AC/DC rocks Long Beach in 1980 concert
Sep. 4, 1980: Lead singer Brian Johnson, left, and guitarist Angus Young of AC/DC in concert at the Long Beach Arena.
The Australian heavy metal band AC/DC rolled into Southern California in 1980 enjoying a surge of popularity and carrying a reputation as one of the loudest music groups on the concert scene. On the latter score, it didn’t disappoint.
“Devoid of lyric or melodic hooks, AC/DC’s music is a thunderous, elemental tribute to the power of the heavy metal riff,” wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Steve Pond after the group’s show at the Long Beach Arena in September 1980. “The band takes a relentless thud (the bass and drums), punctuates it with a crunch (the guitar) and tops it off with a screech (the vocals). Song after song, it’s the same hard-core formula.”
It was a formula that many critics disdained, but fans loved. At the Long Beach show, Pond noted, those in the floor seats stood on their chairs for the entire show, shouting along to songs like “Hell’s Bells,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and “Highway to Hell.”
“Lead guitarist Angus Young, who dresses in the short pants and blazer of a British schoolboy, staggers across the stage spewing out jagged hard-rock licks,” Pond wrote. Lead singer Brian Johnson, for his part, “simply stands at the mike and screams.”
Added Pond: “There was but one quiet moment in the show, and that accompanied a slow striptease that ended with a spotlit, centerstage Young mooning the crowd.”
AC/DC, founded in 1973, had been whipsawed by success and tragedy in the year before this concert. The band’s 1979 “Highway to Hell” album sold over a million copies, and rose to No. 17 on the U.S. music charts. But just as the band was enjoying the spotlight, 33-year-old lead singer Bon Scott died in February 1980 after choking on his own vomit following a drinking binge.
The band considered breaking up at that point, but eventually brought in Johnson to replace Scott. It worked out better than anyone could have expected. The new AC/DC immediately began making its “Back in Black” album, which would become its most successful ever and even today is the sixth best-selling album in U.S. history. With “Back in Black” having been released a month before the band’s Long Beach appearance, the arena was packed.
The Times review of that performance concluded: “AC/DC’s not exactly refreshing, but in its own way the band is one of the most entertaining of its breed.”
AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and continues to perform today, including a show before tens of thousands at Dodger Stadium in September. Though there have been some personnel changes over the years, Young and Johnson remain out front as the face of the band.
December 4, 2015, 10:18 am
First off ,Angus himself would cringe at the tag 'heavy metal' that is laid on them here. He hated it in fact. Secondly the issue about the non lyrical and melody hooks is absolute non sense. Anyone who has been to any of their concerts will tell you that's the farthest thing from the truth. Just gaze into a AC/DC concert audience and watch the fans sing side by side during the Bon Scott days and the current Brian Johnson ones. Scott Wilson from the Times most likely was a avid Bay City Rollers , Olivia Newton/John fan and would of been better served reviewing one of their concerts….. not AC/DC.
December 4, 2015, 10:29 am
Devoid of melodic or lyrical hooks? Worst. Review. Ever.
December 4, 2015, 11:10 am
How about AC/DC rocks Long Beach in 2015, they still are, unlike literally all of todays bands that will have no chance of even being remembered much less being around 30 – 40 years from now.
December 4, 2015, 11:25 am
Not only in 1980, still blowing us away in 2015, younger generations, bow your head, wait for the ricochet.
December 4, 2015, 12:12 pm
I saw them first row at the Spectrum in South Philadelphia in December of that same year. I was a junior in high school and I was sitting in class the next day and my ears were still ringing. AC/DC is arguably one of the most successful bands in the history of music. Their songs are played in TV commercials, in movies and TV shows, and in sports stadiums throughout the world. One of my all time favorite bands!
December 4, 2015, 2:19 pm
First time I saw Brian w/o the hat. BOOYAH!
December 4, 2015, 3:05 pm
I saw AC/DC in San Francisco back in 1980 and recently saw them again at AT&T park in S.F. There's something special about the thunder from down under , hard driven rock n roll Forever !!!
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