They're .... BACK. Back in the saddle again.
Last night, I saw Aerosmith live, in concert, for the fourth time, and once again, they rocked and rocked hard. Sure, there was probably a bit of rust in the band's first US tour performance since breaking up and almost calling it quits. Steven Tyler's voice seemed a bit coarser than usual, and you could tell that the band was working out some of the kinks from its near-permanent vacation. And yet, as the night wore on, Tyler loosened up a bit, the band seemed to gel, and soon enough, it was clear that we were all witnessing one of the all-time great rock n' roll bands kicking ass as only they can. Aerosmith was back, baby, and it made for one amazing night of rock. Again, it was great seeing the band back together - I was supposed to have seen them play several months back when they were touring with ZZ Top, only for that shwo to get cancelled after the whole stage-falling incident which seemed to kickstart Aerosmith's most recent bout of drama and friction. This marked my fourth time seeing Aerosmith live, and though they ain't getting any younger, Aerosmith still, I think, has a thing or two to show much younger bands about what it means to live and breathe rock n' roll. As long as Steven Tyler can still shriek and shimmy and Joe Perry can still wail on the guitar like a man possessed by the dark gods of rock, Aerosmith can keep on talkin' bout things that nobody cares, wearin' out things that nobody wears.
The show featured a nice mix of various Aerosmith eras. The band has so many classic tunes that their shows always have some glaring omissions, but this one seemed to deliver one great song after another with barely a pause between them. Things kicked off, appropriately, with Back in the Saddle, and from there we got a string of some the the band's hardest-rockin' tunes -- Love In An Elevator, Falling In Love (Is Hard On the Knees), and Eat the Rich (god I love that song - and it seems especially cathartic in these rough economic times). From there we got the funky lyrics and bouncy sound of Pink, and the epic 90's hit Livin' On the Edge. It's crazy ... I've listened to these songs so many times now that they are 100% embedded in the recesses of my brain. When the band played Livin' On the Edge, for example, I swear I could sing along to every lyric, every guitar riff, every Steven Tyler "yeah," and "yaaatoww!" Hey, I did quote the song in my eighth grade yearbook. Although at this show, Tyler gave a new and slightly more vulgar spin on the classic "there's something right with the world today, and everybody knows it's wrong!" lyric. Rock!
I will say though, one of my general complaints about seeing shows in LA was especially true at this show -- the audience was not great. Sure, everyone cheered and chanted for Aerosmith, but, midway through the show, when Tyler kicked into What it Takes, and then turned to the fans to supply the lyrics ... well, the fans came up short. I mean, come on! Everyone knows the lyrics to What It Takes. This would never happen in Boston, that's for sure. "There goes my old girlfriend, there's-another-diamond-ring. And-a-all-those-late-night-promises, I guess they don't mean a thing." Come on, people, get with the program. This led Steven Tyler to half-jokingly, perhaps half-frustatedly to declare "&$%# it, I'll sing it myself." I felt ashamed of the audience - WTF!
Still, as the night wore on, I think even the more casual fans in attendance were won over by the sheer awesomeness of the band and the timelessness of the songs. When a band can casually break out classics like Mama Kin, Cryin', Last Child, and Sweet Emotion before you even get to the encore, you know you're dealing with bonafide rock n' roll royalty. And yes, Don't Wanna Miss a Thing was in the mix as well, to appease all the softies in the crowd who cried at Armageddon (ugh, terrible movie). Okay, so it's not my favorite Aerosmith tune, but I guess in retrospect it's not as bad as I once thought, especially when it's just one song amidst a slew of hard-rockin' tunes.
In addition, the bad boys from Boston threw in some fun little vignettes to mix things up a bit and likely to give Steven Tyler a chance to chill. The best bit was the guitar god known as JOE PERRY doing a solo bit in which he challenged his virtual self from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith to a one-on-one guitar duel: virtual Joe Perry vs. the real deal. In a nice bit of pre-planned stagecraft, the real Joe Perry rocked so hard on his guitar that the virtual Perry exploded in a firestorm of epic fail. The real Joe glanced up at his charred virtual self on the big screen and deadpanned: "He ain't got $%#&." Funny, and fairly awesome.
The band closed out the regular set with Baby, Please Don't Go (representing their 00's blues cover-album, Honkin' On Bobo) and old-school hit Draw The Line, and then returned to the stage for a three-song encore of Dream On, Walk This Way, and Toys in the Attic. It was hard for Toys to match the sheer melodrama and epicness of Dream On or the funky-classic grooves of Walk This Way, but overall it was a full set packed from start to finish with classic songs. To me, hearing one of my all-time favorite songs like Dream On, live and in person, never gets old.
The stage setup was also pretty nice. No long ramps or anything as in past shows, but despite the more confined space, Steven Tyler broke out his trademark moves - the vintage scarf-clad microphone twirls, crazy-man dances, and guitar-riff-accentuating leg kicks were all present and accounted for. An array of hanging video monitors mixed in footage of the band with vintage music videos and virtual go-go dancers. Love In an Elevator saw the screens transform into virtual elevators occupied by various ladies who were most definitely gooooin' down.
The Verizon Wireless Ampitheater in Irvine is overall a fun outdoor venue, and the cheap seats on the lawn are not bad and give good viewing angles. The place can be a total madhouse though, as lawn seating is a free-for-all, and it can get crowded and people can get pushy. There's a huge outdoor parking lot, which is nice at first, but proved to be a total nightmare to get out of. It took us well over an hour just to get from our parking space out onto the street. Meanwhile, traffic from Burbank to Irvine was pretty bad as well -- luckily, we got the arena before Aerosmith took the stage, but unfortunately we missed opening act Cheap Trick, who I would really have liked to see. I've become a big fan of theirs in recent years, and hear they still put on a super-rocking show. Oh well - luckily, they seem to play here in LA pretty often, so I'll have to catch them at some point.
Overall though, it was an incredibly fun, memorable, and rocking evening of kickass music from one of the all-time great bands. I consider Aerosmith to be my all-time favorite band -- to me, they ARE rock n' roll, and it's always a pleasure and a privelege to see Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and the rest of the band live and in person, as these guys never fail to bring it. Glad I got to enjoy the concert with my brother, Jules, Sabrina, and Kyle as well -- good times with a good group of hard-rockin' rock n' rollers. Here's to the return of AEROSMITH -- may they continue to dream on for many years to come.