Given their longevity and consistent popularity, it's surprising that AC/DC have never gotten around to releasing a comprehensive career-inclusive box set (1997's fine Bonfire focused exclusively on their early years with Bon Scott, including the album they'd begun to make when he died, the masterpiece Back in Black, as an afterthought). But 2005's double-DVD set The Family Jewels was a superb audio-visual overview of this great band's career, and two years later AC/DC's archivists have unearthed enough material for a second two-disc DVD set that captures one of the world's finest hard rock bands in solid, rowdy form for close to five hours. Disc one of Plug Me In is devoted to material from Bon Scott's years from the band, and while the first few tunes find the group still working out its glam influences (especially the clip of AC/DC miming "It's a Long Way to the Top" on the Aussie music show Bandstand, with Scott faking the bagpipe solo), by the time footage from 1976 gig at an Australian high school comes up, the group had become an unstoppable force live, and though the St. Albans High show was documented with a single low-tech black-and-white video camera, it leaves no doubt this group was on the cusp of major stardom, and it's a great find.
The performances with Bon Scott are generally harder, wilder and edgier (even if they often include extended show-stopping closing numbers rather than capturing the natural flow of a concert), but the consensus among serious fans that AC/DC started going downhill after Brian Johnson signed on as lead singer (following Scott's death in 1980) gets a serious kick in the ass with the first four songs from disc two. Shot during one of Johnson's first tours with AC/DC, the footage of Johnson and AC/DC driving a crowd of Japanese fans absolutely nuts with a flamethrower concert in Tokyo is arguably the best stuff in this box, tight and relentless, and while disc two hits a bit of a dip in the middle, that has more to do with some unfortunate MTV-style editing and the grand-scale outdoor staging of the shows than any real deficiencies in their performances. AC/DC have always been a tough, lean, no-frills rock band, and the sheer sweat and power of their shows is consistent from front to back; Angus Young is a bit less manic in the 21st century than he was in 1975, but he still scrambles admirably well for a guy pushing 50, and the band -- Johnson, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd, the same lineup that cut Back in Black -- can still seriously shake a crowd of over 400,000 at Toronto's "SARS-Stock" in 2003. The set closes with a bonus clip of Brian Johnson and the Young brothers jamming with the Rolling Stones at a German show in 2003, and in many respects AC/DC have stood the test of time better than Mick and Keef -- Plug Me In proves they still command the power of basic, hot-rodded hard rock as well as anyone of their generation, and they lose precious little muscle and intensity during the 28 years covered in this set. The video game-influenced graphics may be a bit cheesy, but Plug Me In is undiluted testosterone-rich rock at its finest, and it wouldn't be at all shocking if AC/DC had another great two-disc DVD package lurking in their tape vaults.