AC/DC: Live At Donington

AC/DC: Live At Donington (1991)
Sony Music
Cast: Angus Young, Brian Johnson, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Chris Slade
Extras: Commentary Track, Iso-Cam, Discography

In front of an extraordinary crowd, "AC/DC" headlined the "Monsters Of Rock" festival in England's Castle Donington in the August of 1991. It turned into the band's, most beloved concert recording and is now available on Blu-Ray featuring a high definition transfer and lossless audio. For someone who's enjoyed the band's music since their "High Voltage" days, it was clear that I would have to give this disc a check-up.

Immediately the concert throws you into the Angus fever as he appears on stage above the band's backline, leading into the "Thunderstruck" arpeggio accompanied only by a bass drum. Gradually the sound builds and when Brian Johnson takes the stage with his raspy voice, it is clear that within no more than 30-seconds into the set, the band has already converted every member in the audience, and in front of the screen.

Jam-packed with ran favorites during the 2-hour set, the band launches itself into "Shoot To Thrill," "Back In Black" and "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" in rapid succession, displaying just how much they enjoy playing this concert. Angus is his live wire self, jumping, running, falling, straggling and rolling on the stage like the little dervish that he is. It still amazes me to this day, how Angus is able to maintain this constant level of energy on stage, exerting more energy that a marathon runner, while at the same time playing the lead guitar and solos with a clarity and perfection that is mind-bending. In a sense Angus has always been undervalued as a guitarist. While his licks may not be revolutionary, following the pentatonic scale mostly, his blues-infused soloing and simply the showmanship that accommodates his play, puts him in a league where is clearly alone, without peers. There is only one Angus Young and there will never be another.

The set the band is playing is a great mix of old and new tunes and as always it is surprising how well Brian Johnson is able to bring across the classic Bon Scott tracks, such as "Highway To Hell," "T.N.T," "The Jack," "Whole Lotta Rosie" or "Let There Be Rock." He comes into his own, of course with tracks like "Hells Bells," the song that immediately established him as the only possible replacement for the late Bon Scott in every fan's mind, "For Those About To Rock" or "Back In Black."

BY the end of this remarkable 2-hour concert, the fans have seen on of the Rock'n Roll's premier bands still at the height of their game after 15 years at the time. The band that had not only help invent Heavy Metal, the only band that has ever come out of Australia and has been able to celebrate unmitigated success over decades, one of the few bands that has survived the tragic death of one of their own not only unscathed, but turning itself in an even meaner music machine than before. People can say about AC/DC what they want, but the band is a phenomenon and a landmark in rock history – and this concert is one more proof to show it.

Filmed with 35mm cameras, the transfer of this concert is quite impressive, especially considering that this concert is now over 15 years old. Given the difficult lighting conditions, there is occasional grain evident in the picture, but overall the presentation is absolutely clean and without problems. The high definition transfer makes sure to bring out the most of it, with a sharply defined image that reveals every sweaty drop on Angus' skin. As a result of the lighting conditions, shots with lots of backlighting, smoke wafting across the stage, the picture is not perfect, so don't expect a reference quality transfer, but when viewing the concert it becomes immediately evident that there is significantly more detail in this picture than in any version you may have seen before.

The real beauty of the release lies in its audio tracks however, as it offers, among many other options, an entirely lossless 5.1 channel PCM track. This track has been remixed and let me tell you that this is the way you want to experience audio releases. Giving you a sense of "being there" like never before as every note, every beat and every cymbal crash comes through clearly and perfectly defined.

As an extra, the disc contains an Iso-Cam feature that allows you to leave the camera on each of the band members, to follow very closely what they are doing. You want Angus-Cam, you got it. You want Malcolm-Cam, you go it! This feature is implemented on a few songs only, but it is a nice thing to be able to really focus on
individual band members like this.

As another cool feature the concert contains a commentary track featuring brothers Angus and Malcolm Young. It is a very cool track with some fun insight and all, but be forewarned. It is hard to understand at times as their Australian accent is extremely heavy and can become a bit of a challenge.

Overall, "AC/DC: Live At Donington" is a cool release for all of the band's fans or those who want to revisit the heydays of Monsters Of Rock festivals. It may not be a release that completely blows you away, but the music and the presentation are rock solid and every bit as good as you could ask for.