Rock ‘n’ Roll Train Wreck: Axl to sing for AC/DC

What? Axl Rose?
Why? AXL ROSE?

And I bet you all thought you knew what the (rarely used) ‘W’ in Axl’s full legal name (W. Axl Rose) stood for already… yes it’s true, Axl is confirmed as vocalist for the remaining shows on AC/DC’s ‘Rock Or Bust’ tour, including the two UK gigs slated for June this year. I won’t beat around the bush (sorry!) – as someone with a ticket for the gig at the Etihad, I am no longer interested in seeing this show. Axl Rose? The guy who is famed for keeping fans waiting for up to two hours before gracing them with his majestic presence? Really?!?

The confirmation of Axl’s appointment came on Sunday after weeks of speculation, following the announcement from the band that vocalist Brian Johnson had been advised to cease touring immediately or risk “complete loss of hearing”. That hasn’t come from Johnson, it should be stressed, but from the group. Until we do hear from the band’s lead singer of 36 years all we have is claim and counter-claim to go on. The decision to bring in W. Axl Rose is a baffling one on many levels, not least the fact that he has already committed himself to a tour with a partially-reunited Guns ‘n’ Roses, with guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan back in the fold.

The statement from the band is very businesslike, shall we say and reads rather like the sort of thing issued by a football club chairman whenever the club has dismissed their manager! The full statement reads as follows:

AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures. As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian’s decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Rose has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment. AC/DC will resume their Rock Or Bust World Tour with Axl Rose joining on vocals. The European stadium tour dates begin on May 7 in Lisbon, Portugal and run through June 12 in Aarhus, Denmark as previously announced (see below for full itinerary). Following this European run of dates with AC/DC, Axl Rose will head out on his Guns N Roses, Not In This Lifetime Summer Stadium Tour. The 10 postponed U.S shows will be rescheduled and announced imminently, also with Axl Rose.

Axl’s reputation for keeping fans of his own band waiting for up to three hours at concerts is well known, and is just one of many reasons why AC/DC fans who have tickets for the remaining shows may well be concerned. I’m sure the band will have made it clear to him that they go on stage when they are supposed to, but this is Axl and frankly, he is in the driving seat here – they need him more than he needs them and I can’t see why he wouldn’t pull that stunt again. What are they going to do – kick him out? Then they’d be back to square one, with no singer and a tour schedule to fulfil and millions sunk into it (which is presumably why this tour hasn’t simply been pulled). He has done that time and time again with his own band, and I find it incredible that he could be trusted to show up on time with another band.

Another reason why I feel this is a completely inappropriate appointment is simply that he is W. Axl Rose. He’s a big name, a personality, he is ‘showbiz’ if you like. AC/DC’s whole image is built on the guys in the band being down-to-earth, unpretentious guys who dress in jeans and t-shirts (with one notable exception) and could easily be part of the crowd themselves. Johnson fitted that bill perfectly, his one-of-the-lads persona sat well with the band’s fans. Axl isn’t like that – he’s big, brash and -yes- American, he will stand out like a sore thumb in a band made up of otherwise plain Aussie and British blokes. In addition, he will definitely draw the attention away from Angus Young himself. Johnson never did that, he was out front yes, but always left room for Angus to strut his stuff on the stage, as he knew that the band’s real figurehead was the middle-aged guitar man in the school uniform. He may well have the voice still to be able to handle their material, clearly Angus thinks so as he has already appeared on stage with Guns ‘n’ Roses at their Coachella festival appearance this past weekend. You can judge for yourself here (with thanks to the youtube uploaders):

Performing AC/DC covers with Angus guesting in your band is one thing, playing a whole set with another band is a different thing altogether. I’d like to be proven wrong here, and it is only for a short time, but I can only see this ending up as a (rock ‘n’ roll) train wreck as the band (now with just Angus as an original member, and bassist Cliff Williams the only other link to the group’s heyday) perform in front of what I predict will be half-empty stadia.

Not the way I would have liked to see one of the great rock bands go out, so as I have a ticket but no longer wish to see this show, I won’t be – I plan to sell it to anyone interested in the near future!

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