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Reviewed by Michael Fortes
t seems a little odd experiencing a document covering a band that has played the part of rowdy rock n’ roll schoolboys for over 30 years. How many times can one relive wild youth at full speed? And yet, the packages just keep on coming. Since AC/DC turned custodial duties of their catalog over to Sony Music five years ago, there have been reissues galore: deluxe remastered editions of the band’s original albums, a repackaged box set tribute to Bon Scott, and several DVDs. The latest, a five-hour collection titled Plug Me In, offers up a survey of live, mostly previously-televised concert appearances, spanning pretty much their entire history.
While there are certainly plenty of exciting, balls-to-the-wall (not quite literally, but almost – see Brian Johnson riding a wrecking ball during a performance of, what else, “Ballbreaker”) performances here, the bulk of them appear on the first of the set’s two jam-packed discs. Disc One covers the years during which Bon Scott was the band’s lead singer. He had the devil in his eyes, a mischievous grin, and no qualms about strutting shirtless when the moment seemed right. His near-glam stage presence and charisma were an explosive combination with Angus Young’s manic Chuck Berry duckwalks and guitar solos. This first disc alone could have been passed off as a definitive document of AC/DC’s best, most exciting performances.
Disc Two does, however, hammer home the point that this band has entered the rock history books as an institution, a rite of passage for rock n’ roll youth the world over. First, you gotta get past the fact that Scott’s successor, Brian Johnson, is less of a singer and more of a screamer whose voice has deteriorated significantly over time, and whose stage presence is less glam and more macho. You won’t see Johnson baring his chest. In fact, he prefers to keep not only his chest covered, but his head as well. We see the band return from Scott’s death to the biggest crowds they had yet seen in 1981, play for Russian youth following a bloody coup in 1991, and start to really show their age in ’96 on a VH-1 performance. But do we really need to see Johnson grabbin’ his gonads in Munich to “Stiff Upper Lip” in 2003? Sure, there’s ‘70s footage on the first disc of Angus Young dropping his trousers for a shameless moon shot, but that’s the kind of thing you expect from 20-something rock n’ rollers, not 50-something millionaires. These guys refuse to grow up, and the sheer amount of footage on display here is enough to tire out even a youngster. But extra points for laying it all out in a nice package.
Picture quality varies depending on the source, but overall it’s very good to excellent. Some of the earlier material, particularly some black and white footage taken in 1976 at St. Albans High School in Australia, isn’t quite up to the standards of the rest of the package. But where else are you going to see AC/DC playing for a bunch of high school kids at an actual high school, with Angus leading the kids in the “oi!” chant from “TNT”? Both discs also include some bonus interview footage, including the famous ’84 interview where Angus Young comically responded to the criticism that his band made the same album eleven times by saying, “really they’re lying, it’s actually twelve times!” Additionally, Columbia has made a three-disc deluxe version available with memorabilia reproductions. Oi!