My very first concert (unless you’re counting the cover bands that played my high school, but I know I’m not) was AC/DC at the Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands, East Rutherford, New Jersey. My friend’s girlfriend gave him tickets for a gift, and he asked me to attend with him. If I drove, the ticket was mine. How could I say no to that?
Finding the arena was a bit of a hard time for us, two youngsters from the sticks of New Jersey. I had never driven that far east before (only having had my license for 5 months). This was before the Internet and MapQuest and all the other easily accessible benefits of modern technology. We dusted off the atlas, tracked the major highways we would travel, confirmed with our parents, and set off with hand written directions. Things were smooth until we got to the Meadowlands.
Somehow we ended up at Giants stadium, which is the football stadium, not the hockey/basketball arena (which is located directly across the highway). At the time, I thought the two buildings were worlds apart, and we could not figure out for the life of us how to get over to the arena. We pulled off the highway into an abandoned parking lot and were fortunate enough to find people there that explained to us the arena was on the other side of the highway (Route 3).
Back on the highway, we finally saw the electronic sign pointing us to the concert and the arena. We wrapped around Route 3 and pulled into the parking lot of Brendan Byrne. The atmosphere was what you’d expect from an AC/DC tailgate. Immense. Enormous. Rocking. The car was parked and we started to walk around, taking in the sights and sounds, and exploring.
We noticed what songs were playing on the car radios, observed what jackets and shirts people were wearing, and noted that we were in the midst of a rock and roll tailgate party. Too young to drink, my friend and I did no tailgating of our own, but it didn’t matter to us. We were teenagers mesmerized by the ambiance and the aura of everything that was happening around us.
At 6:45, in the intense cold, we lined up to get inside. Love/Hate was the opening act, going on at 8:00 PM, and although my friend had next to no interest in seeing them, I was curious. I had purchased their debut album, and they were in heavy rotation on MTV with their single, Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?
The arena went dark, a smattering of applause and cheers were emitted from the few people that came in early to see the opening act, and Love/Hate took the stage. They played songs from their debut album in a crisp, 35-minute set. I didn’t know most of the songs, having only listened to their record a few times. However, when they got to their big single, most of the people in the arena seemed to be singing along. Love/Hate gave a pretty solid performance, but considering who was coming on after them, there was no way they could win the fickle crowd of New Jersey over.
Just before 9:00 PM, the arena went dark for a second time and now filled to capacity, the roaring applause was monstrous. The opening notes of Thunderstruck hit the air and chills ripped down my spine. After a few moments of playing the licks, the drums kicked in, followed by the crowd. “Ah, ah, ah, ahhhh, ah, ah!” Louder and louder they chanted as Angus Young
stood on the catwalk across the back of the stage, playing the guitar neck with one hand and hoisting his other in the air, fist in the air pumping away for the crowd. When Brian Johnson stepped out and kicked in the “THUN-DER! THUN-DER!” the entire audience stood on their feet and screamed it along with him. “THUN-DER! THUN-DER!”
Thunderstruck was played and I had never been so excited, happy, emotional, and charged in my entire life. A rock concert was everything I dreamed it would be and more. This was a day that I would remember for eternity.
Two gems from Back In Black followed the opening number and the crowd was primed and ready to rock the night away. A classic Bon Scott era song came next and then the boys ripped into Who Made Who. I thought it would be interesting to see Brian Johnson sing a few Bon Scott songs. I didn’t know if AC/DC would play them, but they did not shy away. Brian sang the older hits in his Brian Johnson way, which gave them a new twist, and new life. Songs done especially well included: Whole Lotta Rosie, The Jack, and Let There Be Rock.
Angus, of course, was brilliant and the centerpiece of the show. The rest of the band stood back while he had the spotlight for the entire evening. Not only is his guitar playing ability mesmerizing, his antics are fun to watch and crowd-pleasing. From the school-boy uniform, to strutting and double kicking his way down the stage, to his on the floor guitar solos, Angus entertains.
The moment of the night came about halfway through the show for me. AC/DC had finished a song and there was an eerie quiet that had befallen the arena. I paused for a moment, looked at my friend and said “Hell’s Bells.” Then I shouted it. “Hell’s Bells!”
No sooner did the shout finish leaving my throat then the opening gong struck and the band launched into the Back In Back classic, and one of my all time favorite tracks, Hells Bells. We screamed our throats raw on that sucker. Everyone knew “they’re gonna get ya, Satan get ya, HELL’S BELLS!”
During Whole Lotta Rosie a humongous, inflatable Rosie was pumped up for all to see. Rosie took up the length of the stage, but was fun to watch. A big old woman dressed in skimpy lingerie, AC/DC sang their song to her at the delight of everyone in attendance.
During Money Talks fake Angus money was pumped onto those sitting in the floor seats. From our vantage point way up high, it looked like everyone was scrambling to get their hands on what would one day be a collector’s item, Angus dollar bills.
The concert closed with a blistering version of For Those About To Rock complete with cannon explosions, pyrotechnics, and Angus running around the stage like a mad man. “Hail, hail to the good times, cause rock has got the right of way.” Indeed it does, and for two high school kids from Boonies, New Jersey, rock owned the night.
As a first concert, AC/DC had set the bar exceptionally high, and I know that there will never be another experience like that one. Your first concert will always be special, up there with your first kiss, or your first car. Some things in life just can’t be repeated or beaten. This was one of those moments in life. AC/DC had given me a smile, something to enjoy, and an infinite vigor in my young life. It was a performance that I will never forget and a moment that I will always cherish. Rock on, boys.
Shoot To Thrill
Back In Black
Who Made Who
Fire Your Guns
The Razor’s Edge
Are You Ready
That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway To Hell
For Those About To Rock