AC/DC, Apollo, Hammersmith, London

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The Independent Culture

This year's release of the long-awaited DVD of Led Zeppelin's live performances demonstrated just how expectations have changed over the past three decades. Seventies audiences flapped their arms like seals at every note of Jimmy Page's often excruciating solos, yet today's listeners instead revere Zep for the power and imagination of their rhythms.

Which is, I guess, a long-winded way of pointing out just why those perennials AC/DC have retained their appeal to this day. Though girlies may buy T-shirts overprinted with their timeless logo in Topshop, and weedy students are convinced that their weedy student bands are suddenly possessed by the God of Rock simply by sporting said items, the fact remains that no one, not even The Rolling Stones (who recently called in Australia's greatest musical export to bolster the bill on their German dates), can do what they do: that is, to attain a perfect level of simplicity that defies replication. Tonight is a special event, too. As the biggest-selling rock act ever - and proportionately probably the biggest-selling act to males full stop - AC/DC simply do not play venues this intimate, with a piffling, by their standards, 5,000 capacity.

Lyrically, they may be little more than a deafening seaside postcard, and certainly they've never been accused of capturing any cultural currents. But what a band they are! Tighter than any cliché you can summon up and, despite their reputation for fearsome volume, far more subtle than they are given credit for - their guitars are amplified rather than actively distorted - they are magnificent tonight. The set is, as always, a collection of greatest hits, but, denuded of stadium props such as the gangways on which the eternal schoolboy Angus Young usually sprints around, and lined up on a stark stage-set, the band seemed more focused than ever.

All AC/DC singles become crowd favourites eventually, which is why 1997's "Hard as a Rock" sits so comfortably next to a terrific "Rock'n'Roll Damnation". Material written by the late Bon Scott (and how many bands have ever replaced a front man without losing their way?) pays tribute to a man who died before most of the audience had even heard of him, yet there's nothing mawkish about it. Respect is, as ever, paid by everyone.

So what if AC/DC haven't changed their style in 25 years? No one has ever done it better, and, quite honestly, I can't imagine rock'n'roll finer than this evening's fantastic peaks of "If You Want Blood" and "You Shook Me All Night Long". AC/DC deserve to be recognised as a group to match any of music's most eulogised names, as this show proves. The sound is great in this lovely renovated venue (now stripped of its seats, and doubtless unlikely to remain quite so well preserved); the atmosphere, better. Best of all, no one present is having an ironic good time. Not even the legions of air guitarists.