Over the past few years, Aerosmith has been the focus of some rather mixed media attention, generally fueled by lead singer Steven Tyler's assorted (and very public) antics which have, at times, nearly spelled the death of the band. However, it is the same refusal to age with
much grace (when coupled with one of the most distinct voices in rock 'n' roll) that makes Tyler one of best frontmen to ever walk the stage.
Opening for Aerosmith was a legendary band in its own right, Cheap Trick. Lead singer Robin Zander appeared on stage decked-out in a rhinestone encrusted marching band jacket and leather police hat -- standard issue for the dream police. Drummer Bun E Carlos was absent, replaced by guitarist Rick Neilsen's son, Daxx, but the rest of the classic lineup was present and ready for action.
Cheap Trick romped through a feast of riffs and favorites for the early crowd. Local yocal, Vince Neil, took some time from his busy schedule hawking Mötley Crüe merchandise and alcohol to hop on stage and sing "He's a Whore" with the band. Neil didn't really know the song all that well, and the moment felt out of place at best. The sour taste left by the cameo was thoroughly washed away by the latter portion of the group's set, which featured a rocked-up Beatles medley in acknowledgement of the anniversary of John Lennon's death on December 8, 1980, and the group's 3 mega-hits in sequence. The no frills formula still worked like a charm, and the set ended with Aerosmith's Brad Whitford sitting in on "Surrender" while Neilsen Sr. played his iconic Hamer 5 necked guitar.
As Aerosmith's introduction clip rolled over the speakers of the darkened arena, the anticipation was palpable in the audience. The band ripped into "Toy's in the Attic" with a rumbling assault that immediately shook the marring dirt of recent in-fighting from the minds of all in attendance.
Joe Perry and Steven Tyler were found a the end of a catwalk that led to the middle of the arena, sharing a scarve-riddled mic stand while the rest of the band grooved away on the main stage.
Tyler's voice was intact and on-point for the first portion of the set; all of the highs were hit, all of the signature screams, and birdcalls, and even his unfortunate scatting, were handled with ease. Joe Perry looked like a guitar wielding mystic in a large brimmed black hat and an ever-changing outfit of pirate's clothing. Perry is still one of the absolute coolest rock stars ever, and he spent the majority of the night channeling the very essence of rock music through his fingers and into every single swaggering riff and solo he played.
The Aerosmith of 2012 allowed each and every member of the band to have a moment in the limelight. Brad Whitford, who has always been criminally underrated and incorrectly categorized as a "rhythm guitarist," undoubtedly changed that perception after performing a solo feature of searing pentatonic shred mid-set, Tom Hamilton's immediately recognizable intro to "Sweet Emotion" was extended and riffed on a bit, and Joe Perry played the guitar instrumental "Boogie Man."
The feature that really stopped the show, however, was Joey Kramer's drum solo.
Kramer beat the snot out of his sparkling Ludwig drums for a good ten minutes on a riser that was moved to the center of the stage. Kramer's fills transcended the ultimate rock cliche that is the drum solo, and even though the excursion ended with him slapping his drums with his hands (and head!) in a cloud of smoke, the moment was actually really fun, despite its campiness.
Though the band is touring on a new album, the cuts selected were limited to "Oh Yeah" and "Lover Alot." The set served more as a reminder that this band was a hard rock band well before the ballads, and the movie themes, and the '90's. "Movin' Out," "Walkin' the Dog," "Last Child," and a number of other vintage tracks were highlights of the set for fans of the first era of Aerosmith.
Perry stepped up to the mic for "Combination", and though he botched a good portion of the song's lyrics, the sins of forgetfulness were absolved via the burning solo he ended the number with. In fact, the only ballad performed was "What it Takes," which was gussied-up with a bluesy introduction that had Tyler singing along with what sounded like the entire audience. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford couldn't be bothered to stand for the song, preferring to play seated on the edge of the drum riser.
The encore was done with dramatic flare. After the band had "concluded" the set with "Walk This Way," Tyler reappeared at the end of the catwalk, seated at a white piano that popped up through the floor of the stage, to sing "Dream On." The singer himself had acknowledged that he blew out his voice earlier that night with one of the quips that came between bouts of air-humping and mic stand tossing, and "Dream On" was most likely the moment the frontman had been dreading all night. Despite the hoarseness, Tyler was still a pro and pulled the song off. The night ended with "Sweet Emotion"
Though Tyler did manage to burn out his voice over the course of the evening, the man is a performer through and through. He danced the entire night, took photos with audience members phones, and put on a phenomenal show. And it must be said, because it really isn't said frequently enough: Aerosmith is a band, and though Tyler is the center of attention for most, he requires those four guys backing him up just as much as they need him for the magic to work. Last night, the magic was definitely there.
Personal Bias: One of the first CDs I ever purchased with my own money was Get a Grip.
Overheard: "Whoa-hoaaaaa!!! That, blew my mind! I've got chills!!"
- Drunken fan behind me in reference to one of Tyler's more wild screeches
Random Detail: Joe Perry was draped backstage with a cape that was adorned with his signature Aerosmith "A" and his name in sequins.
-"On Top of the World"
-"He's a Whore" (w/ Vince Neil)
-"Need Your Love"
-"I Know What I Want"
-"Sick Man of Europe"
-"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" (Beatles Medley)
-"I Want You to Want Me"
-"Surrender" (w/ Brad Whitford)
-"Toys in the Attic"
-"Love in an Elevator"
-"Livin' on the Edge"
-"Walkin' the Dog"
-"What it Takes"
-"Walk This Way"