Oh AC/DC - the eternal, unchanging, ever dependable. After going into hibernation following the Stiff Upper Lip world tour nobody, including the band themselves, seemed to know if there was ever going to be a new AC/DC album. It took its time but there it was in the end, Black Ice. More of the same ol', obviously, everybody still seemed to be in shape to deliver.
But to deliver on stage is a whole different deal, especially when it's a bunch of old farts still trying to rock out like youngsters. The major concern at least for me was Brian Johnson's voice, after all his style of singing, ahem, vocalizing ("If you want a singer, go check out the local church choir" is a quote of his that's stuck with me for years) is one that will easily blow the vocal chords to shreds. Maybe it was the years of rest his voice got, but here he's just as good as he ever was. And thankfully that goes for the entire group. AC/DC's never been so much about tempo and dexterity as about groove and badassery, and those are qualities that age doesn't tend to hinder, though it's understandable that they're not quite as reckless and dangerous as the band that recorded If You Want Blood.
As far as the setlist goes, it's hard for AC/DC to squeeze any new material among the countless classics they just have to play every night (as evidenced by them playing only one Stiff Upper Lip song on many of the nights on that tour), but here they manage to play four. Now when it comes to studio albums AC/DC The Relevant Recording Artist sort of ends for me after Flick of the Switch, but from this newest batch especially Rock 'N' Roll Train and Big Jack don't stand out too badly. The rest of it is pure Greatest Hits material, but since it's been 20 years since the last live album, it's okay to get new versions of the same songs.
I saw AC/DC on the Black Ice tour, and by seeing I mean that I was drinking beer with buddies at the back of the Olympic Stadium, a hundred metres from the stage, barely catching a glimpse of Angus Young's bare arse. And I had a blast. I've since held the opinion that AC/DC is the ultimate party band, because if a tightass like me who has never before or never since gone to a rock show for anything else than the music and the music only thinks it was completely sensible to spend 80 euros on the ticket and several more on beer without even bothering to watch the band play, there's something in it that nobody else has.
This release does a fine job capturing that something. It's AC/DC, it's live, and they've still got it.