Of the two recently released AC/DC DVDs, Live at River Plate is by far the least interesting to me. I’m much more intrigued by the long-awaited DVD/Blu-Ray release of Let There Be Rock, featuring original singer Bon Scott. But this is the one Sony has presented me with, so here we go.
I’ve always been of the opinion that live albums and DVDs should be just that — live. I dislike live sets that amount to the studio album set to live footage with some crowd screams overdubbed. I don’t mind a little tinkering here and there, but I want to hear the real live show, warts and all. I want an experience that’s something like the one I’d have if I were in the audience.
At times, on Live at River Plate, you get that live experience; at others, though, you may feel like there’s been a little too much doctoring.
A perfect example is the opening track, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train.” I absolutely believe I’m watching a music video for the album single. It’s overproduced, and I don’t have the sense that I’m hearing much of anything that was actually live. I’d much rather hear a performance like the one on “Back in Black,” where Brian Johnson’s voice sounds a little more haggard, a little older and, perhaps, a little road-weary. It’s still a fine performance, but I feel like it’s more real.
The set list here offers few surprises. It’s a pretty standard AC/DC set with a few numbers off their latest album Black Ice mixed in. The gimmicks are also pretty much the same: The big bell for “Hell’s Bells,” the inflatable woman for “Whole Lotta Rosie,” the cannons on long-time show closer “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” — and guitarist Angus Young’s schoolboy antics that always end in the crowd being mooned. Thankfully, here, we’re spared the 56-year-old’s bare behind by a pair of AC/DC boxers. All of the members of the band are getting a little older, and that’s clear through the course of this DVD, but they still know how to put on a show, and they still deliver exactly what their legions of fans want.
Having watched numerous rock and metal DVDs shot in South America, I know the crowds there are rabid, vociferous and always into the shows. If you don’t believe me, just go take a listen to the version of “Fear of the Dark” from Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 video to see what this same Buenos Aires crowd can do for a show. That’s why I’m a little disappointed that the crowd noise seems to be played down. You get a few little bursts with songs like “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” which is an energetic performance with the audience chanting along, but even on songs where Johnson is urging crowd participation, like “Whole Lotta Rosie,” it seems that it’s a little too quiet — as if the audio editors of the video didn’t want to inject too much of it.
The video editors didn’t have that problem, though. There were 32 cameras used in the filming of this video, and they used them all … sometimes in the same song. In fact, I get the feeling that if they could get all 32 cameras in a split screen, they’d do it. The result is that we often get a screen divided into two, three or four cameras and abrupt shifts, and it’s distracting. It’s like they’re jumping up and down saying “we’ve got 32 cameras, we’ve got 32 cameras, look what we can do!” It’s a much more enjoyable video in the rare moments when they settle the cameras for a minute or two and let things develop more organically. To me, the overproduction causes a little bit of a disconnect between the music and the video.
In the end, Live at River Plate captures a solid performance by one of the premier hard rock bands of all time. It’s not appreciably different from other AC/DC live videos released in recent years, but let’s be honest, this is aimed squarely at the band’s hardcore fans. For that, it hits its mark.