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November 27, 2014

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AC/DC still bringing out the (flashing) devil in us all

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Justin M. Bowen

AC/DC performs at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 9, 2010.

The devils’ horns illuminate, they are battery powered, and the lights flash at variable speeds. There is a very fast speed, and a somewhat slower speed. And there is no speed, which allows for only the unbroken, glowing red light to beam from your skull.

These little headpieces cost $15 apiece, which was once the cost of an AC/DC concert ticket and thousands among the sellout crowd of 13,550 are wearing them to see the band at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It is a devil of a time. Let’s spend a night with AC/DC as the ringing in my ears assures me that I will never be truly alone:

Waiting in line, I say to the guy in front of me that I’d seen AC/DC twice. Once was in 1983 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco (a place that nearly imploded without dynamite that night) and again in 1991 at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Even then, it seemed as if AC/DC was a bit long in the tooth and nearly finished with playing the rock ’n’ roll, but by God here they are tonight.

The guy laughs and says he flew in from Albuquerque to see the show. “I had tickets in October, too (the show was postponed) and I’ve seen them six times. I want to hear anything from Bon Scott and the ‘Back in Black.’ Otherwise, I don’t care.

A guy a few positions behind says, “I’ve got more butterflies now than when I got married!”

What a lucky gal.

The opening band has a name, trust me. They play with great enthusiasm, but really – what’s the point?

The train sequence at the beginning leads us to the befitting opening song, an assaulting, “Rock N’ Roll Train.” Brian Johnson’s voice isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be, but we’re not here to hear Josh Groban, right?

Johnson (age: 62) and Bruce Springsteen are aging into a single entity. I half-expected a version of “Glory Days.”

Angus Young runs out in the trademark schoolboy outfit, with the tie and cap and little knickers. The ensemble is the color of scabbed blood. The hat comes off early, revealing that Angus is neither a Hair Club for Men member nor a client. But whoa, can he still play the guitar. So I shout that message to him.

Angus Young is 55, has been married for 25 years and doesn't drink. Can we start a campaign to make “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep” our state song? If he’d trim the locks of his hair that remain, Young sort of looks like he could be a caddy at The Masters.

Try not shouting along to the intro to “Thunderstruck.” Impossible. Anyone not shouting, “ThunDAH!” should turn in their devil horns and leave the arena at once.

How is it that someone within whiffing distance can be smoking what really smells like marijuana and I can never see who it is? Sneaky little devils.

Still, she’s got “The Jack.” I love how, during that song, images of women in the audience are played out on the MGM Grand big screens: “My claim to fame? I was shown wearing a red miniskirt and matching halter at the MGM Grand Garden while AC/DC sang, “She’s got the jack!”

“Black Ice,” off the new album, is a song that is as fun as any in the Johnson era.

Malcolm! Can you please say a few words! No? Dang.

Angus performs his vaunted striptease, but exposes not his bear butt but AC/DC boxers that sell for $20 at the memorabilia stands outside the arena. Really, you can’t afford not to own a pair. Kate Bennett, can you back me up on this?

Early in the show you notice a line of cannons behind the stage and regret that you did not pack earplugs. These things are not for show, but maybe after we can get a quote for one of then from Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars.”

Pale and whippet-thin, Angus seems like he rose from one of the “CSI” exhibits, eh?

“War! Machine!” is one of Johnson’s favorite songs and I enjoy it, too. Any time we can back the venerable vocalist through the singing portion of the program, I’m in.

I’m not hearing, “Have a Drink on Me,” which is not necessarily a bad thing. There was a time when I would take the guys up on this request and let’s not have a repeat of that tonight.

“You Shook Me” is a great AC/DC song, one of their finest, but not tonight. Somehow it’s not packing the power of such classics as “T.N.T.,” which follows. Is it, “Oy!” or “Hey!” in that song. I’ve always gone with, “Oy!”

“Whole Lotta Rosie” is accompanied by a giant inflatable doll of, I suspect, the bedubbed “Rosie.” Whoever it is, there is a whole lotta her.

A bell descends from the ceiling. Let’s see, next song is “Hell’s Bells?” Yep. An AC/DC show is like playing a very easy trivia game.

I just shouted “John!” at John Nelson of AEG Live, but I’m later informed that the guy hustling up the aisle is not actually John Nelson of AEG Live. He must play Nelson in “Legends in Concert.”

The confetti raining during “Let There be Rock” looks like thousands of strips of rolling paper. From what I’ve seen, anyway.

Why, 90 minutes into the show, does Angus feel the need to play a 10-minute guitar solo? We get it. You’re an awesome guitarist. But this is a spot where a classic not played, say, “Have a Drink on Me,” would have fit well.

Earlier, Johnson offered, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be,” and we close with, “Highway to Hell,” which in this instance will be, Tropicana Avenue leading to I-15. So the night is thematic, even until the very last cannon blast. Put a pitchfork in us. We’re done.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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