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AC/DC - "AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (limited edition box set)" (Boxed Set)

AC/DC - "AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (limited edition box set)" Boxed Set cover image

"AC/DC: Let There Be Rock (limited edition box set)" track listing:

1. Live Wire
2. Shot Down in Flames
3. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
4. Sin City
5. Walk All Over You
6. Bad Boy Boogie
7. The Jack
8. Highway to Hell
9. Girls Got Rhythm
10. High Voltage
11. Whole Lotta Rosie
12. Rocker
13. Let There Be Rock

Bonus features:
1. Loud, Locked & Loaded: The Rites of Rock
2. AC/DC: The Bedrock of Riff
3. Angus Young: A True Guitar Monster
4. Bon Scott: The Pirate of Rock 'n' Roll
5. AC/DC: A Rock Solid Legacy
6. Bad Boy Boogie Pod
7. The Jack Pod
8. Highway to Hell Pod
9. Whole Lotta Rosie Pod
10. Rocker Pod

Reviewed by on July 5, 2011

"'AC/DC: Let There Be Rock' is a joyous portrait of the band at its Bon-era best. Dopey interview segments aside, it's one of the greatest concert films you'll ever see — and it now looks and sounds better than ever."

At its best, the experience of watching "AC/DC: Let There Be Rock" is akin attending the best AC/DC concert ever — in your own living room. Frontman extraordinaire Bon Scott delivers one of his best — and final — performances, strutting about the stage looking for sex and trouble, while schoolboy-suited guitarist Angus Young whirls about him like a human hurricane.

Fans who've only seen the band in the past two decades or so are going to be a little surprised at the sparsity of the stage. There's no inflatable Rosie, no cannons and no Hell's Bell — and there doesn't have to be. Where latter-day AC/DC shows have indulged in spectacle — albeit never at the expense of the music — there's none of that here. What's more, there doesn't need to be.

Never once do directors Eric Dionysius and Eric Mistler's cameras lack for something interesting to latch on to during this 1980 performance in Paris. During the concert sequences, the directors know where the action is, and wisely avoid too many shots of the crowd, thus completing the illusion that you, the viewer, are essentially among the screaming throng. With the newly and vastly improved sound cranked up, you too can be blown back in your seat.

And what a show the band is putting on for you. It's such a high-energy affair that near the end of the show, we see Angus duck offstage for a quick hit from an oxygen mask and a gulp of water before launching right back into "Rocker" — and into the crowd on the back of a roadie!

Then, there are the songs themselves, played with an intensity that the studio versions just can't match. From the crackling opener, "Live Wire," to the closing moments of "Let There Be Rock," the band simply never lets up. Phil Rudd's drum head busts during the first couple tunes? As Bon tells the crowd, "Take it off and throw it away." Angus breaks a string during "Whole Lotta Rosie?" No problem; just have a roadie come strap a new SG on him (and watch as that roadie tries to avoid getting clobbered as Angus starts wildly headbanging and soloing — and tuning the guitar without missing a beat — as the roadie adjusts the strap).

Songs like "High Voltage" and "Bad Boy Boogie" show just how tight AC/DC is, with Angus and his brother, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, playing off each other with a rapport that borders on the telepathic. Meanwhile, Malcolm's also locked in a groove with Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams that's so solid, you couldn't chip it with a jackhammer (and that jackhammer wouldn't bounce around half as much as Angus does).

The setlist, with the exception of one song, which we'll get to in a moment, is simply spectacular. These are the greatest songs of the Bon Scott era of the band. The fact that so many of them are also included on the "Live at River Plate" DVD, recorded some 30 years later, shows their longevity.

All that said, there is one clunker tune in the setlist, the time-changing "Walk All Over You," in which the band doesn't quite seem to gel. Maybe that's why Dionysius and Mistler decided to pull a "Song Remains the Same" and film a music video segment that isn't even remotely related to the tune, in which Phil Rudd drives around in a Porsche hatchback, while Bon dances on a frozen lake and Cliff Williams flies around in a biplane.

There are also some relatively inane interview segments that interrupt the flow of the concert. Why are the interviewers asking the band if they're afraid of World War III? My favorite silly question that the interviewer asks consists of a single word ... "Men .... ?" and the answer Bon gives is great.

In fact, the only time the interview segments really work is when Bon is on camera. There's a definite sense that he somehow knew the end was at hand for him. He tells the interviewer that he's a "special drunkard" at one moment, with a haunting, sad smile. Less than two months after the movie was filmed, Bon died from an alcohol overdose ("Death by Misadventure" listed as the official cause).

Also — and it's not the hugest issue in the world — the movie isn't in widescreen, having been filmed in a 1:1.33 aspect ratio. Those of you with older, non wide-screen sets aren't going to have the same disappointment in that fact that those of us with big, widescreen sets will. Sure, you can zoom in to "fake" the widescreen, but you'll be lopping off a fairly sizable chunk of the picture in doing so.

In addition to the film itself, Warner Home Video has seen fit to include over an hour of extras, which essentially amount to VH-1 style discussions about AC/DC by the likes of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, Motorhead mainman Lemmy Kilmister, Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan the Donnas, the female AC/DC tribute band Thundherstruck and others.

As usual, Lemmy delivers the best lines, ranging from his statement to critics who argue that all AC/DC songs sound the same — "I never heard them play the same riff twice, so fuck you" — to pointing out that Bon "sang like he was fuckin' someone" and delivering the immortal axiom "Loud is better. Trust me kids, it's true. You won't be sorry!" It's almost — but not quite — enough to make you forget that the band apparently had no involvement in the creation of this DVD package (and the fact that it's filmed in a different aspect ratio than the actual movie is a bit of a minor annoyance).

The version I got is the Limited Edition box set (mine is No. 39,374 of 90,000), which also includes a selection of postcard-style photos of the band, a 30-page booklet from "Why AC/DC Matters" author Anthony Bozza and a guitar pick.

"AC/DC: Let There Be Rock" is a joyous portrait of the band at its Bon-era best. Dopey interview segments aside, it's one of the greatest concert films you'll ever see — and it now looks and sounds better than ever.

Highs: The greatest songs in the AC/DC catalog, expertly filmed and performed.

Lows: Some dopey interview segments.

Bottom line: One of the greatest concert films of all time now looks and sounds better than ever.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)