Like A Fire Ball

At the dawn of 1995, rumors spread that Phil Rudd was back in the band. At the end of The Razors Edge tour in 1991, Phil attended an AC/DC concert in Auckland, New Zealand and spent several hours backstage with the band after the show. It was the first time he saw the band since his departure from AC/DC in 1983.

In 1994, AC/DC began rehearsals for the new album in England. Around May, Malcolm gave Phil a call asking him to sit down on the drums for the recording of the new record and the world tour that would follow. Phil had to think about it seriously with his wife but eventually decided that his place was in AC/DC.

AC/DC began recording the new album in New York, but unhappy with the sound they were getting, decided to move to Los Angeles in Ocean Way Studios where they found the kind of sound they were looking for. After the success of “Big Gun”, the band chose Rick Rubin to produce the new album.

In the first days of September 1995, the first single from the new album was released, called “Hard As A Rock”. The album itself, “Ballbreaker”, was released on September 22. To accompany Ballbreaker's first single, the band shot another video, their seventh collaboration with director David Mallet. For the occasion, four hundred London-area AC/DC fans were driven by bus to a soundstage at Bray Studios in Windsor. Angus spent much of the shoot hanging in mid air on a giant demolition ball, on which he eventually came crashing through a window amidst a hail of candy-glass shrapnel and exploding fireworks.

The rehearsals for the world tour took place in London from November 20 to December 20, 1995 and in St. Petersburg from January 4 to January 10, 1996. The Ballbreaker tour began in the United States on January 12 in Greensboro, North Carolina, in front of 14,000 fans with The Poor as support act. Beginning with “Back In Black”, the set list was completely renewed including songs originally recorded with Bon Scott like “Shot Down In Flames”, “Girls Got Rhythm”, “Dog Eat Dog”, “Down Payment Blues”, as well as new songs from the Ballbreaker album. At each venue the band spent more than two hours on stage.

Only two weeks after the beginning of the American tour, the band was forced to cancel four dates, because of the death of Brian Johnson's father. Brian left the tour in San Antonio on January 28 and immediately flew home to Britain to attend funeral services. Brian's father had been sick for quite a long time, so it did not come as a shock that he passed away. After a few days with his family, Brian flew back to the United States in time for the Oakland show on February 3. The American part of the Ballbreaker tour ended in Dallas on April 4 after forty-nine concerts around the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

On April 20, the European tour began in Oslo with the British band The Wildhearts opening for them. In July, the band played three nights in the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid, Spain. The second show was filmed for a video project. Three days before the first concert in Madrid the band used the big inflatable Rosie in Lisbon, Portugal, for the first time on stage since 1991. It was to be used on the remaining open-air European gigs in Spain and France. The European part of the Ballbreaker tour ended after almost three months and 46 concerts on July 13 in Bordeaux, France, with a small open-air festival with the French band Silmarils, The Wildhearts, and Sepultura.

Two weeks after the end of the European leg of the Ballbreaker tour, AC/DC was back in the United States to perform some songs on stage for a Howard Stern movie project called “Private Parts”.

The second leg of the American Ballbreaker tour started in Wantagh, NY on August 1, 1996 for 30 dates across the North American continent. In October, AC/DC played two concerts in a Brazilian football stadium in Curitiba and Sao Paulo in front of 65,000 fans and left the South American continent after three more dates in Argentina and Chile.

As a tradition established during most of their latest world tours, the Ballbreaker tour was to end in Australia. The band played 13 concerts around Australia supported by a huge promotion. The last concerts of the tour took place in New Zealand at the end of November where they played two open-air shows in Auckland and Christchurch.

After the Ballbreaker tour, all the members of AC/DC were exhausted. European promoters asked the band to come back to Europe to play in major summer festivals but they had to decline the offer. So they took some holidays before beginning to work on a long awaited tribute box set project.