When you reach a certain age, rocking out stops looking so cool.
Aerosmith — hailed by many as the great American rock band of the last 30 years — certainly showed signs of its age at Fiddler’s Green Ampitheatre on Saturday. It was an evening of greatest hits, rock star clichés and ubiquitous, out-of-touch stage antics from lead singer Steven Tyler.
The tour, presented by Aerosmith’s own brand of the Guitar Hero video game franchise was a double-shot of classic rock with an opening set from veteran rockers ZZ Top.
Aerosmith represents the best and worst of American rock ‘n roll. Their success over multiple decades is a bastion of the rebellious American dream. Through Tyler’s hyperbolic use of sex, drugs (and a hint of the third element of that cliché) over the years, Aerosmith has offered accessible, updated blues riffs and catchy choruses. For some, that wasn’t quite enough on Saturday.
“It’s great to come and see them, but where’s the new music, man?” said Joe Sterzenbach, 36, of Denver, who saw the band for the first time when he was 18 years old and believes they have “a good 10 years ahead of them.”
Aerosmith has not released new material since 2004’s back to blues basics album, “Honkin’ on Bobo.” The show opener “Eat the Rich” from 1993’s “Get a Grip” felt oddly relevant and topical, despite the fact it followed a dramatic curtain fall more suitable for a 1970s arena tour. Lead guitarist Joe Perry, probably the most musically-savvy member of the group, was repeatedly approached by Tyler and invited (forced) to echo vocals on his scarf-tied microphone.
Back at the peak of their popularity during the mid-1970s, Tyler’s loyalty to the microphone stand limited his stage prowling abilities to several feet. In 2009, when every instrument on stage is picked up through wireless transmitters, each member had freedom to wander as they played.
“Yes, I’m movin'” Tyler sang during the bridge of “Rag Doll” while scaling one of the stage’s two side ramps. Soon after he would venture into the crowd on a center platform to belt the band’s most celebrated power ballad, “Dream On.” The high notes (and more than likely, high altitude) proved to be a challenge for the wincing and writhing singer, who was struggling to breathe following some late-song screeches.
But that’s hard to know for sure, seeing as everything about Tyler was hyperbolic — from his oversized hat to his silvery, buttocks-embracing trousers to his glittery trenchcoat with an even more glittery crucifix on the back. Tyler is, in effect, a poorly Americanized Mick Jagger and his band’s live show — extravagant and sprawling – is sort of like watching the Rolling Stones playing at Wal-Mart.
Then again, something about Aerosmith’s performance last night brought unparalleled elements of nostalgia to the table.
From scantily clad groupies watching from the wings as Perry and Tyler struck power stances on “Love In An Elevator”, to sleeveless, tattooed audience members raising a $9.50 plastic cup of Miller Lite in triumph, the rock was there. Yeah, it’s been done, yeah, it’s painfully corny, and yeah, the vast majority of this crowd probably went home and paid babysitters with the change from their purchase at the merch booth. But even if “World Tour 2009″ doesn’t look as cool on the back of a t-shirt as “World Tour 1979,” it’s the memory that matters most.
Southern Rockers ZZ Top opened the show with an hour-long set of classic rock hits. Lead singer Billy Gibbons, looking trim and dapper in a black jacket, black pants and sunglasses, played the best guitar of the entire evening. Gibbons’ riffs are some of the most memorable and identifiable of classic rock — from “Cheap Sunglasses” to “Gimme All Your Lovin'” to “Sharp Dressed Man,” all of which delighted the beer-slugging audience.
Watch a slideshow of images from Saturday night’s concert.
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John Hendrickson is a Features and Entertainment reporter for The Denver Post, an editor and featured writer at ALT. magazine and a regular contributor to MAGNET. In 2009 he was named one of the Top 100 Collegiate Journalists by UWIRE.
John Leyba is a photojournalist for The Denver Post and a regular Reverb contributor.