August 2, 2012
From the beginning, they promised a spectacle. “We’re gonna go all Aerosmith mojo on your ass tonight,” lead screecher Steven Tyler promised vaguely but aggressively less than a minute after appearing center stage in a cloud of smoke. And later: “I feel like Wild Bill Hickok over here with this shit.” Outfitted like a gay pirate with a strut like a zoo peacock, Tyler made good on his promise across an occasionally disjointed, frequently bloated show of living legendary proportions.
If that last part — the presence of real live Rock and Roll Hall of Famers — wasn’t clear to the Pepsi Center’s packed-in legions of merch purchasers and moms, the band’s hypnotic, robotic intro let us in on the secret early on. “You are about to enter a great invention,” a very Kraftwerkian voice announced, “an experience of awe and mystery…from which you may never return.” Cue: Joe Perry and Steve Tyler shooting from the stage, bedazzled and unbuttoned, as if expelled from some invisible whale’s blowhole.
Brandishing his ribbon-laced mike stand like a samurai sword, Tyler checked in with the crowd (”Was that good enough for yo ass?”) before showing off both his abs and a vocal range as impressive as Mariah Carey’s. (VH1 reality show pitch: Diva Duels.) Throughout early hits including “Love in an Elevator” and “Livin’ on the Edge,” Tyler whirled like a spin cycle across the stage and its center island while howling, at full volume with full technical skill, the songs on which his band built its career. Laugh at his American Idol stint, call him a has-been, judge his book on whatever cover you want — but then listen to that voice. Are we done now?
Behind him — and occasionally, to force awe and wonder in the audience, beside him — Joe Perry shredded his guitar like the lining of a birdcage while stomping on the band’s own logo projected on the floor below him. During Aerosmith’s two-hour show, the guys indulged both the crowd and themselves, performing into the camera as much as out of it and allowing each member an extensive solo.
Before playing the first hint of new material (”Oh Yeah”), Tyler complimented the crowd (”Sexy! You are sexy!”) and then asked it for feedback: “You like the new shit or the old shit? Old shit? My bad!” He then, with a grin on his face, ignored the answer, instead crooning straightforward lady-loving lyrics about all the things he’d do for you, baby, as much of the crowd sat down.
While the band’s powerful guitars — and constant solos — occasionally overwhelmed even Tyler’s glass-shattering vocals, the performance continued to wobble between show and spectacle territory. After Joey Kramer took center stage, beat out a solo using both hands and elbows and earned three rounds of applause, Perry took to the spotlight to sing lead vocals on “Combination” and the Fleetwood Mac cover, “Stop Messin’ Around.” But there’s nothing an Aerosmith fan likes quite as much as Tyler and Perry together (not even Tyler humping the stage — or via the video camera, the face of the tech holding it), and so the first set closed as it began, with the two rock stars singing, mouths stretched agape, into the same mike.
On the other hand, there’s nothing Aerosmith seems to like more than a good entrance, and a smoke-filled one at that. After a short wait full of raucous applause, Tyler rose from the stage once again, tickling a white piano in a smoky white haze as Perry wielded his axe on top of it. At this point, the audience’s hope of hearing “Dude Looks Like a Lady,” “Cryin’” or any number of other hits fell to pieces like so many specks of confetti floating above their seats. As Tyler concluded his final acrobatics and Perry whipped his torn shirt across the stage, thousands of tiny white dots landed on a sweaty crowd, tipping the balance firmly toward the side of spectacle.