1 - Thunderstruck
2 - Shoot to Thrill
3 - Back in Black
4 - Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
5 - Heatseeker
6 - Fire Your Guns
7 - Jailbreak
8 - The Jack
9 - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
10 - Moneytalks
11 - Hells Bells
12 - High Voltage
13 - Whole Lotta Rosie
14 - You Shook Me All Night Long
15 - T.N.T.
16 - Let There Be Rock
17 - Highway to Hell
18 - For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
For more about AC/DC: Live at Donington and the AC/DC: Live at Donington Blu-ray release, see AC/DC: Live at Donington Blu-ray Review published by Brandon A. DuHamel on October 24, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
I've always been amongst the common crowd of AC/DC devotees who have preferred, nay,
emphatically stated without question, that barring perhaps Back in Black, AC/DC was a far
band with original lead singer Bon Scott; their pre-Brian Johnson material was stronger, and Bon
had a better voice on record and live.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which angle one takes) for AC/DC, unlike their Hard
Rock colleagues Van Halen, one cannot dwell forever in the past and wonder to no end what it
would be like were the band to reunite with Bon Scott, for on February 19, 1980, Bon Scott passed
away to be forever immortalized in the hellish halls of Rock and Roll legend just as the band were
garnering their first real bit of international success with the previous years' release of what was at
the time their biggest album to date, Highway to Hell.
The band continued on, and it was into this impossible situation that Brian Johnson took over as
front man, joining them first in concert in Belgium on June 29th 1980 then on record with the
release of Back in Black, a tribute to the late Bon Scott in July of the same year.
The opening moments of Live at Donington as Angus Young plays the main riff from
So we arrive at Castle Donington, 11 years later with Brian Johnson still at the front of one of
the greatest Hard Rock/Heavy Metal bands of all time and AC/DC headlining the 1991 Monsters
of Rock Festival. From the opening riffs of "Thunderstruck", when Angus Young steps into the
spotlight nearing dusk onstage at Donington in his maroon colored schoolboy uniform, you know
you're in for one wild ride – a full frontal assault of high voltage Rock and Roll, with the explosive
power of T.N.T.
To this day I still find it a bit disorienting to hear Brian Johnson singing songs that should be
sung by Bon, but Brian Johnson makes the songs his own and though I've never been a lover of
his live vocal skills, his voice holds up well in this performance. By the time I was ¼ of the way
in, I didn't care so much that it wasn't Bon Scott singing Bon Scott's songs anymore; it was just
AC/DC performing AC/DC's songs and it was a rollicking riot.
Angus, as usual, was spot on, running around like Chuck Berry after 30 Espressos, and his guitar
skills - well, they are what they are; it's Angus after all, or An-GUS, An-GUS, as the crowd were
chanting. Overall, the band were tight that night. They surely sounded like they'd been playing
those songs for years – which they had been of course.
Visually, there was not much to the show apart from the lights and the firing cannons that end
the show in a furious blaze during the band's parting song "For Those about to Rock (We Salute
You)", but there were the giant inflatable likenesses of "Rosie", amongst other
Above all, the set list was nearly perfect. For a band like AC/DC with such a huge back-catalog, it
must be difficult to choose which songs to perform. I say it was nearly perfect for I would have
chosen to drop a song such as "Heatseeker" in favor of "If You Want Blood" or "Problem Child".
The set list, however, was still sufficiently heavy on fan favorites and hits, and lightly sprinkled
with then current tracks.
Filmed with Panavision cameras and lenses on 35mm film with 26 cameras, including one
helicopter, AC/DC: Live at
Donington is presented in high definition 1080p on this Blu-ray Disc release in its original 1.78:1
The AVC/Mpeg-4 encoding which averages a bitrate of about 30Mbps on this Blu-ray release
captures the full resolution of 35mm film perfectly and with all of the flashing lights and such I
never once saw a compression artifact surface.
Because of the use of so many cameras from various distances and the differing levels of lighting
throughout the performance the quality of the picture does vary, often times from one shot to
the next, but this has more to do with the things I've mentioned than with the encoding. For
example, in certain darker shots from more distant cameras, there is a higher level of grain
present than in well-lit shots from cameras closer to or actually on the stage where little to no
grain can be seen at all.
What truly harms the overall picture quality of this release, however, is the lack of care that was
taken in transferring this film to high definition. The source was in obvious need of some repair;
perhaps even some cleaning up in the digital realm to make it just right. For what is probably
the whole second half of the disc, there are very visible scratches that appear frequently straight
down the frames, often two or three at a time. This, in my opinion, is completely
unacceptable for a high definition video release. After seeing the care with which a studio like
Warner can take when transferring Elvis Presley films such as Viva Las Vegas and
Jailhouse Rock to Blu-ray, or watching the flawless high definition transfer of
Goldfinger on MGM HD in Mpeg-4, there is no excuse why a film that is only from 1991
should come to Blu-ray with these obvious flaws still in tact and they force me to knock the
rating down for this release.
For this release, Sony-BMG and Columbia Music Video have provided three listening options:
48kHz/24bit PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps) and PCM 5.1 48kHz/24bit.
Listening to the 5.1 PCM mix on this Blu-ray release is an absolute aural treat - "high voltage
rock and roll" indeed. This is one of the best mixed live Hard Rock shows I've heard a recording of
in recent memory. Crowd noise is kept to a minimum during the performances and the music is
not drowned in cavernous amounts of reverberation that turns everything into a muddled mess
of sounds. Here, everything has the right amount of punch, and dynamics – what little dynamics
there are in a maxed-out-to-11 Hard Rock concert, anyway – are preserved.
Of particular note are how well the thump of Chris Slade's drums and the raw overdrive of Angus
Young's guitar are presented. One can hear all the feedback coming from those Marshall stacks,
and the sizzle of the cymbals and whack of the snare from Slade's drums with amazing
Brian Johnson's vocals, are mixed in well and rarely get lost in the thunderous assault of sounds,
and Cliff Williams' bass guitar lines are solidly placed and aided quite effectively, I would suppose,
by the subwoofer.
If fault is to be found at all with this mix, it is that Malcom Young's guitar, placed mostly in the
front left channel is often overwhelmed in the mix by his brother Angus' guitar, placed in the
front right channel. I sympathize with Mike Fraser, the mix engineer here, for he had the
unenviable task of having to mix two distinctly different model guitars – Malcom's early-60's
Gretsh Firebird double-cutaway solid body double-humbucking guitar and Angus' '57 style Gibson
SG double-humbucking guitar - with very similar tones, made even more similar by being run
through Marshall amp heads no doubt. Still, it would have been nice to be able to hear Malcom's
playing more distinctly.
Besides, I also wonder how much better this all would have sounded had this been done at a
higher sampling rate, like 96kHz. I know audiophiles will debate the benefits of this until pigs
spread their wings and fly off into the sunset to visit Bon Scott down where it's now frozen over,
but having worked with audio on a daily basis at various sampling rates and bit depths, I have
my own personal preference for a higher sampling rate – yet 48kHz can still be exceptional when
done well, as this recording, mastering, and mix certainly are.
The supplements provided on this Blu-ray release are sparse, but in comparison to some other
releases are actually worthwhile in one case at least. There is the obligatory commentary track,
which is an interview/conversation of sorts with brothers Malcom and Angus Young in which
they discuss the filming of the concert, amongst other things; the Iso-cam versions of select
songs, where a camera follows around a single member of the band during the entire
performance of the song (Angus: "Thunderstruck"; "Back in Black"; "Highway to Hell"/Brian:
"Whole Lotta Rosie"/Malcom: "T.N.T."/Cliff: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"); and finally, what is
in my opinion the best extra of all on this disc, an in-concert and full catalog interactive
When the in-concert discography feature is turned on, during playback one can bring up a
graphic that will show the album cover and complete track listing of the album for the current
song the band is performing and one can also scroll through the entire AC/DC discography
album by album in chronological order. The full catalog feature does not work during playback,
but using it the entire discography can be viewed at once on screen and scrolled through to
select each album and see its track listing.
It is my belief, since this disc loads a Java app before playing, that all these features (or at the
very least the in-concert discography) utilize BD-J, thus showing once again how flexible Blu-ray
and BD-J interactivity can be.
This may not be the most spectacular high definition video transfer to come along, but this release
is definitely superior to DVD, and is all about the music and the performance, both of which are
excellent on this Blu-ray Disc release. My advice would be to grab a pint, or a few pints of Victoria
Bitter (assuming you are of the legal age in your particular jurisdiction, of course), purchase this
Blu-ray Disc release, crank up the sound system, and prepare for a steady dose no nonsense Rock
and Roll. If you're like I was when I was a teenager (okay, sometimes now, still) you can get your
Gibson, plug it in and play along.
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