AC/DC is the rare rock band in which the guitar player routinely upstages the lead singer — a fact that played a huge role Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Guitarist Angus Young was his usual brilliant self — a trout-lipped Energizer Bunny skittering across the stage in scissor-steps, leg quivers, prances and backward boogies.
A 60-year-old man who dresses and acts like a mischievous schoolboy, Young can still crank out volcanic guitar solos while spinning on the floor on his back like an overturned beetle.
Yet while Young reclaimed his status as one of rock's craziest showmen, singer Brian Johnson suffered from Axl Rose Syndrome: He kept struggling in vain to hit sky-high notes he nailed so easily in the '80s. Despite how bad he sounded, he refused to lower his register.
Johnson was in high spirits, sprinting to and fro as he egged on the capacity crowd to sing along. Wearing the same tight black t-shirt and newsboy cap he's had on for decades, the pint-size singer flexed his beefy biceps and cackled menacingly like a bouncer at a munchkin party.
But AC/DC lost its power whenever Johnson tried to sing. His feral-cat howl sounded fragile and phlegmy on his trademark tunes like "Hells Bells" and downright feeble on older songs where he tried to imitate the late Bon Scott, his helium-voiced predecessor.
More photos from the show
The group did cook up a near-perfect set list, including six tunes from 1980's Back in Black — one of the best-selling albums in music history. They hit plenty of other career high points from "Highway to Hell" to older gems like "High Voltage" to 1990's "Thunderstruck," the unofficial anthem of the AAC thanks to its longtime use by the Dallas Mavericks. Even the band's new songs went down smoothly since they sounded virtually indistinguishable from the old ones.
In an age where rappers stir up more controversy than rock bands, the concert was a throwback to an era when heavy metal was the most outlandish sound around: There was "Have a Drink on Me," a pro-booze-binge song released months after Scott had drunk himself to death; "Whole Lotta Rosie," featuring a Macy's-style balloon of an obese woman in lingerie stroking her thigh; and "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," a gleeful hit-man's anthem that drummer Phil Rudd apparently took too far in 2014, when he was charged with trying to procure a murder (he wound up pleading guilty to lesser charges).
Rudd's been replaced on the current tour by the hard-hitting Chris Slade, while rhythm guitarist Stevie Young did an admirable job of replacing his uncle, Malcolm Young, who retired in 2014 due to dementia.
But as always, the spotlight belonged to Angus, a non-stop ball of fire with a bottomless bag of silly faces and sledgehammer guitar riffs. He's hard rock's great cartoon superhero, and as long as he's still onstage, it barely matters what the other guys in AC/DC sound like.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
UPDATE (March 8, 2:25 p.m.): A couple of weeks after the Dallas show, singer Brian Johnson was advised by doctors to stop touring immediately to avoid total hearing loss. More on that here.