AC/DC Delivers the Thunder at Coachella 2015

"This is the first time we've played a gig in six years," AC/DC's Brian Johnson said after the band delivered "Thunderstruck" to tens of thousands of fans on Friday night.

"This is the first time we've played a gig in six years," AC/DC's Brian Johnson said after the band delivered "Thunderstruck" to tens of thousands of fans on Friday night (Apr. 10) at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. "We jumped right in the deep end."

Coachella was definitely unfamiliar territory for the hard-rocking Australians, but not because of the massive profile of the headlining gig. For all of the barriers the festival has broken in recent years, Coachella has never had an old-school metal act in that peak position. Even Johnson seemed uncertain early on how AC/DC would go over at the heavily indie and EDM fest. "I hope you like rock and roll," he said one song in, "'cause that's all we do."

There was no reason for concern, however, because "all we do" was enough to thoroughly entertain a diverse crowd for multiple hours. This was not a Stone Roses headlining set at Coachella, full of great but decidedly niche rock songs; this was epic, crowd-pleasing music that stretched across the polo fields and rang through the desert sky. AC/DC proved their headlining mettle three songs in, when the familiar riff to "Back In Black" transformed the Empire Polo Fields back to Cal Jam '78.

The band drew liberally from the new Rock Or Bust album, including the title track and "Play Ball." Not surprisingly, though, it was the old favorites, like a smoldering "Shoot To Thrill" and the larger-than-life "Thunderstruck," that had the Polo Fields enraptured. Those songs were a few of the several highlights for guitarist Angus Young, who instantly shot to the top of the list of the greatest guitar heroes in the festival's 16-year history.

As one would expect from the marriage of AC/DC and Coachella, a seminal old-school moment defined the set. Moments after a massive gong appeared onstage and began ringing out to introduce "Hells Bells," Johnson leapt on the fake clapper and swung across the stage on a giant rope, ever the showman and looking just as spry as his iconic voice sounded across the Coachella grounds. AC/DC kept it simple during their sprawling headlining set: they came, they rocked, and they conquered a festival that was not necessarily in their wheelhouse.

"We're back!" Johnson wailed on "Back In Black," tweaking the lyrics to be more inclusive. AC/DC did indeed come back -- and they did it in the deep end.

This story first appeared on Billboard.com.

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