Let There Be Rock Review
A Brilliant Bon Voyage
By: Kurt Squiers
“They’re putting on the braces and the tape, and these guys are going into battle.” That’s how Dee Snider once described AC/DC’s film ‘Let There Be Rock’ to me. And he’s right. There are no cannons or bells or freight trains to support this particular crusade. However, there is a secret weapon, and his name is Angus Young—the biggest special effect AC/DC has ever invested in.
From the opening chords of ‘Live Wire’, sparks fly off Angus Young’s cherry red Gibson SG, crackling through your surround sound speakers like an uncontrollable bonfire. This 30th anniversary landmark AC/DC film, digitally remastered and released for the first time here on Blu-Ray and DVD, is raw, real and simply extraordinary, especially compared to your VHS copy (circa 1985), now no doubt covered in dust, scratches, and traces of stale beer. But what makes this release such a classic live performance? Well for one, Angus is in his prime. At 24 years old, his fingers are fully limber and plays so feverishly that he shorts out his own guitar with copious sweat. He grabs oxygen backstage—during his guitar solo. He’s carried on the shoulders of a roadie throughout the audience—without missing a single note. Watching ‘Rocker’ performed live here is like watching Chuck Berry on steroids. Yes, Angus Young and AC/DC simply seem unstoppable.
Just two months later, their inimitable lead singer, Bon Scott, would be found dead, making this one of the last and most treasured performances captured of a rock and roll icon. And although Bon couldn’t cheat death, he does not cheat his audience. Throughout thunderous classics such as ‘Sin City’, ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ and ‘Walk All Over You’, Bon effortlessly takes command of the Parisian crowd with his overpowering, feral vocal snarls and hypnotic natural charm. With bare-chested bravado, garish swagger and blue Jeans so tight that they blow out two songs in, no other film captures every bit of reason why Classic Rock Magazine ranks Bon Scott as the #1 frontman of all time. This from a man who sang with AC/DC for less than six years. Situated between concert footage, the film also includes intimate storyline vignettes of each band member indulging in their favorite pastimes. This is what makes ‘Let There Be Rock’ so uniquely compelling. Scott certainly appears to have ridden hard down the Highway to Hell in these segments, and the erie metaphor of Bon dancing on thin ice just before driving off in drummer Phil Rudd’s custom Porsche 928, is downright chilling. But these personal and rare glimpses with each member are highly coveted, as AC/DC would soon became a massive brand and extremely private impenetrable fortress in later years.
The idea for ‘Let There Be Rock’ was originally pitched to management by two unknown French filmmakers, Eric Dionysius and Eric Mistler, who had never actually seen AC/DC play live. Their intention was to make a promotional video for the band, but management misunderstood their request and agreed to a full-length feature movie. Costing just under $100,000 to produce, and shot over two nights at the Pavillon de Paris in December of 1979, the movie would go on to screen successfully in theaters around the world. Although refreshingly amateurish and somewhat low on production value at times, the pace of editing is a welcoming throwback, letting the viewer digest a total of just five camera angles and breathe in every sweat-soaked moment on stage. It’s a triumph. This collectors edition box set tin comes complete with a 32-page tribute liner notes booklet by Anthony Bozza (author of ‘Why AC/DC Matters’), 10 collector cards, guitar pick, and over one hour of rather monotonous bonus interview footage from notable fans. It’s AC/DC box set standard fair now, released every couple years or so. And then of course there’s the music. The band’s instruments are all pre-wireless, each member literally plugged in and electrically charged. The AC/DC rhythm machine during ‘High Voltage’ and the movie’s title track are so deep in pocket, it’s jaw-dropping. You know the rest. Five average guys come together and make this magic thing called, ‘AC/DC’ and play nothing more than aggressive, uncompromising hard rock. Few have done it better since, or ever will. ‘Let There Be Rock’, if it isn’t already, should become your favorite AC/DC live performance on film of all time.