By Eamon O'Neill on 17 April 2016.
With half the world seemingly hopping mad from today's announcement that Axl Rose is to take over from an estranged Brian Johnson as AC/DC's front man, could this move prove a step too far for the Aussie legends, or will it be a surprisingly effective way to make the best of a bad situation?
The huge amount of (deserved) respect for Brian Johnson that has been outpouring since the shocking revelation that he has been advised by doctors to stop touring immediately or risk total hearing loss, has been momentous; from both aghast fans and those in the business like American hard rock presenter Eddie Trunk. Having fronted the band since 1980, successfully steering them into the second phase of their career following the untimely death of original front man Bon Scott however, it's hardly surprising. A hugely popular character, with his no-nonsense approach, working class roots and down-to-earth attitude, his loss from band is arguably as much a body blow to AC/DC, and the rock community as it is to Johnson himself.
Since the man at the centre of events has not spoken publicly however, speculation has mounted that there is much more to the story than meets the eye. Rumours have suggested that the Newcastle native has been "kicked to the curb", swatted like a fly on the wall. Whatever the truth behind the hyperbole, what this has resulted in has been a want to single out a 'bad guy' in the AC/DC organisation, the person responsible for the dirty deed. As its only surviving original member (although what some seem to forget is that bassist Cliff Williams has been ever present since 1978, while drummer Chris Slade is enjoying his second stint behind the kit following an original spell during 1990-1994), it's de facto band leader Angus Young that has come in for the most criticism. Was Johnson kicked in the teeth by Young? And just why is Angus prepared to carry on without the iconic vocalist?
These are the questions that people are asking. However, this morning, the answer to the most pressing one was finally answered; just who would be stepping into Johnson's shoes as guest vocalist for the remainder of the 'Rock Or Bust' tour? Confirming the speculation that has been mounting for weeks, the much maligned Axl Rose was finally named as Johnson's successor. A popular hate figure, with a huge section of fans up in arms, only the appointment of Lars Ulrich might have garnered more vitriol.
But is it such a bad thing? There's no doubt that AC/DC have snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat before. The loss of Scott, as mentioned above, was countered with the release of the biggest album of their career in 'Back In Black'. More recently, the stepping down of Malcolm Young due to much publicised health issues saw ticket sales unaffected.
Clearly this time it's different though, and the ascension of Rose has attracted much derision; primarily centring on his tardy reputation, perceived megalomania, and his derided caterwauling singing style. The former accusations aside, is Rose's hi-pitched screech the secret to his selection? Speaking recently to eonmusic, Diamond Head's Brian Tatler weighed in on the Axl Rose debate, stating; "it’s peculiar. I mean, they’ve got to get somebody to finish the tour, and there aren’t many singers who could reach that range of ‘Back In Black’. Axl probably could". He continued; "if it was down to me, I think I’d struggle to pick a suitable replacement. I suppose in a way, having somebody as famous as Axl would at least be kind of cool, credible, rather than, you know, ‘Joe Soap’ who sings in a tribute band".
There are reasons then, why this could be quite a brilliant spectacle. With Guns 'n' Roses being joined by Angus at the Coachella Festival in California to perform two songs ('Whole Lotta Rosie' and 'Riff Raff'), it seems that as well as being fit for the job (broken foot not withstanding), with Rose an exciting shake up of the set list may be on the cards.
There have been switches of similar stature in the past; Judas Priest's Rob Halford fronting Black Sabbath for a brace of dates in Costa Mesa in 1992, and again at New Jersey's Ozzfest in 2004, and ironically, Myles Kennedy fronting Guns 'n' Roses at their Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2012. Although not what fans would have ideally liked to see, these would have thrilling shows to attend. For this reasons, the upcoming AC/DC gigs will be at the very least, historical.
What AC/DC do following the end of the tour remains to be seen. For now though, as massive fan of the band, Axl Rose will be in his element, and one would expect him to treat the position with respect that it deserves.
But there may yet be a bigger hero in this story. If Axl's broken bones aren't sufficiently healed in time for the dates, Dave Grohl's throne will be fit to stand up as having played a starring role in three of the most successful hard rock acts of all time; Foo Fighters, Guns 'n' Roses, and AC/DC. Not bad for a seat.
AC/DC's European tour begins on 7th May 2016 in Portugal. For details visit acdc.com.
AC/DC 2016 European Tour Dates:
7 May - Lisbon, Portugal Passeio Maritimo De Alges
10 May - Seville, Spain Estadio De La Cartuja
13 May - Marseille, France Stade Velodrome
16 May - Werchter, Belgium Werchter Site
19 May - Vienna, Austria Erns-Happel Stadium
22 May - Prague, Czech Republic Letnany Airport
26 May - Hamburg, Germany Volksparkstadion
29 May - Berne, Switzerland Stade De Suisse
1 Jun - Leipzig, Germany Red Bull Arena
4 Jun - London, England The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
9 Jun - Manchester, England Etihad Stadium
12 Jun - Aarhus, Denmark Ceres Park