Better Than: Most bands half their age. At 66, frontman Steven Tyler is quite possibly the coolest and most rockin’ grandpa ever… even if he sometimes looks like your slightly demented grandmother with a schmata on her head.
Twenty-six years ago, when Guns N’ Roses opened for Aerosmith, the then-nascent former was clearly cut from the same cloth–musically and otherwise–as the latter. Back then, GNR triumphed over a newly sober and struggling Aerosmith, earning their stripes as “The Most Dangerous Band in the World.”
In 2014, however, Aerosmith, with the original lineup that formed in 1970, easily reclaimed the top spot among American rock bands, Tyler captivating the arena with charisma, energy and vocal stylings that few if any heritage rock bands possess. (Well, maybe Rush, but they’re, well, not as cool as Aerosmith.) Sporting a “Toxic” bracelet honoring chemistry–and chemicals–shared with guitar god/frenemy Joe Perry, the (formerly) Toxic Twins were on the top of their game.
Openers Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators could have taken a page from Tyler’s book. Slash & Co. are tight and energetic, many of the songs–from Slash solo, Guns N” Roses and Velvet Revolver–stellar, memorable and now-classic. Yet the band of long-haired tattooed love boys fronted by the strong-voiced if tame Kennedy don’t have the edge and dirty cool that, in their AARP years, Aerosmith still spew in spades.
In a fast-paced 17 song set, ‘Smith gave the people what they wanted, and tellingly, played zilch from their most recent record, 2012’s Music from Another Dimension! Starting with their classic 1974 cover version of “Train Kept A Rollin'” the quintet moved into the early late ’80s and early ’90s for a spate of radio hits including “Eat the Rich” and “Love in An Elevator,” before returning to tunes the oldsters in the crowd were waiting for. “Rats in the Cellar” (1976) is far more elemental and raw than Aerosmith’s more polished ’90s productions, and Tyler and Perry–the pre-Slash and Axl and the post-Jagger and Richards–shone as brightly on the raw older material as they did on slicker MTV-era hits.
Slash joined Aerosmith for “Mama Kin”–a song GN’R covered in 1986–and with Tyler, Perry and Slash on the mic–Slash soloing while guitarist Brad Whitford looked smilingly on–three of rock’s most iconic musicians held the crowd in thrall. Even Donald Trump, standing about five rows from the stage–who Tyler called out–rocked almost hard enough to move his hair. (Slash’s voluminous hair didn’t move, but he did break a string.)
High-def cameras and screens are de rigueur for arena shows, and while the camera rightfully worships Tyler, he sometimes spent more time with his face in the lens than in the crowd. And while the rock-solid players Tom Hamilton (bass), Joey Kramer (drums), and Whitford never disappoint, they remain foils to the dynamic duo of Tyler and Perry. By the final encore of “Sweet Emotion,” the frenetic frontman had understandably lost a bit of steam. Still, Tyler, despite (or because of) demons and even with his cheesy reality show fame/fortune, remains a capital R Rockstar.
Critical Bias: A big fan of the sentiment expressed by Rose Tattoo–nice boys don’t play rock ‘n’ roll–Aerosmith and Slash (in his various incarnations) are personal and perennial favorites in the dirty ‘n’ dangerous blues-rock pantheon.
Overheard: “See the teleprompters?” (OK, yeah, but everyone uses them now…Or do they?)
Random Notebook Dump: Ewww, does Steven Tyler shave his armpits? (Close-up camera angles and big screen suggest: Yes.)
Bonus Brain Fart: They played “Come Together” from the apparently legendarily suck-ass 1978 film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band–maybe I should see the movie? Nah.
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