20 Years Ago: AC/DC Kick Off Triumphant ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ Tour
“It's an idea that sprung into my head when I was stuck in a traffic jam once,” Angus Young explained to Guitar World of the LP name in May 2000, a few months before the tour's start. “I was thinking that one of the earliest images of rock 'n' roll that I'd ever seen was Elvis Presley, who always had that big old lip sticking straight up in the air — that sneer, you know? And that's something that's carried straight through rock 'n' roll. Hendrix, Jagger ... they all had that thing with the lip.”
The album presented a return to AC/DC’s bluesy, brash songwriting style, with highlights like “Safe in New York City” and “Satellite Blues.” In the wake of their last album, the meticulous, Rick Rubin-produced Ballbreaker, the band looked forward to a clean slate. George Young - Angus and Malcolm’s older brother who produced several earlier albums, including all of their '70s LPs - returned to the producer’s seat for Stiff Upper Lip.
“I think the boys believe in George more than anybody else in the world,” singer Brian Johnson said in the same Guitar World interview from 2000. “They trust him. Shit, I do. When it comes to rock 'n' roll, the guy really knows what he's talking about.”
Stiff Upper Lip reached No. 7 on the Billboard album chart when it was released in February. So, AC/DC — featuring the lineup of the Young brothers on guitar, Johnson at the mic, Cliff Williams on bass and Phil Rudd on drums — hit the road feeling like they had something to prove. And they delivered.
"The first show sold out in 20 minutes," Angus recalled in a video tour interview. "Usually when you kick off a tour, you're a little bit shaky and everything, but it was like [we] never left. It was just good to get back in. That one really sticks out for me."
Watch AC/DC on the Stiff Upper Lip Tour
Even though the set included plenty of the band's classic songs, it didn’t feature much from the new album. Nevertheless, the party continued for another 11 months, as AC/DC played 144 concerts across 17 countries. Supported by various rock acts like Slash’s Snakepit, Wide Mouth Mason, Backyard Babies and the Living End, the Stiff Upper Lip tour consistently sold out arenas and left no corner of the world untouched.
“You get caught up in the enthusiasm of it all,” Johnson told Guitar World of working the stage. “Everybody's whackin' away 100 percent; if you don't join in, you may as well not be there."
AC/DC, never ones to shy away from wild and elaborate productions, centered the entire stage show on a gigantic version of the Angus Young statue spotlighted on Stiff Upper Lip's front cover. The introductory video that played before the band's concerts featured the oversized bronze guitarist kidnapping the Statue of Liberty while planes zoomed past the twin towers of New York City's World Trade Center.
Watch the Stiff Upper Lip Tour Intro Film
Two months after the trek concluded on July 8, 2001, in Cologne, Germany, those same towers were destroyed as part of the 9/11 attacks. Understandably, the New York City-based intro film scenes were nowhere to be found on the December 2001 release of Stiff Upper Lip Live, a two-hour live DVD of their June 14 performance at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany.
It would be seven more years before AC/DC released their next studio album, 2008's Black Ice, and kicked off what would become Malcolm Young's final tour with the band.
You can see the set list from the Stiff Upper Lip tour's opening night below.
AC/DC, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 1, 2000
1. “You Shook Me All Night Long” - from Back in Black (1980)
2. “Stiff Upper Lip” - from Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
3. “Shot Down in Flames” - from Highway to Hell (1979)
4. “Thunderstruck” - from The Razors Edge (1990)
5. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” - from Let There Be Rock (1977)
6. “Hard as a Rock” - from Ballbreaker (1995)
7. “Shoot to Thrill” - from Back in Black (1980)
8. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” - from Back in Black (1980)
9. “Get It Hot” - from Highway to Hell (1979)
10. “Bad Boy Boogie” - from Let There Be Rock (1977)
11. “Hells Bells” - from Back in Black (1980)
12. “Satellite Blues” - from Stiff Upper Lip (2000)
13. “The Jack” - from T.N.T. (1975)
14. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” - from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976)
15. “Back in Black” - from Back in Black (1980)
16. “Highway to Hell” - from Highway to Hell (1979)
17. “Whole Lotta Rosie” - from Let There Be Rock (1977)
18. “Let There Be Rock” - from Let There Be Rock (1977)
19. “T.N.T.” - from T.N.T. (1975)
20. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” - from For Those About to Rock (1981)