All Photos by Peter S. Sakas
Aerosmith has been referred to as “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” and judging from their concert performance at the UnitedCenterin Chicagoon Friday June 22nd they sure solidified their claim to that title. Aerosmith was formed in 1970 by vocalist Steve Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Ray Tabano, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer. Brad Whitford replaced Tabano in 1971 and the line up has remained the same since then, except for a period in the early 1980s. So we are talking longevity; the band remaining virtually intact for over 40 years! It is estimated that they have sold over 60 million records in theUnited States and well over 100 million around the world so they have been wildly popular and judging from the enthusiasm of the concertgoers, their popularity remains strong.
Cheap Trick, another iconic rock band performed a 45 minute opening set and it was obvious they had a very dedicated following in attendance as well. The fans remained on their feet the entire set, singing along, and were really into the music. It was like a homecoming for the band, being fromRockford, and they delivered! Rick Nielsen was a crowd pleaser, playing an inspired guitar, and all through the set was tossing a multitude of guitar picks into the crowd.
There was eager anticipation for the entrance of Aerosmith after the Cheap Trick set. The stage at theUnitedCenterwas a “T” shape with base of the “T” extending into the center of the main floor. There were also two video screens, one a “video wall” behind the stage and another smaller circular screen just above the center of the stage. The lights dimmed the crowd began to cheer excitedly waiting for the appearance of these rock icons. Drummer Joey Kramer came out took a seat behind the drum kit, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Brad Whitford then walked onto the stage. All of a sudden there was a rising cheer emanating from the crowd as a platform at the base of the “T” began to elevate, raising Steven Tyler and Joe Perry up to stage level. There was no doubt the charisma exuding from every pore of Steven Tyler.
When I finally got a good glimpse of these rock gods, I saw that Steven Tyler was wearing a big white floppy hat, white shirt and pants, a full length white coat, with designs I could not identify (almost appeared avian), an eyeball on each sleeve of his coat (which matched the eyeball tattoo I noticed on his arm later in the concert), big sunglasses, and his trademark microphone adorned with a number of streamers. I was surprised he did not have on any boas. Joe Perry was much less flamboyant, he had on a silver bedecked sport coat but what really grabbed my attention was his white guitar with the image of a well-endowed blonde of the body of the guitar. I had never seen one like that before.
They opened with Draw the Line and I could instantly tell we were in for one rollicking experience. I should mention that the crowd stood for the entire length of the concert and encore. They were dancing, singing, gesturing the whole night through, completely enjoying this concert experience. Steven Tyler has gained career momentum with his “American Idol” gig, but watching this man on stage was quite an experience. He was dancing around, kicking his legs, gesturing, teasing the audience, flinging his microphone all over the place, mugging with the band….he displayed boundless energy and enthusiasm. He worked the entire stage and went to all ends, giving all in attendance a great look at a master at work. I was in total awe, as I had just turned 60 years old, I knew he was 64, and I thought how in the heck can he do this! He had star power which was well-deserved.
Joe Perry was much more subdued and let his guitar playing do his talking. He proved to me he is a masterful guitarist and had several outstanding solos all night long.
Tom Hamilton on bass and Joey Kramer on drums were the steadying force of the band driving it forward while the other more flamboyant members were reveling in the spotlight. Brad Whitford played pretty much a supporting role on rhythm guitar, but he did have his moments to shine soloing, as did all the band members.
The set list:
- Draw the Line
- Love in an Elevator
- Oh Yeah
- Livin’ on the Edge
- S.O.S. (Too Bad)
- Last Child
- Happy Birthday to Joey Kramer / Drum Solo
- Rag Doll
- Boogie Man
- What It Takes
- No More No More
- Legendary Child
- I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing
- Mama Kin
- Sweet Emotion
- The Bomb
- Walk This Way
20. Dream On
21. Train Kept A-Rollin’
The music was a fine mixture of their hits from all eras of their career. There were two new songs from their 2012 album “Music from Another Dimension” Oh Yeah and Legendary Child. No one could really be disappointed as all their classic hits were covered. What was really amazing to me was that they have probably performed some of these songs a billion times, yet they performed with such great fervor you would swear that these songs were new and fresh to them. It is really a tribute to their professionalism that they gave such an enthusiastic and exciting show.
All during the show they were projecting images on the video screens. There were multiple videographers on stage so audience members who were in the nose bleed sections of the sold outUnitedCentercould still get a pretty good view on the screen. Sometimes they would project images of classic Aerosmith videos to the songs they were performing. What was really intriguing to me was that on a few occasions they had video images of Steven Tyler from years ago performing the song he was currently singing on stage and it was synched pretty well. It was an interesting touch.
As mentioned earlier, the superlative guitar work of Joe Perry was a pleasure to behold. He played some slide guitar, had lead vocals on Boogie Man, and had the audience going nuts when he was playing the Vocoder at the beginning of Sweet Emotion. But I was glad to see the other band members have their time in the spotlight. On the song Lost Child Brad Whitford played lead guitar and had extended soloing, having his moment. Tom Hamilton had an extended bass solo, which the audience really was getting into and as he started to transition into the familiar strains of Walk This Way the crowd went bonkers.
One of my personal highlights was Joey Kramer’s drum solo. After the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him, with an image of a cake and candles on the video screen, he began his solo. I truly appreciate the skills of great drummers, but usually the solos tend to bore me after a while. Not so here. He played a very rhythmic solo that the audience really got into. Steven Tyler was in the background also adding percussion help and then came up and joined Joey playing the drums. At the end of the first part of the solo Joey ended with a dramatic rapid flourish. The audience rewarded him with a rousing ovation and then Steve Tyler planted a great big kiss on his lips. Joey then threw his drumsticks into the audience and began into the second part of his solo. He began pounding his fists and his head onto the drums, then began accompanying with the bass drum pedals as the solo got more intense while the crowd responded with equal intensity. His solo was a definite highlight for me.
What can be said about Steven Tyler? He was hyperkinetic, charismatic, crazy, entertaining, and a joy to behold. He engaged the audience all night. They were reaching out their hands, beseeching him to touch them. He was mugging with his band mates, sometimes hugging them and hanging onto them during the performance. In a funny moment he pointed to the sign in theUnitedCenterwhich stated “This Is the Madhouse” and yelled the phrase to the crowd.
During the song SOS Too Bad he was asking the audience if anyone had a boa, which someone then threw on stage to him and he wore for a while and kept it in his back pocket for a bit.
The way he was flipping the streamer adorned microphone stand around was a thing to behold as well. One very interesting thing I did notice was there was something written on the underside of the stand. I finally got a good look and saw the two Aerosmith wings flanking the phrase “Lick Me.” Just thought I would pass that piece of information along for what it is worth.
Another amazing Steven Tyler talent is his screaming ability and he displayed that in full force during the concert. In fact, during the encore, someone from the crowd gave him a straw hat that had the phrase “The Demon of Screaming” which he proudly wore for a significant part of the song. During Sweet Emotion he began screaming “Yeah” to the audience and encouraged them to scream back to him. The audience gladly engaged in this. On the final song (before the encore) Walk This Way he was still a dynamo, doing pelvic thrusts and high kicks. He yelled to the audience to “put your hands in the air” and got the wholeUnitedCenter crowd waving their hands in unison.
As they went off stage to a monstrous standing ovation, the crowd began chanting for an encore, but for an old-timer like me who was used to the clapping and chants of “more, more, more” which then over time changed into the holding of lighters I noticed how technology had changed things even more. The vast majority of the crowd members were holding their smart phones up. I noticed some had an image of a lighter on the screen, which amused me and most seemed to have the screen aglow giving an interesting effect seeing the multitude of these phones throughout the United Center. Being the old fogey that I am, I did it the old fashioned way, standing and clapping.
The encore did not disappoint. At the base of the “T” the platform rose once again, as at the start, and a white piano appeared with Steven Tyler playing Dream On. Of course, the already pumped up crowd responded enthusiastically again. As the song progressed, Joe Perry appeared, climbed a small staircase alongside the piano and began soloing, which needless to say, further excited the crowd. As the song was completing smoke started streaming out from around the piano, creating quite a dramatic effect. As I was watching the performance of this song, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone was holding a smart phone or some type of recording device. My, how technology has changed things.
The show closed with Train Kept A-Rollin’ and a confetti shower.
All in all, it was an extremely entertaining show and no one walked away disappointed, I am sure. They covered a wide range of their extensive catalogue and did not ignore any of the big hits. The musicianship was superlative, Joe Perry definitely impressed me with his abilities on the guitar (he is my son’s guitar idol and I can see why). Steven Tyler also truly gained my respect for the way he performed. He was energetic, charismatic, enthusiastic, engaged the crowd, was energized by them, really seemed to enjoy himself, and was the consummate rock star/rock icon. If they are not “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” they are pretty darn near the top and this concert solidified their status!
Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on 6/22/12