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AC/DC revives its loud, heavy swagger for big crowd at Sprint Center

Brian Johnson and Angus Young of AC/DC performed Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Brian Johnson and Angus Young of AC/DC performed Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Special to the Star

AC/DC’s show at the Sprint Center on Sunday night was its third in Kansas City since January 2009. That’s three in seven years, a pretty good clip, especially for a veteran band that has released only three albums in the past 14 years.

But Sunday’s show was unlike the other two for a few reasons, most notably the absence of rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who retired from the band in 2014 for health reasons.

So there was a weight upon this show going in, a show that was moved to a day earlier — preponed? — so lead singer Brian Johnson could attend the funeral of a close friend back in England. The change of date didn’t seem to affect attendance. The arena looked nearly full (15,000 or so) and the crowd that nearly filled it was in a rowdy and festive mood.

From the first song, “Rock or Bust,” the title track to its latest album, the band made it clear that although Young’s absence might be felt visually or emotionally, AC/DC would have no trouble reviving its inimitable sound: a taut and bracing blend of rock and blues, all delivered with power and precision and at a high volume.

Johnson spent nearly the entire two hours prowling the stage and singing in his usual raspy howl. He’s the lead vocalist, but the face of the band remains Angus Young, Malcolm’s brother and one of the more colorful lead guitarists in rock. Dressed in his trademark school boy outfit — this one was kelly green — he danced, hopped and duck-walked about the stage and its runway, issuing his usual arsenal of explosive and molten leads and riffs. He would eventually shed the jacket and the hat. During “Sin City,” he used his necktie as a bow on his guitar.

Malcolm Young’s replacement was his (and Angus’) nephew Stevie Young, who filled in more than capably on rhythm guitar and background vocals. He spent much of his time at the back of the stage, between two large banks of Marshall amps, where he and bassist Cliff Williams flanked powerhouse drummer Chris Slade (a replacement for longtime drummer Phil Rudd, who is dealing with legal matters).

The set list was stacked with the usual hits and favorites: “Shoot to Thrill,” “Back in Black,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Hells Bells,” “Thunderstruck” — a highlight — and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” And all were delivered with the same relentless ferocity and each aroused gales of cheers and sing-alongs.

The stage sported a large, colorful arch emblazoned with the AC/DC logo and adorned with devil horns. It included a light show and a blizzard of confetti, which fell as Angus Young issued a long, theatrical guitar solo during “Let There Be Rock.”

The entire show felt like one raucous finale, but they saved some muscle and flash for the two-song encore: “Highway to Hell” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” Cannons were fired from the back of the stage during “About to Rock,” a fitting ending to a show from a band that has endured some significant losses and personnel changes but can still rock and quake an arena filled with diehard fans of several generations.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Set list

Rock or Bust; Shoot to Thrill; Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be; Back in Black; Got Some Rock and Roll Thunder; Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap; Thunderstruck; High Voltage; Rock and Roll Train; Hells Bells; Givin’ the Dog a Bone; Sin City; You Shook Me All Night Long; Shot Down in Flames; Have a Drink on Me; T.N.T.; Whole Lotta Rosie; Let There Be Rock. Encore: Highway to Hell; For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).

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