LISBON (AFP) – Guns N Roses frontman Axl Rose performed his first show with veteran Aussie rockers AC/DC Saturday after stepping in for Brian Johnson, treating a rapturous Lisbon crowd to confident renditions of hits such as “Back in Black” and “Thunderstruck”.
“Nice to meet you!” shouted the 54-year-old rocker as he took to the stage wearing his trademark bandana under a hat, but confined to a chair because of a broken foot.
Saturday s open-air concert at the Passeio Maritimo de Alges in Lisbon marked the start of a 12-date, five-week swing through Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, England and Denmark.
The band cancelled remaining dates on their US tour back in March after Johnson, 68, was told by doctors that he had to quit touring immediately or risk total hearing loss.
Notorious for playing at painfully high decibels, AC/DC brought in Rose for the European tour and the 10 postponed US dates.
The concerts will showcase its latest album, “Rock or Bust”.
Johnson, known for his cap and a voice that strains the vocal cords, joined the band in 1980 after singer Bon Scott died following a night of heavy drinking.
Johnson earlier said he was “crushed” that he had to quit the tour.
Johnson s loss is the latest major change for AC/DC. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, brother of lead guitarist Angus, retired in 2014 before “Rock or Bust” as he suffers from dementia.
Speaking to BBC 6 Music this week, Rose paid tribute to Johnson and said it would be “really challenging” to replace him.
“He s a great singer,” Rose said. “I m just trying to do it justice for the fans.”
Die-hard AC/DC lovers in Lisbon appeared to appreciate his efforts on Saturday.
“Axl Rose has a lot of respect for the group and he has the voice for it,” said Paulo Dias, 48.
“Of course he can t replace Brian Johnson, but Axl Rose is a good singer,” agreed Francis Vega, also 48, who flew in from the Canary Islands for the gig.
But not everyone was convinced.
“Axl Rose is nothing like Brian Johnson,” said a disappointed Marcos Vizoso, 44, who had brought his 10-year-old daughter to the show. “I wanted her to see the original band.”
Guns N Roses became global sensations with 1987 s “Appetite For Destruction”, which remains the best-selling debut album ever. Its signature song “Sweet Child o Mine” was a mega-hit.
But the rough living described in the songs was not far from reality and the band suffered frequent friction, with the classic lineup calling it quits after a 1993 show in Buenos Aires.