“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile. We’re not quantified; there’s no chart of desire. When the roaring flames of your heart have burned down to embers, may you find that you have married your best friend. Hunch, conjecture, instinct and a blind allegiance to anything can get you killed. Always remember to sing as though no one can hear you and live as though heaven is here on earth. It’s hard to tell who I am by the trail left by my musical career. I am the Demon of Screamin’ the dude that looks like a lady, but I’m also something more than the rock ‘n roll junky whore who got his foot inside the door.”
– Steven Tyler, from his Memoir ‘Does the Noise In My Head Bother You/’
Aerosmith is one of the great rock & roll bands of all time, despite their ups and downs, missteps, in-fighting and ego-fed narcissism. They started out in Boston gigging in a deep grip local scene infused with an abundance of talented bands that included blues rockers like J. Geils and Techno-New Wave- bubblegum upstarts like The Cars, as well as old fashioned skull hump from The Remains.
Their first gig as Aerosmith was on November 6th 1970 and I recall that they were in the same league as other mid-level bands like REO Speedwagon and Styx. They seemed to rotate in a circuit of mid-sized to large campuses across Michigan during the early to mid-seventies. At the time I was not very impressed with Steven Tyler, a Mick Jagger wannabe who seemed to crave more face time than any of the other band members.
But Aerosmith never gave up, never looked back and they never made it look easy. As the years passed those pesky Aerosmith nay-bobs kept cranking out the hits. The even developed a social consciousness i.e. Living on the Edge. It turned out that Tyler could actually sing: he had an incredible range and he didn’t intone like the keyless Jagger. They were forming their own identity like a blacksmith forging iron with his anvil and hammer. They could have been flaming narcissists or occult worshipers feeding from the trough of rock & roll; or they could have etched out a brotherhood of man vibe like homemade peace & love maestros. The truth is they had more ego than Crosby Still & Nash fighting over Joni. They were angry cruel and hated harder and better than The Kinks assaulting each other over fish and chips. They broke up several times and went their separate ways – Perry formed another band; Tyler found religion on American Idol.
Despite all of this and more, Aerosmith has ascended to the very top of rock & roll superstardom. They are part of the recognized aristocracy of rock and roll just a few notches below the untouchables – the triad of The Beatles, Stones and Dylan. Indeed, Sir Paul McCartney once commented when asked about American Rock ‘n Roll bands: “Steven Tyler is one of the giants of American music.”
DTE was totally packed for this eagerly anticipated concert that combined Slash and his Guns & Roses repertoire along with the greatest active rock band in the Age of Aquarius. We parked our car way up and over the hill toward the outskirts of Independence Township, or so it seemed. Seating is listed at 15,274 though I believe they squeezed in a few gimmes along the way.
Slash opened the show without telling me. I was up in the cadenza where food is prepared fast and furious, damn the shallow hearth and lack of flames; I wanted my $8 hot dog anyway. Slash was already on stage shot-gunning his powerful strokes like an A-bomb seeking target. It is sheer nuclear powered rock & roll with a little bit of modern day Popsicle harmonies.
Myles Kennedy is a great vocalist with an astonishing range - he hit the high notes like Axl when his briefs are too tight and the elastic snaps him like a snakebite. He also sings with warmth and nuance, which is the perfect companion when Slash stays in the pocket and lets the music breathe. Slash along with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators were on top of their game. He opened with You’re a Lie, a bitter pill, that segued into Nightrain, the first of several Guns & Roses songs on the song list. The show finished with a flourish of crowd pleasers including Back From Cali, Anastasia, Mr. Brownstone and the glorious triad of Sweet Child O’ Mine, Slither and Paradise City. The crowd was up on their feet to give Slash and his crew a well-deserved standing ovation. Pop Music on steroids!
Aerosmith has proved their mettle as long time rock & roll warriors. Jagger & Richards have written better songs than Tyler & Perry but Aerosmith haven often proven over the years they can play the game of ‘catch-up’. They are the last vestiges of the great & grand era of R-O-C-K. Tonight was the proof.
Hit after hit swirled in a hurricane of manic energy. Damn, I love Steven Tyler and Aerosmith for resurrecting rock from its last dying embers to stand tall and loud. They leave us gasping for more as we feel the rush of sound, sex and fury in an orgasmic shock and awe. They opened with Train Kept a Rolling; the guitar intro was fashioned by our very own Dick Wagner when it was recorded in the studio; and in his memoir Tyler says that when he and Perry first met and jammed together, their common bond was a deep and profound love for The Yardbirds.
They rolled out Love in an Elevator (powerful with great harmonies), Eat the Rich and Cryin’ before they hit stride with Living on the Edge (a paean to social consciousness) and Jaded. The nadir of the show involved the insertion of the dreaded drum solo. Joey Kramer is a fine drummer, but the drum solo is a dinosaur from the dark ages wherein rock and roll drummers tried to do Buddy Rich when Ringo was still teaching them timing and restraint. It turned into a ham-fisted affair, yet the audience maintained the ruse and crowed their approval.
Slash stepped back onstage for Mama Kin, a boom-boom start and stop rocker of the first degree. Tyler led the crowd through hypnotic Jungian dance and prance that was one of the finest musical moments of the show. The Beatles/Lennon masterpiece Come Together was up to interpretation and this cover did not do the original any justice. It wasn’t Tyler’s in the first place and the interpretation suffered from too much noise and not enough space.
The show ended with a holy triad of Aerosmith chestnuts including the astonishing Walk This Way, Dream On (with Tyler noodling a brief snippet on the piano of You Really Got a Hold on Me) and the incredible Sweet Emotion. All told, Aerosmith performed for over an hour and 35 minutes. Tyler was everything he shouldn’t be; high energy ran from one end of the stage to the other; pranced up and down the catwalk that protrudes out into the middle of the crowd. He mugged and teased them, his ornate sexuality bristled with heat and multi-colored tattoos. Yet ultimately, this night belonged to Joe Perry, the quiet Beatle. He is a gifted guitar slinger and a fine singer. He did a 12-bar blues entitled Stop Messin’ Around. It was fantastic, all the way back to his roots and then some. It was his birthday. We all sang with the band, “Happy Birthday Joe.”
CODA: There are times when I believe that the entire Live Nation concert industry is a gargantuan monster. The outdoor PA’s explode with furious sounds that bury nuance, melody and harmony. It actually, physically hurts. It is a sonic myth that loud is better. It seems that concertgoers are ok with being sardined in these mammoth tin can venues. It does great harm to real music. Fight the Power!
Tonight’s showcase was streamed live by Yahoo.com.