When AC/DC turned to Axl Rose to help them finish their 2016 tour after singer Brian Johnson started experiencing hearing problems, they faced more than the challenge of having a new singer. Axl started requesting they break out such seldom performed songs as “Live Wire” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation.”
AC/DC guitarist Angus Young was OK with it, but sometimes Axl wouldn’t suggest a song until the day of the show. Angus tells Rolling Stone, “He’d say, ‘Can we do that?’ And I’d go, ‘Oh, all right. I’ll try.’ I was lucky. I’ve got a guitar tech that played in a cover band. And I would go, ‘Tell me the first chord, and then I’ll pick it up.’ It was fun. It kept us on our toes, too.”
Angus isn’t the first guitarist who had to turn to a member of the crew for help in remembering a song. When the original KISS lineup reunited for a tour in 1996, Tommy Thayer, who was then a member of the crew and is now their guitarist, had to work with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss on relearning their parts. Thayer had previously played in the KISS cover band Cold Gin.
Other acts who’ve benefited from hiring band members who were in tribute bands include Arnel Pineda with Journey, Jon Davison and Benoit David with Yes, and Tim “Ripper” Owens with Judas Priest. And David Lee Roth hired guitarist Al Estrada from Eruption, the Van Halen tribute band, for his latest group.