Ed. note: See a slideshow from Thursday night's concert with Aerosmith and Sammy Hagar here.
Aerosmith Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 5, 2010
Remember when you were little and would watch your parents fight around the house?
Everyone can relate, unless you grew up in a Martian family that never showed emotion or grit walking along the road of life together. Doors would slam, eyes would roll, accusations would fly, maybe a few tears would fall. But in the end, everyone hugs, kisses makes grand plans and grin like idiots.
Such has been the past year in the life of Aerosmith. Soon after the band's July 2009 show here with ZZ Top, Steven Tyler fell off a stage in South Dakota and all hell broke loose.
Everyone in the band - well, mainly just guitarist Joe Perry - got aggravated with their lead singer. Not due to the freak injury, but internal strife. Soon they were in the press talking about new lead singers, with fans mourning the band after 39 years of action.
We never thought we would see the Boston boys in a live setting again. After four decades, they had done everything a band could do. Form, record, tour, rise, fall, die, resurrect, die again, only to come right back to life. They could have shoved off and died at sea. Sure enough, Tyler quickly shaped up and went to rehab for certain "ailments" and all was well in the Aeroforce.
This all proved that rock and roll is now ageless and impervious to most everything except plane crashes and suicides. The elder giants will never go away. Bono will be an octogenarian under a claw one day, and James Hetfield will bellow through an oxygen mask in front of Aftermath's grandkids. And either Tyler and Perry will die during an encore sometime in 2035.
But let us be blunt about the first hour or so of last night's Aerosmith gig.
It was godawful. Bad. The sound was bombed beyond recognition. Tyler was changing inflections and phrasing, making it hard to dance or sing along. Well... adequately. The band sputtered over songs that they have now been playing for 17 or even 30 years.
Quiet men Bradley Whitford and Tom Hamilton didn't lose a beat, even when the whole thing was going full-on Hindenburg. Perry and Tyler were glaring at each other during songs, seemingly seconds away from a brawl. Drummer Joey Kramer was working like a Japanese beaver to keep up with the oddities going on around him.
We couldn't tell if it was technical glitches or a shear case of the fuck-its going on onstage, but more than half the time - from show opener "Train Kept A Rollin'" until maybe the start of "Last Child" six songs later - it was a real horror show. Aftermath's jaw were dropped out of disbelief, partly at Tyler's teleprompter we spied onstage.
Each instant we heard a mike crap out on him or we spied his arms flailing in anger towards someone offstage was like a tiny dagger being stuck in our image of the band. All it would have taken would have been a guitar neck in a face or someone tripping someone up, and this would have been a different review.
Then, after Perry did his requisite blues song and the band had a break, something seemed to snap in. The energy that should have begun the show decided to show up. Sure, we had to hurdle the inexplicable inclusion of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" in the setlist to get to the meaty bluesy goodness but sometimes a teaspoon of sugary '90s pap helps the medicine go down.
Starting with "Sweet Emotion," it seemed like the band was starting the show from scratch, as if it was 9:15 again and the last half hadn't happened. Perry did this insane theremin deal on the opening and bridge and the set grew darker, more sinister. Tyler wasn't off-cue and was a front man, not a glittery half-naked grandmother in the karaoke bar on a cruise ship. He was Steven Tyler.
"Baby Please Don't Go" and "Draw The Line" were altogether filthy. The lights turned orange and red and everyone was in the pocket. Perry was sweatily at work on his side of the stage and Tyler was playing the harmonica like punk rock. This was not the band that slogged onstage earlier and made us feel like looking up Astros scores on our phone during whatever was passing as "What It Takes."
During the beginning of the extended encore, Tyler made a cutting remark at our ilk and what we would no doubt be typing the next day saying "This concert is real. Everything you hear in the press is bullshit. And if you don't believe that, dream on," before the band started up well, "Dream On."
Fair enough, Mr. Tyler.
"Toys in the Attic" was the listed closer but the band, maybe sensing the unease from earlier in the night, went two songs over to trot out "Crazy" for the first time in what Tyler said was years. Aftermath was wary of Aerosmith's modern stuff at this point, but they pulled it off ably without the wheels falling off.
Closer "Rattlesnake Shake" was the first song the band ever learned together. The cut is from one of Fleetwood Mac's first incarnations, and before their quick AOR yuppie deification. At this point, Aerosmith was huddled around Kramer and making real music.
Whether this is the beginning of the end for the band or the start of a new, darker, aged Aerosmith remains to be seen. Let's hope that the fire that was seen during the last half of the show Thursday night sticks around for the recording studio. These guys are stuck with each other until the end of time.
Personal Bias: We owned the band's '90s hits comp Big Ones on tape and wore it out in sixth grade. We also claimed to be at their 1995 concert at the Summit to impress a girl that same year.
The Crowd: Older affluent folks, new-school Affliction-sporting weekend rockers, grandparents schooling the grandkids, and Diamond and Tiara from the Penthouse Club.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I hope they make those Aerosmith panties in extra large."
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Random Notebook Dump: Hell is standing outside the gates of a venue listening to Sammy Hagar cover Van Halen songs while you are sober. We would have rather had our head in a clogged toilet.