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AC/DC, ‘Live at River Plate’ — Album Review

AC/DC
Columbia Records

When you get right down to it, AC/DC might be the most reliable band on the planet. In 40 years, they never once challenged fans with anything other than straight-up, uncomplicated rock ‘n’ roll played with fuss-free intensity. They never made a concept album. They never dabbled in pop, R&B, hip-hop or electronic music. And they never swerved from their playbook of barroom-meets-arena swagger dosed with a shot of heavy blues.

So there are no surprises on ‘Live at River Plate,’ their third concert album and first since 1992’s ‘Live.’ The 19 songs on the two-disc album are a mix of old favorites (‘Back in Black,’ ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’), a few cuts from their most recent album, 2008’s ‘Black Ice’ (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Train,’ ‘Big Jack’) and those AC/DC songs that work only onstage (a 10-minute version of ‘The Jack,’ 18 minutes of ‘Let There Be Rock’).

‘Live at River Plate’ was recorded in Buenos Aires over three nights in 2009 during the Black Ice World Tour. The shows marked AC/DC’s first appearance there in more than a dozen years, so the audience sounds appropriately pumped. The band, already on the road more than a year by this point, had perfected their set, which pretty much included the same songs every night.

Not that there was much to be perfected in the first place. An AC/DC concert is not a Bruce Springsteen concert. Most of the songs sound like their studio versions, right down to singer Brian Johnson’s tossed-off howls and grunts. So songs like ‘Thunderstruck’ sound great — sharp, exact and free of any signs of age. (They were also included on 2011’s live DVD, which also featured some behind-the-scenes footage.)

It’s a crowd-pleasing set filled with the familiar and predictable. Of course they’re going to play ‘Highway to Hell.’ And of course you’ll hear ‘Whole Lotta Rosie.’ And of course they’ll end with a literally explosive ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).’ You know what you’re getting with ‘Live at River Plate,’ which makes it as disposable as it is dependable.

Next: Top 10 AC/DC Songs

 

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