In the annals of rock n' roll history there is in all probability no story more enthralling than the legend of Aerosmith. They have had more ups and downs than any "Behind the Music" could possibly cover. What is even more captivating is that the band is still in top form. Thirty years after their debut, they are still rocking 20,000+ people every night, with the original five members. This may be their utmost triumph, more so than getting clean, achieving their first number one albums and singles or playing to stadium sized crowds around the world. How many rock bands have had their original line-ups twenty years after beginning? Only U2 comes to my mind. Aerosmith has had the same line up for the better part of thirty years. They broke apart for a 4 years period in the early eighties, but came to their senses, regrouped and became more popular than they ever were in the 1970's.
The Aerosmith train rolled into Chicago on Labor Day weekend and they proved that they still have plenty of toys in the attic to bring out and play. In the last five years, the band has been criticized a bit for the over glossy sound on their albums. However, in concert, the band is still 100% rock n' roll. There is no doubt about it. Their last album, Just Push Play, was an album I found substandard upon my initial listens, but after hearing a bunch of the songs performed in concert, I came to like many of them, mainly because of the raw energy the band brings to every song in the live setting.
This tour is in support of their new "Best of" album, O Yeah: Ultimate Aerosmith Hits, a collection of thirty songs covering the band's entire era from 1973 up to the present. It's the first compilation to cover the bands 2 record labels. In support of this new album, the band is out on the road playing their biggest and best hits from the last thirty years.
The show opened with a medley of a trio of songs from the 70's, "Toys in the Attic", "Back in the Saddle" and "Same Old Song & Dance". It was evident that this would be a show covering all eras of the band and not your precise tour, which a band plays half of the new album and some choice hits from the past. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these, however, tonight; Aerosmith showed that if you had never seen them before, you did not miss anything in the past because they sound alive and fresher than they have ever sounded before.
The night then brought about some fresh music, "Girls of Summer" which is just a simple and pure song, perfect for driving with the windows down on a summer night. The band then launched into "Sweet Emotion", always a live highlight of an Aerosmith shows. However, it brought about in an innovative and creative manner if for only being early in the set instead of the predictable main set closer. They followed this with the resonating Pump track, "What It Takes" and the rarity of the night, "Lord of the Thighs", a gem from their second album, Get Your Wings. The most surprising facet of the show is how well the modern and older songs play next to each other. This is a sign of a band that still has the goods.
From here, they make their way to their second stage. When the band plays outdoor amphitheaters, they have a second stage set up on the lawn. Yes, a full stage with lights and all. This gives those on the lawn a premier opportunity to see the band up close. This is a throw back for the band and they tend to focus on more Garage rock on this second stage. Tonight's offerings were the "Big Ten Inch Record", and then two songs from their debut album, "Dream On" and "Walkin' the Dog". The band proves that people, like me, who missed them live in the 1970s did not miss much, because these songs are played with more passion and sound better than they do on any of the bands live albums. Its one thing for a band to carry on to record and tour, as they age, it is another for them to unfailingly enhance songs that did not need upgrading. They indeed show that they are 100% pure heart, soul and rock n roll out here.
They then made their way back to the main stage to perform their only number one hit, "I Dont Want To Miss A Thing" which very well may have been the last of the great rock power ballads. Even though they did not write it, their touch is all over this song, especially Tylers screeching vocals. What was most impressive about this part of the show was how good the modern era songs are holding up against a show that is focusing largely on their 1970s heydays. "Jaded" and "Cryin''" are played with such fervor that you would think these are new songs the band is trying out on the audience, not bona-fide hits. In between Joe Perry gets his chance to shine through the blues number "Stop Messing Around", which featured some top-notch harp work by Steven Tyler. The main set ended with their comeback single, "(Dude) Looks Like A Lady". Something that has been significantly misunderstood is how good most of the modern era Aerosmith songs actually are. Pump is hands down one of their 3 best albums and besides being played on MTV a million times, it always fascinating to see how these songs hold up so well in the live setting. One of the reasons they hold up pleasantly is the bands allegiance and perseverance in which they play them.
The 2-song encore started off with "Draw The Line" which the band, especially drummer Joey Kramer, performed to perfection. Then it was jam time. Openers Kid Rock and Run DMC took to the stage. Earlier in the night, Run DMC had a nice but abbreviated 20-minute set before they relinquished the stage to Kid Rock. Seeing Mr. Rock on stage with Aerosmith is much like seeing the best of rock n roll past, present and future. People can say what they want about Kid Rock, but here is a fan of rock n roll. His 80 minute opening set is stronger than many acts regular sets and was just as long as some of John Mellencamps shows in recent years. The highlight of his set was a medley of tunes from those who came from Detroit including the Supremes, Ted Nugent and Bob Segar.
The three acts stood on stage and went into "Walk This Way". No matter how many times you have heard the song, its always a pleasure to see live. Seeing it with the combination of Kid Rock and Run DMC makes it more distinctive, since this is a song that has probably been played at every Aerosmith show for over twenty-five years. Its the ultimate jam song and everyone, band included, appeared to be having a blast performing it. The show ended with all three acts giving bows and leaving the stage after a riotous and stimulating evening of rock. My only complaint is the length of Aerosmiths set. I wish it were a little longer. In todays day and age where tickets cost you around $100 (including ticketmaster service charges) I expect 200% from every act. I guess the main problem with a thirty-year career is that you cannot pick and choose songs without leaving someone disappointed. But would it kill them to play over 2 hours? However, with a solid eighty-minute opening set from Kid Rock, the $75 ticket price is a pretty good deal. Its one of the best rock shows on the road right now, I cant see how anyone could go wrong seeing it.
The show features the best rock has to offer from the past, present and future of rock n roll. Aerosmith still has it and displays it in no better setting than the concert stage. Unlike many of their contemporaries from the 70s, 80s and 90s who did not come full circle, Aerosmith has and more importantly, they still have plenty of toys left in their attic.