What exactly do you want from a live recording? Surely the two don’t mix, you can never replicate actually being there, the smells and sounds, the pushing and pulling, the tension before the lights go down, the release when they go up. Then there’s the overpriced food, the bad view-a bands off night?
Clearly there are advantages and disadvantages, but the best part of live recordings is being able to experience the best a band has to offer without leaving your front room.
If you had to choose a band that only tours large venues, with a back catalogue to die for and more than a passing interest on putting on a show then AC/DC really do stand out.
17 Years ago ‘DC headlined the Monsters of rock festival at Castle Donnington, the VHS release that followed showed how tight and well organised they were, hardened through decades of touring and playing no frills rock. It spawned a double-cd and is widely believed to be one of the best performances at the now hallowed ground.
Instantly comfortable with the big show, and always with one mischievous eye for a spectacle AC/DC came back with the ‘Ball breaker’ album and subsequent tour-’No bull’ represents one show during that tour at the Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas bullfighting arena in Madrid, Spain.
Which came first though, the pun ‘No bull’ or deciding to play a massive bull ring?, from the opening footage it’s clear the quality of the venue was obviously the deciding factor as it’s easily full to brimming with Spaniards, all sweating and jostling for a view of what is basically a gigantic crane and wrecking ball.
Back in the ‘Heatseeker’ days AC/DC used to come out on a missile, during ‘Who made who’ dozens of Angus’ appeared all over the stage-even in the Bon Scott days Bon used to come on stage as a vicar and Angus would appear from a phone box. It’s this flair for entertainment and tongue-in-cheek vibe that permeates the entire night.
Then the ball swings back and forth, destroying the scenery and allowing Angus as always, adorned in school uniform to stand atop before launching into ‘Back in black’, it’s like someone has let several bulls loose in the arena, such is the effect of one of rock’s most enduring riffs.
Despite running into two hours AC/DC still have a tough time squeezing all the classics in one set, the one-two punch of ‘Thunderstruck’ and ‘Girls got rhythm’ personifies the timelessness of the material as both come from both ends of their musical history.
Even new songs like ‘Boogie man’ and ‘Hail Caesar’ drink shoulder to shoulder with the old guard, AC/DC can really only allow one or two new songs to creep in and they represent Ball breakers best moments.
Turning the entire plaza into a sweaty club when AC/DC get right down to business ‘Hells Bells’ and ‘You shook me (All night long)’ simply are some of the best rock songs ever written and to perform them with anything less than absolute conviction would be insulting-it’s a relief then that Angus head bangs himself into punch drunkenness throughout the songs duration-in fact through the entire concerts length, save for the now obligatory stripping during ‘Boogie man’
Drummer Phil Rudd, now back in the fold after a lengthy absence alongside bassist Cliff Williams are sometimes the unsung heroes of the DC’ providing a platform for Brian to move and Angus to weave; but if you listen to the perfectly crafted backing it has absolutely no fat on whatsoever and is the very height and tasteful in the pocket playing, although they would probably punch you at the after show if you ever told them that.
The real secret is Malcolm, one of the key songwriters, the creative spark and the engine, he represents an enormous amount of the group-you only have to listen to ‘Shoot to thrill’ and Whole lotta Rosie’ to understand how to write riff and make them stick; standing eternally left, occasionally moving forward; without him it just wouldn’t work.
But tonight’s main focal points are undoubtably Angus, with Brian peeking from behind every so often, and taking centre stage with the giant bell and riding astride a massive wrecking ball when the evening strays anything near mundane.
When eventually the big guns come out, literally with ‘For those about to rock… we salute you’ (Surely someone has said that before) AC/DC have proved like they have time and time again that quality will always be in fashion and a good song is a good tune forever, leave the categorization to HMV and simply enjoy one of the worlds best rock n roll bands on sublime form.
That’s not the end of the story though, merely the beginning as this concert was originally released on VHS back in 1996 so why the review now?-well this is a reissue y’see-the directors cut, with additional footage and the ‘Angus’ cam.
If you want to know all the technical accomplishments and improvements then you need to be on an entirely different site, music fans will get the most from two live bonus tracks ‘Cover you in oil’ (Surprisingly about painting someone-seriously) and a perennial favourite that almost never gets played ‘Down payment blues’ here compete and performed with just as much enthusiasm as the whole live show. The ‘Angus cam’ is obviously a novelty, but in practice offers a very unique perspective and is much like a gym session-after one song you start to appreciate what the guitarist does every night. All this capped with and obligatory saucy lady on a mechanical bull as you navigate the menus.
‘No bull’ is destined to be on heavy rotation on the television screens of rock and bikers pubs the world over-the owners being sure that the set list will be ingrained into every patrons memory and each track welcomed like an old friend; and It’s a fate Angus and company would be more than happy with.