By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

September 7, 2000

AC/DC, the naughty boys from Down Under, nudged and winked their way into "St. Louie" on Tuesday night and delivered everything their fans have come to expect:

Songs about women, loud guitars, songs about partying, loud drums, songs about women and parties jokingly designed to give the devil his due, and loud singing. Did I mention it was really, really loud?

The brothers Young -- lead guitarist Angus and rhythm guitarist Malcolm -- came roaring out of Sydney, Australia, with original singer Bon Scott in the early 1970s, clad in schoolboy uniforms and churning out tight, no-frills, blues-based, three-chord rock 'n' roll. Nearly three decades later, with singer Brian Johnson on board since Scott's death in 1979, the formula remains the same, down to Angus Young's schoolboy shorts and jacket.

With bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd nailing the rhythm, AC/DC's show at the Savvis (formerly Kiel) Center lasted about two hours and covered 22 songs, from "The Jack" and "T.N.T." from 1975's "High Voltage" album to four songs from this year's "Stiff Upper Lip," the band's 17th release.

What seemed a minimalist stage set -- bare scaffolding -- hid the band's special effects kit bag:

* Smoke, dispensed by a giant lookalike statue of Angus;

* Fireballs, shot off during "Highway to Hell";

* Hydraulic lifts, one from a ramp at the center of the arena used by Angus Young during his killer solo for "Let There Be Rock";

* Six cannon that appeared on top of a wall of amplifiers behind the band, firing during the encore "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)." (By the way, they were loud, too.)

* And the huge AC/DC bell, from which Johnson swung for a few seconds while a recording of a bell bonged the intro to "Hell's Bells."

The band's musical set was strong with hits such as "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Shoot to Thrill," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and "Back in Black." Johnson's voice, never a thing of beauty, is more like ground glass than ever. But he's a capable front man, stalking the stage like a Down Under version of a twisted Dickens street prowler.

Angus Young, sweat pouring from his head, was in constant motion, running, duck-walking and, once even, doing the Curly shuffle. His playing was tight and skillful.

But the show was woefully paced. Between each song, with the exception of the two-song encore, the band took a breather. The stage went dark while the boys had a drink and toweled off, and the energy level drained out of the audience.

But, hey, when you get to see a smoke-breathing, horned Angus statue bathed in red light during "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be," maybe a lack of segues doesn't much matter.

Opening was Slash's Snakepit, led by the ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist. With mostly unfamiliar material played at one speed and volume - fast and loud - it was difficult to "get" the music. What came through was largely lewd and crude, devoid of AC/DC's naughty charm.

Slash's Snakepit hasn't grown up yet. That's not a compliment.

AC/DC never grew up. Now, that's a compliment.