It’s fitting that one of the oldest bands from the hard rock genre should release their first live album in 20 years, just as the commercially significant decision to allow their back catalogue to be sold on iTunes. Note to the “youngsters” who read this “go back” and check out the rest of AC/DC’s stuff, it’s brilliant. “Live at River Plate” is no different.
Not that they would need to check out too much more, AC/DC deliver a hell of a package at this concert. Recorded in 2009 from Buenos Aires and captured for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the same name in May 2011.
It’s a shrewd move staggering the release like this, rather than an overpriced boxset (*cough* Metallica *cough*), but one that certainly looks set to pay dividends. One big question remains though – is it actually any good?
Of course it is! It’s AC/DC! When are they ever not good, I hear you cry and, to be honest, you’re pretty much right on the money.
Opening with ‘Rock and Roll Train’, from the “Black Ice” album which the band were touring to support. From this point on the riffs just keep coming, with classic rock hit after classic rock hit, plus the inclusion of a few other choice cuts from “Black Ice”. The fact that these new(ish) songs are included in the set speaks a lot about the album’s success. Previous live release “Stiff Upper Lip” only had the title track showcased but, “Live At River Plate” includes live renditions of ‘Rock and Roll Train’, ‘Big Jack’, ‘War Machine’, and ‘Black Ice’, all of which fit neatly in with the tried and tested songs that make up the rest of the band’s set.
It’s nearly impossible to count just how many classic rock hits AC/DC have had over their 39 year career, but it shows the strength of their set when they can play ‘Back in Black’ as the third song in and nobody missed it later. Brian Johnson’s voice sounds more on point than most of the singers half his age, while the rhythm section of Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd maintain a tightness rarely seen outside of duck’s… well, you get the point.
Angus Young plays exactly like you would expect Angus Young to play and the CD does manage to capture the excitement of a live show, which brings me to my only issue with this release. It seems that in an attempt to really capture the moment, there hasn’t been any thought to how it may come across for someone just listening to it, say, in the car. Those who have been to see this colossal band live know the fun of Angus doing his strip routine in the middle of ‘The Jack’ and/or the extended guitar solo complete with audience goading and rising platforms during ‘Let There Be Rock’. Unfortunately, when you are listening to a CD that moment isn’t quite there with you and these become just very long tracks (10 and 18 minutes respectively), when they could have been edited down like the live version of ‘Running Free’ by Iron Maiden that can be found on the “Best of the Beast” compilation (and probably all the other 35 greatest hits releases they’ve had since not that there is anything wrong with this mind you).
That said this is, for all intents and purposes a great live record and even includes an old forgotten classic, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, from the “Let There Be Rock” album, but personally I would rather stick the Blu-Ray on my Christmas list.