Lehigh Valley Music
July 22, 2012
Who would have thought that after all the infighting, abandoned albums and tours, drug rehabs, health problems and distractions of having a lead singer who’s a judge on “American Idol,” Aerosmith had a hope of making any comeback at all?
Let alone one as stunning as that on display Saturday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Re-energized, rejuvenated and playing with passion, Aerosmith burned through a set that stretched just short of two hours and included 19 song set plus a six-minute drum solo.
The set was full of hits, but also included a couple deeper cuts – some reaching back 40 years – and two songs from the upcoming album “Music From Another Dimension,” the band’s first new music in a decade. And if those new tunes are any indication, that disc may be a similarly stunning comeback.
Singer Steven Tyler, looking healthy and sober – no one 64 years old could perform that well under the influence – ran, danced and preened through the night. Guitarist Joe Perry, 61, was nearly as impressive, not as expressive with his actions, but authoritative with his playing.
And without any overwhelming stage show – a long runway into the crowd was about as inventive as it got – the band had the sellout crowd rowdy and engaged. (“You’re some crazy mother—–s,” he told them at one point.)
The show opened with a kick, the title track from the 1977 disc “Draw the Line.” Rising out of a cloud of fog at the end of that runway, Tyler wore a top hat and silk shawl and Perry in a silver sequined jacket – every bit as much the glitter twins as Jagger and Richards.
“Did you miss us?” Tyler asked the crowd before the second song, “Love in an Elevator.” “We missed you.” And the band’s efforts on the night made that sentiment feel sincere. As Perry fired off the first of a night full of hot licks, Tyler danced with the mic stand and thrust his pelvis, and briefly segued into The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”
But the performance level actually rose from there. For “Living on the Edge,” Tyler ran the length of the runway and literally spit out the words – singing so forcefully he expectorated. “You like that?” he asked after the song, then launched into “Cryin’,” Perry’s licks clean and sharp, Tyler posing dramatically then adding some warm harmonica.
One secret to the show’s success came on “Oh Yeah,” the first song from the new disc. A stripped-down, straight forward rocker with an approach that belies the band’s age, the song had Tyler and Perry performing together, their heads touching. They looked happy – Tyler even hugged Perry at the end of the song – and even his screeching vocals seemed revived.
The show’s mid-section focused on individual members. Rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford was highlighted on the 1976 song “Last Child,” which he co-wrote. It stretched seven minutes with his three-minute guitar solo as Tyler hopscotched around the stage. Drummer Joey Kramer’s solo had him alone on stage until Tyler joined him on the kit for two minutes. Kramer also tossed his sticks and briefly played with his hands.
And 1988’s “Rag Doll” had Perry on steel lap guitar before he played a long solo of the “Peter Gunn” theme and “Boogie Man” from 1992’s “Get a Grip,” and finally singing on a fast and furious “Combination.”
For a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake,” someone from the crowd handed Tyler a huge-feathered top hat, and the song’s double-guitar attack was just as flashy. The song turned into an 11-minute jam.
And then the band kicked into the new single, “Legendary Child.” A strong, Led Zeppelin-esque rocker, the song is easily its best in a decade, and perhaps its best in since “Livin’ on the Edge” 20 years ago. Perry played it for all it was worth, and Tyler did, too, swing and strutting and he sang.
And as if to prove its mettle, Aerosmith closed with three songs from its 1975 disc “Toys in the Attack”—still its top seller 37 years later. Tyler introduced the mini-set by making reference to the band’s appearance that year at the former Philadelphia Spectrum.
“No More No More” had Tyler and Perry at the end of the ramp singing together – Perry playing with a second guitar slung over his shoulder and Tyler pushing his voice to the edge.
Then Tyler introduced bassist Tom Hamilton, who showed he’s an underrated rhythm man with a long solo that developed into the recognizable riff that opens “Sweet Emotion.” The crowd cheered with recognition, then came Perry’s voicebox guitar and the song kicked in. It stretched to nine minutes, with Perry playing against his amp for feedback.
And then they went right into “Walk This Way,” Perry nailing the iconic riff to that song.
They started the encore with Tyler at the end of the runway at a white piano for “Dream On.” Halfway through, Perry climbed atop it to play, then they finished with Tyler atop it for his trademark long scream at the end.
They followed with a cover of jazz singer Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” Perry and Whitford exchanging licks on the runway amidst a confetti shower that looked, for all intents, to be the finale.
But Tyler said, “F— this. I don’t think we’re through yet!” And the band finally closed with the chestnut “Chip Away the Stone” from 1978’s “Live Bootleg.”
At most, the only minor complaints with the show would be what was left out, particularly “Dude Looks Like a Lady” and “Janie’s Got a Gun.” But at two hours, who’s to complain? The band rocked harder than anyone could have reasonably expected.
“You crazy f—s,” Tyler told the crowd. “Thanks for coming out and rocking our world.”
The sentiments are mutual.