FARGO -- Rock ’n’ roll isn't rocket science. It can be pretty simple stuff. Take one guitar with some catchy riffs, add a driving drum beat and accompanying bass. Top it off with an electrifying vocalist, and maybe some sprinkles of rhythm guitar for good measure and it's, "Hello, Cleveland!"
It's a formula AC/DC has stuck to for over 40 years, and they didn't waver a bit Thursday night at the Fargodome, putting on the best rock show the arena has seen in years.
On the group's third trip to town in 15 years, the quintet cranked through a set that leaned more to the old than the new. The crowd of about 20,000 wouldn't have had it any other way.
AC/DC hit the stage to “Rock or Bust,” the 2014 title track from the group’s most recent record. Without much airplay, it’s not one of the group’s best known tunes, but with a steady, driving riff, it set the tone for the night. It would also be one of a handful of songs with rock in the title the band would play. There’s no subtlety in AC/DC. Double entendres, yes, but subtleties, no.
They launched into more familiar material with “Shoot to Thrill,” which lived up to its name. Lead guitarist Angus Young did his best Chuck Berry impression as he kicked down the catwalk while soloing.
Lead singer Brian Johnson may be an animated frontman, but there’s no doubt that it’s Young’s band. While he’s now 60, with thinning hair, he plays with a youngster’s enthusiasm to match the schoolboy uniform he’s been wearing for 40-plus years. Fargo fans had to appreciate him sporting the North Dakota State University colors with a green and yellow tie and matching cap.
If they didn’t notice that, they sure welcomed the opening guitar trill of “Thunderstruck.” The crowd roared so loud you would’ve thought Bison quarterback Carson Wentz scored another touchdown.
The show was as electrifying as a Bison football game with the crowd remaining on its feet and the group never letting up the momentum for two hours, a testament to drummer Chris Slade.
While they predictably played the hits like “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Back in Black,” “Highway to Hell,” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” they threw in some pleasant surprises for longtime fans. “High Voltage,” “Sin City” and “Given the Dog a Bone” haven’t been concert staples for years and hadn’t been featured at the two previous Fargo shows.
Johnson no longer swings from the bell on “Hell’s Bells,” but his signature screech rang true.
It’s been seven years since the band played Fargo and they’d obviously aged. Co-founding guitarist Malcolm Young, Angus’ brother, had to retire due to dementia and was replaced by the brothers’ nephew, Stevie Young, a sprightly 59. Still, the group is young, even juvenile, where it counts -- in spirit.
If there is an age when someone is too old to rock ’n’ roll, AC/DC has never heard of it.
And I hope they never do.