Then again, there’s a reason the bad boys from Boston were introduced as “the best rock band in America:” Aerosmith continues to put on one of the best shows in rock. It’s also interesting that lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry look like they haven’t aged in over 20 years, and it’s possible they sound better live now than they have at any time in their career.
Opening with “Love in an Elevator,” Aerosmith was strong right of the gate. Until about halfway through the set, in fact, the quintet, supplemented by keyboardist/backing vocalist Buck Johnson, played mostly newer (post 1989’s “Pump”) material, with Tyler stepping up in particular on “Cryin’.”
Playing drums was Jesse Kramer, son of original drummer Joey Kramer, who was in the arena and played on the double encore. Jesse Kramer ably stepped into his father’s shoes, particularly on “Livin’ on the Edge.”
Far from content to continue to churn out the same show every year, Aerosmith continues to switch out its setlist. Comparing this tour to 2012’s stop at the Pepsi Center is instructive, as almost half the set consists of songs not played in 2012.
Perhaps the best was the double dose of ’70s classics, “Kings and Queens” and “Toys in the Attic.” The former had Johnson playing the subtle keyboard riff during the break late in the song and Tyler singing in top form, while the latter had the band riffing in all its frenetic glory, with Perry and co-guitarist Brad Whitford leading the band through a high octane version.
Midway through the set, Perry gave Tyler’s voice a breather (Tyler had made an altitude joke early in the set), singing “Stop Messin’ Around,” a classic blues rave up that had Perry and Whitford both taking fiery solos, while Johnson added a mid-song boogie-woogie piano riff.
One interesting moment came on “No More No More,” as Perry started the song playing on a Fender Telecaster, but for the solo switched to his custom “Billie Perry” B.B. King “Lucille” guitar, which has an artistic rendition of Perry’s wife painted on it. Perry soloed on the Gibson while the Fender was slung over his back.
After closing with the hit “Walk this Way,” the band returned for a double encore of its two most enduring hits, “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion.” Joey Kramer, who is playing in a reduced role on this tour due to health issues, took the drum riser for both songs. As the climax built in “Dream On,” Perry climbed on top of the piano Tyler was playing and launched into the classic chords that end the song.
Opening the show was Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, who alternated between some newer original material, including the title track of an album that will be released in September, “World on Fire,” and some classic Guns N’ Roses material, including “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Paradise City.” Kennedy sounded eerily like Axl Rose on the Guns N’ Roses tracks, while the newer material shows a lot of promise.
Love in an Elevator, Eat the Rich, S.O.S. (Too Bad), Cryin’, Livin’ on the Edge, Kings and Queens, Toys in the Attic, Rag Doll, Stop Messin’ Around, Same Old Song and Dance, Lord of the Thighs, I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, No More No More, Dude Looks Like a Lady, Walk this Way, E: Home Tonight verse->Dream On, Sweet Emotion
You’re a Lie, Nighttrain, Halo, Back from Cali, You Could Be Mine, World on Fire, Mr. Brownstone, Anastasia, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Slither, Paradise City
Joshua Lowe is a Denver-area photographer and new contributor to Reverb.