Aerosmith at The Woodlands, 8/25/2014
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Aerosmith, Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 25, 2014
More than 40 years into a career that's seen more ups and down than the S&P 500, Aerosmith no longer has any use for another comeback. Thanks to an extensive catalogue of hits and sheer, stubborn longevity, the group even detractors have been forced to acknowledge as perhaps America's greatest rock band has nothing much left to prove (or say) at this point.
The Bad Boys from Boston didn't play anything approaching new music on Monday night, nor did anyone ask for any. All that's needed to send a huge Woodlands Pavilion crowd home happy is for Aerosmith to do what it does best: roll out the classics and continue on being Aerosmith, forever and ever and ever.
Steven Tyler can still screech out the high notes and Joe Perry can still play the hell of that axe, and they still look pretty damn good doing it -- even if Tyler's unfortunate mustache-and-beardlet combo looks like something purchased in a pop-up costume shop. The 66-year-old singer's stage shimmy may be slower and more subtle these days, and his voice has certainly acquired a bit of a patina over the decades. But he and his bandmates can still reliably bring the rock and roll thunder that has made them icons.
Before Aerosmith's time-tested hit parade could begin, former Guns N' Roses guitar god Slash appeared onstage to pump out a few hits of his own. Every bit as physically ageless as the Toxic Twins, Slash certainly looked like he's been working out, and his famous Gibson Les Paul still rang out clear on Appetite-era touchstones like "Night Train" and "Paradise City" -- songs that stack up easily with anything Aerosmith has ever done in the pantheon of American rock.
Slash's singer, Alter Bridge front man Myles Kennedy, proved to be a great partner for the axeman. Crucially, he was able to hit all of Axl Rose's throat-shredding notes without attempting anything close to an impersonation. The title track from the band's forthcoming album, World on Fire, was received relatively warmly, but it was the beloved strains of "Sweet Child O' Mine" that got fans out of their seats for the first time in the evening. [This paragraph has been edited to reflect that Kennedy is still the singer for Alter Bridge -- ed.]
The mild-mannered Kennedy may have shied away from attempting Axl's snake dance during the thunderous power ballad, but at least one blogger was giving it a shot out in the seats.
The sheer power of the GN'R material, even with much of its danger stripped away, proved a challenge to match with Aerosmith's well-worn opener, "Back in the Saddle." Predictably, of course, the train kept a-rollin' until it picked up speed. Soon, it was the audience that was challenged to keep up as Tyler and company, clad in the world's shiniest clothing available, slammed through a terrific opening salvo that included "Love in an Elevator," "Eat the Rich," and "Cryin,'" the band's first huge power ballad of the evening.
The cheers that went up were even bigger than the hooks. Aerosmith is adored in this town, as in many others. Their crowd may be trending on the north side of 40 (at best) in 2014, but the band's music still retains the magical ability to turn those fogies on the hill into teenagers again, if only for one night. When live footage of the band from the '70s was played on the big screen during "Toys in the Attic," it was shocking how little they've changed over the millennia. And that's exactly what fans seemed to like about them so much: their immutable, rock-solid reliability.
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The show had its moments of schmaltz, to be sure. "Pink," which Tyler referred to as his favorite song, remains a crime, and "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" became the soundtrack to an audience kiss-cam. Blechh. But Aerosmith continues to work hard for their people, sweating and concentrating hard to play well up there. Drummer Joey Kramer, only days removed from a health scare that forced a cancellation in California, was particularly impressive as his old bones bashed away on the likes of "Mama Kin."
In the end (and really, there is no end), that's why Aerosmith continues to pack 'em in. Steven Tyler may look like a battered hobo and play as much to the cameras onstage as he does to the crowd, but he still brings energy and elation to his performances. The same can be said for his band. Aerosmith may be creatively spent, but virtually no one else in rock and roll puts as much effort into making nostalgia feel this vital.
Personal Bias: Very pleased I didn't have to sit through "Janie's Got a Gun."
The Crowd: Mostly at peace with growing old.
Overheard In the Crowd: Just a dull roar, really.
Random Notebook Dump: Keyboardist Buck Johnson sweetened up Tyler's vocals very nicely on a lot of the more challenging material. Definitely an essential member of the band in 2014.
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