Released: 2008, Columbia Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Be warned…NO BULL – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT is not a new AC/DC concert. This is a re-release of the 1996 concert film that was “rushed” on to shelves to capitalize on the sagging power of the band’s BALLBREAKER album and subsequent tour. Reportedly dissatisfied with the quality of that release, director David Mallet has returned to the original tapes to re-edit the audio to a proper 5.1 surround mix and invigorate the video with today’s modernized hi-definition magic for a snazzy new DVD and Blu-Ray release. Don’t think the fact this is also released in tandem with AC/DC’s first studio album in eight years, BLACK ICE, is a coincidence, either.
Originally following on the heels of 1991’s seminal live release, LIVE AT DONNINGTON, NO BULL was recorded over a three-night stint at Madrid, Spain’s Plaza Del Toros de Las Ventas, a mammoth bull-fighting stadium that houses 25,000 people. Packed to the gills with rabid Spaniards, the two-hour show was shot on 16mm film giving it a noticeable warmth and the stage appears to be the width of at least a full city block. Intimate this is not, but considering BALLBREAKER was a limp follow-up to 1990’s THE RAZOR’S EDGE, you’d think Madrid’s AC/DC fans were witnessing the second coming of Jesus himself. The Aussie veterans certainly show no sign of slowing down, either, as Angus Young, decked out in his trademark schoolboy outfit, runs from stage left to stage right and is drenched in sweat within the first five minutes. His playing on “Thunderstruck,” “The Jack” and “Let There Be Rock” is simply the stuff of legend. Brian Johnson, his voice never sounding more whiskey-soaked and abrasive, is just as energetic, giving the fans a full-blown exercise in blues-y hard rock on “Hard As A Rock,” “Ballbreaker” and “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).” Ever the master of the riff, Malcolm Young has always been AC/DC’s pillar, delivering the unforgettable licks that propel “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Highway To Hell” and “Hells Bells.” Lest we forget the rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd who provide such a beefy groove on “Girls Got Rhythm,” “T.N.T.” and “Back In Black” that the rest of the band almost disappears. AC/DC really brings the spectacle here, too, with the firing cannons, giant inflatable for “Whole Lotta Rosie,” Johnson’s metal steed for “Hells Bells” and the opening wrecking ball destruction that kicks off the show.
It must be incredibly difficult for AC/DC to choose a setlist but completely omitting anything from FLICK OF THE SWITCH through BLOW UP YOUR VIDEO seems odd but throwing in “Dog Eat Dog” is a good start towards redemption. Thankfully, the band also chose two of the best tracks from BALLBREAKER—“Hail Caesar” and “Hard As A Rock”—but “Boogie Man” certainly wouldn’t be missed (even the band must have realized “Cover You In Oil” and “Caught With Your Pants Down” were total shit).
NO BULL – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT is probably worthy of a first-time purchase by your everyday AC/DC fan but as far as upgrading from the original version, doubtful. There is a pair of bonus tracks (“Cover You In Oil” and “Down Payment Blues” from Sweden and Florida, respectively) and “Angus-cam” footage of several songs but unless the annoying jump-cuts in the original release really irked you (Mallet has re-edited the footage to reduce the likelihood of a seizure, a major complaint by viewers), there isn’t much to warrant shelling out another $20. Now, after seeing the Blu-Ray release demoed at Best Buy, that format is another story because the added resolution and hi-definition really benefits the feature and would justify another purchase but only in that case.
AC/DC’s longevity is impressive enough, not even taking into account the well-worn criticism the band has coasted by on a handful of simplistic, three-chord riffs and 4/4 beats in that time. The catalogue speaks for itself and watching 25,000 Spaniards lose their friggin’ minds when even a moderate hit is played is testament to the fact that AC/DC has left its mark on rock and roll history. NO BULL – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT reaffirms that fact and is a worthy inclusion in any rock fan’s collection.