Times Union, NY
By Greg Haymes
June 30, 2012
It’s possible that Steven Tyler is better known these days for his television gigs on “American Idol” and Burger King commercials than he is as the bandleader of Boston’s bad boys of rock. But there he was, back in the saddle again at the Times Union Center on Friday night leading the charge as Aerosmith rumbled through nearly two hours of vintage rock anthems and bawdy blues-rockers – as well as the big power ballads – that have been the band’s stock in trade for more than 40 years now.
More than ever, however, Friday night’s Aerosmith concert seemed like a Steven Tyler show. The charismatic frontman has always been the band’s visual focal point in concert, but for more than half of the performance, black-clad guitarist Brad Whitford, white-clad bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer seemed all but invisible on stage. And the trio of supporting vocalists – who also contributed on keyboards, sax and percussion – were tucked away behind the stack on amplifiers, almost out of sight.
Guitarist Joe Perry did manage to frequently elbow his way into the spotlight, but it took considerable effort on his part. The manic antics of Tyler simply soaked up the audience’s gaze like a sponge.
A runway extending out into the audience from the stage is something of an arena-rock staple these days, a staging device usually utilized somewhere near the mid-set point for rock stars to leave the stage and get closer to the audience in an effort to conjure a forced sense of intimacy. Not Aerosmith. They actually started off the evening with Tyler and Perry shoulder-to-shoulder at the far end of the runway – midway out into the arena – launching into a slash ‘n’ burn rendition of ”Draw the Line” that was laced with Perry’s scorching slide guitar work.
Throughout the night, Tyler actually spent much more time on the runway than he did on the stage. And perhaps he’s learned more about the power of a well aimed camera from his television work, since he also seemed to spend quite a bit of time mugging for the cameras that provided the live feed to the video projection backdrop.
But the truth of the matter is that Tyler’s hellacious howl is as strong as ever, and he remains a magnetic presence on stage, and whether it was classics like “Sweet Emotion” and “Dream On,” the amped-up boogie woogie of “No More, No More,” the swinging funk of “Last Child,” the sneak previews of their upcoming album (the gritty blues-based “Oh Yeah” and the decidedly “Walk This Way”-ish “Legenadry Child”) or the cheeseball ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” he invested himself in them completely and convincingly.
Cheap Trick’s hour-long opening set was sabotaged by a relentlessly murky sound mix and a less than stellar song selection, as the band back-loaded their set with the hits – “Surrender,” “The Flame,” “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police” – before wrapping up with “Good Night” and the requisite appearance of Rick Neilsen’s five-neck guitar monstrosity.