Malcolm Young died Saturday, prompting tributes for the AC/DC guitarist whose blunt-force rhythm chords left fans’ ears ringing after the band thundered through here often over 30-plus years. My quite terrific dentist Jeff Wilson is a big fan, for example. But few honors ring so true, so cool, as this from longtime rock ’n’ roll stage tech John Burke. I’ve known “John-John” for 25 years, from maybe 100 NRBQ shows. Here he recalls Malcolm Young, whom he met in 2008.
After working a tour with Italian fusion rocker Zucchero, “I had to take the truck to Clair Bros. [concert equipment company] in Lititz, Pennsylvania, to pick up a bunch of backline [amps, in the trade; instruments are frontline],” Burke recalled. “I noticed the giant props for the upcoming AC/DC tour,” but didn’t think too much about it. “I was backing into the loading area and noticed a smaller guy sitting and having a smoke; kinda thought he looked like Malcolm,” said Burke. The guy was sitting on an AC/DC road case: It was Malcolm. When the guitarist walked over and asked what he was doing, Burke told him and the guy, Malcolm, “insisted on helping me unload the truck!”
Young explained that AC/DC was rehearsing for the tour. “I told him I’d never seen his band live and asked if it was OK to listen to a couple songs. He said ‘Sure thing, come on in.’ ” Rehearsals that first week included only Malcolm, the drummer and the bass player. No [lead guitarist] Angus [Young] or [lead singer] Brian [Johnson]. “Those three guys, in that small room, playing that loud, were amazing! It was like standing on the tracks with a fully loaded freight train coming at me,” said Burke. “I listened for an hour and a half. It only became more intense and the tempo never did waver; almost felt like I was inside a giant piece of machinery.”
Later, as Burke warmed up the truck and updated paperwork, Malcolm asked where he was headed. “Connecticut,” Burke replied. “He said I’ll probably hit traffic in New York [City] and that I should come back in and have something to eat with them because it would be a long drive.” Burke said, “It was a great day for me. I’ll never forget how friendly and kind Malcolm was to me. R.I.P., Malcolm.”
R.I.P. also to Mel Tillis who died Sunday, and Della Reese who passed on Monday.
HEDONISTS’ CAFFE WEEKEND
Annie and the Hedonists — SO strong and so fun at the recent Eighth Step anniversary show — play Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) both Friday and Saturday. Annie (Rosen) can sing anything she wants, from country to blues to folk to whatever; husband Jonny Rosen plays soulful guitar, Don Young lays down crunchy bass lines and Peter Davis plays any instrument in sight. 8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Rosanne Cash charmed with beautiful sounds and dazzled with depth in duets at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last week with husband (22 years) and accompanist (guitar and piano) John Leventhal.
Born into country royalty, she buffed her legacy with “Tennessee Flat Top Box” by “my dad” (you know: Johnny) and “Etta’s Tune” honoring the 65-year marriage of her dad’s bassist Marshall Grant and wife Etta.
A thoroughly modern troubadour cruising country’s folk side, she celebrated heritage on her own terms with healthy helpings of singer-songwriter fare from her multi-Grammy “The River and the Thread;” songs of the south in all its complex soulfulness.
Cash could carry a show without singing — just telling tales. Her songs read like little novels or like paging through a worn family Bible, to “The Sunken Lands” of Arkansas where the Cash saga started. In “A Feather’s Not a Bird” she proclaimed, “a river runs through me,” a river of history and awareness. She gave that same authority to breathtaking covers of southern-gothic masterpieces “Long Black Veil” and “Ode to Billy Joe,” and to tunes her dad gave her to learn in “The List,” including “I’m Moving On” in low gear and “Heartaches by the Number” (a rousing encore) in singalong overdrive.
Her voice meshed perfectly with Leventhal’s chording or solos, but she delivered more than just compelling vocals. This was a performance with a capital “P,” a display of music made personal by the complex, intelligent, super-talented woman projecting it.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]