DVD Review: AC/DC ‘No Bull’ (The Director’s Cut)

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During July of 1996, Aussie hard rockers AC/DC rocked the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, and this forthcoming re-mastered edition DVD was more entertaining than I had expected.

I have never been a major AC/DC fan, and for me they were one of those bands that I would continue listening to if they happened to come on the radio, but was not quite into them enough to actually buy an album, or attend one of their concerts.

In my younger days of cruising around with the FM radio blasting, there were certain groups or songs that I thought of as “station changers.” Recognized within just a few notes, my fingers would quickly rescue my ears from something I would rather not hear. I never thought of AC/DC as a “station changer,” and I have no trouble remembering well their hits like “Hell’s Bells,” “Back In Black” and “Highway To Hell.”

image As those who may have read some of my past reviews of live CDs or DVDs may know, I’ve never been a big fan of audio recorded live. In this case, however, I found the audio quality quite acceptable, although lead singer Brian Johnson’s voice did seem to be a little buried under his hard-rocking band mates at times. Whether that can be blamed on the sound crew or a failure of Johnson’s pipes is something I will not speculate about.

There’s little doubt about where most eyes are when AC/DC takes the stage. Although I’ve always been a little freaked out by Angus Young’s “British Schoolboy” attire, there is no doubt that the man can put on a show, and he deserves some additional credit for losing most of the well-worn costume as the show heated up.

I recently heard about a study where it was determined that rock drummers are quite similar to top athletes when it comes to stamina and physical fitness. I dare say that I would have to select Angus Young as the guitarist who comes as close as I have seen to one that might have the stamina of a top athlete. No offense to Phil Rudd intended!

Young appears to be nothing short of a perpetual motion machine onstage, and at the same time, I actually found him quite entertaining. I also must give credit to whatever manufacturer made the wireless transmitter that was affixed to the back of his guitar strap during the show for producing such a sturdy device. I do not know how many times he threw himself on the floor and spun around on his back a few times — an act that was reminiscent of the signature move pioneered by “Curly” of the Three Stooges many years ago.

The crowd in Madrid was as enthusiastic as one might imagine. The venue reportedly accommodates approximately 20,000, and had I been an AC/DC fan in attendance, I would certainly not have felt short-changed. There was no shortage of unusual props added to the performance, including a wrecking ball and a giant, well-endowed blow-up doll, who we can safely assume was named “Rosie.” Unfortunately for her, she was unceremoniously and rather rapidly deflated when her approximately four minutes of fame had expired.

Some reviews I read about an earlier version of this show that was released on DVD in 2001 were critical of the sound, as well as the short length of time between camera shots, which someone likened to an effect that might trigger an epileptic seizure.

Apparently, the director himself was never pleased with the earlier release either. On the rear cover of the DVD is reads, “Ultimately rushed for release in 1996 for the home video market, [director David] Mallet was always unhappy with the results of the final product. Until Now.”

Having in my possession just a review copy of the latest version of No Bull, I do not know if the criticisms of the earlier version are accurate, but the fact that director David Mallet was himself not satisfied with the earlier release lends credibility to those fans who were not happy with it.

The criticisms of the earlier version do not seem valid while judging this latest release, which is good news for AC/DC fans who might want a higher quality version of this performance for their collection.

For those that are not fond of the relatively quick scene changes that are common to rock videos in general, there are four songs on this new release that were shot with the “Angus Cam,” which does not feature much more than continuous footage of the energetic guitarist as he visits just about every corner of the stage, much to the delight of the fans in Madrid.

There are also two bonus videos from that same Ballbreaker tour, one shot in Goteborg, Sweden and the other in Daytona, Florida.

Overall, I found this to be a well-produced and entertaining DVD, and I suspect AC/DC fans will appreciate it even more than I did. As a self-confessed audio snob, I often serve up a healthy dose of criticism for the sound quality that one may get with CDs or DVDs recorded live, a point I mentioned earlier. In this case, I found it quite satisfactory for a live performance.

No Bull (The Director’s Cut) is scheduled for release on September 9, and it will be available exclusively at Wal-Mart stores and at AC/DC’s official website.

AC/DC’s brand-new studio album, Black Ice, is expected to be released on October 20, and will also be available at Wal-Mart stores and on the band’s website.

Check out the trailers at the following locations:

For Windows Media

For QuickTime

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