist is filled with almost equal amounts of their material.
The star of AC/DC is Angus, who is always a spectacle to watch perform. It’s amazing that he can run all over and flail around yet continue to play the guitar so well. “Let There Be Rock” closes out the main set and during it he takes off backstage and zooms away on a golf cart to appear at the other end of the arena where a disc awaits to raise him up in front of those in the cheap seats. He returns to the main stage playing whilst riding on top of Johnson’s shoulders. Then later he runs up stairwells as his guitar sets off fireworks.
During the bluesy rocker “Boogie Man,” Angus goes on extended solo while the rhythm section plays along. It is here that he performs his traditional striptease to the crowd’s encouragement and delight. They have enthusiastically been into the concert from the get-go, more than happy to sing-along when required on songs like “Thunderstruck,” “The Jack,” “Whole Lotta Rosie,” and “T.N.T.” It is impressive to see so many on their feet and bouncing along to the music.
As the encore begins, the wrecking ball crashes to the stage. A cage rises from the crash containing a horned Angus and the band goes into their classic “Highway to Hell.” The evening is capped off with a rendition of “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” complete with cannons firing.
The 5.1 mix will shake your foundation as the music sounds very crisp and clear. Out the front center speaker is mainly Johnson’s vocal but Angus’ guitar appears during solos. The band pumps out the right and left front speakers and the low end sounds great pumping out the subwoofer. Crowd ambiance comes out of the surround speakers and puts the listener right in the middle of the show. It’s perfect to disturb your parents and neighbors.
Bonus features include “Angus-cam” versions of four songs that focus on Angus playing, so you get to see him in action throughout a song. There are rare tour performances of “Cover You In Oil” from Sweden intercut with video of scantily clad female mechanics getting covered in oil and “Down Payment Blues” from Florida. They weren’t recorded in high def or presented in 5.1, but are worth seeing.
If you don’t have a good time watching No Bull, you might be incapable of having a good time.