- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Well, it took all these years, but we finally found out where that infamous Highway to Hell leads to: VH-1.
Yes, that's right, the aging rock heroes of AC/DC are back once again, with a new album out, their first collection of new music in five years and a supporting tour that hits Nissan Pavilion on Saturday. That the music channel for aging boomers is sponsoring the show is yet another reminder of just how long AC/DC has been delivering its signature guitar riffs and cartoonish bad boy antics: over 25 years and counting.
While the band released its latest album, "Stiff Upper Lip," earlier this year, the fans (many of whom are now in their 40s), much like those of the Rolling Stones and other veteran acts, primarily want to hear the classics. And here lies the elephant in the room that nobody seems to want to point out: The classic AC/DC lineup died 20 years ago.
When the band released its 1997 tribute compilation, "Bonfire," in honor of its late great lead singer Bon Scott, it highlighted the irony inherent in the AC/DC musical library. While Brian Johnson replaced Mr. Scott following the latter's death from overdrinking in February 1980 and shone later that year on the group's killer album "Back in Black" (which was in itself a Bon Scott tribute), the fact is that the band never truly escaped the long shadow cast by its original front man.
Mr. Scott was the genuine article, faults and all, your quintessential rock 'n' roll bad boy: a surly, violence-prone alcoholic with a leather throat who was just waiting to flame out. It was Mr. Scott who gave AC/DC its true personality, guitarist Angus Young's schoolboy knickers notwithstanding, and that personality sparkled throughout the band's body of work in the late 1970s.
Songs like "Shot Down in Flames," "The Jack" and "Highway to Hell" embodied the classic AC/DC sound: immature and often silly but presented with a testosterone-soaked swagger that the band, for all its durability in later years, never really captured again after the singular success of "Back in Black."
Fact is, you just can't even compare the driving, rocking perfection of a song like "Girls Got Rhythm," off of the "Highway to Hell" album, with anything AC/DC has come out with since 1980.
Even guitarist Angus Young admitted the truth of this latest AC/DC album and tour when he told the on-line magazine Wall of Sound: "I think, in this day and age, and especially with a band our size, I think it gets to the point where you go, 'Well, it's a rock show,' rather than a rock band, and you have to look at it that way. I always think people like value for money; they like to see a good show."
If VH-1 whose sponsorship of the tour of course coincides with a "Behind the Music" special charting the history of this once-vital band really wants to present AC/DC at its raw and rocking best, it will air the concert film "Let There Be Rock" that the band made right before Mr. Scott died. Now that was a lineup that could blow you away.

Also in town in a slow week for music is the newly formed band A Perfect Circle, which features Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of Tool. The band's formation prompted something of a major-label bidding war that was resolved when the group signed with Virgin Records. While Mr. Keenan handles the vocals and writes the band's lyrics, Billy Howerdel plays lead guitar and composes the music. The group's debut album, "Mer De Noms," is said to be just as loud yet more melodic than the heavy metal noise that propelled Tool to success. Catch the group Monday at Nation.



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