Santana has covered it. Living Colour have covered it. Six Feet Under reimagined it as a death metal anthem and Hayseed Dixie turned it all different shades of bluegrass. Even Shakira has had a go. AC/DC’s Back In Black is one of those songs that everyone has taken a pass at, and now Joe Bonamassa has joined the club.
We are not actually sure what is the bigger story here, Bonamassa covering AC/DC, or just how the track turned out, because the world’s highest-grossing blues guitar star recently sat in with Scary Pockets to take the tempo – and the volume down – on a super-chill funk lounge version that features Joanna Jones on vocals.
Appropriately for anyone preparing to assume Angus Young’s role in a band, Bonamassa raided the Nerdville electric guitar arsenal for a Gibson SG. Criminally, on this occasion we did not see Bonamassa in short trousers; he left the school uniform at home.
But then this is obviously an AC/DC cover that takes it as far from the original as possible. Isn’t that one of the rules of a cover version, to either play it straight or make it all your own?
The performance also features Ryan Lerman who is playing what looks like a late ‘50s Harmony Meteor in natural finish – with what also looks like the original DeArmond gold-foil pickups. So you have both sides of the vintage electric guitar market covered; JB with the more aspirational Gibson SG, Lerman with a more affordable entry point for collectors, though with a guitar that is 100 per cent vibe.
Joining Bonamassa and Lerman are Dan Bailey on drums, Calvin Turner on bass guitar, with Jack Conte playing keys.
If the original Back In Black was a full-throated rock tribute to late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott, marking a triumphant comeback with Brian Johnson bringing some gravel to the mic for a new era for the band, this is the Back In Black you might here in the cocktail bar of an upmarket hotel chain.
As on the original, it’s a verse-heavy arrangement that gives the singer a chance to vamp all over it, and here Joanna Jones sure cuts loose. But when it comes time to solo Bonamassa doesn’t miss, reworking it as fingerstyle blues. There was no need to dig out a vintage Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (SVDS) like the one Young used on to give his tone a little extra juice on Back In Black. This was all clean tone.
Playing-wise was Bonamassa putting his feet up and having fun. After scoring his 26th number one blues album with Tales Of Time, he’s earned it. Bonamassa is on tour across Europe and plays the Stadthalle, Rostock, Germany tonight. He hits the UK in May. See Joe Bonamassa for full dates and ticket details.