Revisiting Brian Johnson’s Last AC/DC Show
No one in the crowd could have known it at the time, but AC/DC's Feb. 28, 2016, performance in Kansas City looks like it was the end of an era.
That set appears to have been Brian Johnson's last as frontman for the band — the final date before doctors reportedly informed him he was facing total hearing loss, forcing the postponement of the remaining dates on the tour and seemingly setting up Johnson's exit from the lineup after more than 35 years.
Johnson's health woes were just the latest in a series of setbacks for AC/DC during the months surrounding their Rock or Bust album and tour. Co-founding guitarist Malcolm Young was forced to retire due to a number of health issues before the album was recorded, and in the days leading up to the band's press blitz for the LP, drummer Phil Rudd found himself ousted over his role in a bizarre crime scandal.
The show in Kansas City, meanwhile, had already been rescheduled due to a death outside the band. Johnson lost a friend just prior to the performance, and the band bumped the concert up a day so he could get back to the U.K. in time for the funeral.
AC/DC's 20-song set on Feb. 28 may have been tinged with sadness, in other words, but not because anyone in the audience was expecting yet another lineup change in the band's future. Although the subject of retirement tends to come up with acts of AC/DC's vintage, the fan-shot footage of the night's final number (which you can watch above) proves they still packed a punch with Stevie Young sitting in for Malcolm and Chris Slade back behind the drum kit.
Johnson stepped in for the deceased Bon Scott in 1980, immediately leading them to the top of the charts with the massively successful Back in Black LP. Nine more bestselling studio efforts followed, concluding with 2014's Rock or Bust, as well as a dozen top-grossing tours. All told, Johnson's 36-year tenure helped cement AC/DC's status as one of the biggest, best and most dependable rock bands on the planet.
It came as a huge shock to many, then, when reports surfaced suggesting Johnson's health issues led to his dismissal. Comedian Jim Breuer, a friend of Johnson's, made headlines when he claimed the singer had been "kicked to the curb" by his former bandmates — and although Breuer quickly tried to walk back his comments, rumors persisted that not only was Johnson out, but he was at least temporarily being replaced by Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose.
On April 16, a press release from the band confirmed that Rose would be filling in on vocals for the remainder of the Rock or Bust tour. Always a band of few words, AC/DC bade their longtime singer adieu with three simple sentences.
"AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures. As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian's decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Rose has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment."
AC/DC Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide