Aerosmith/The J. Geils Band -- Concert Review
A pair of '70s-era Boston stalwarts charge up a sold-out hometown crowd.
It was a beautiful day in Boston for the twi-night doubleheader at Fenway Park as local heroes Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band teamed for a blockbuster evening that was long on hits and short on fouls. It might have been old-timers night, but both bands swung for the fences and featured some of the best playing Fenway has seen in years.
Aerosmith and J. Geils started in Boston 40 years ago, but they never had performed together, and neither had played Fenway. This pairing at the famed ballpark sold out in less than a day. The original J. Geils lineup broke up in 1985, but they have been reuniting and playing around New England recently. Aerosmith has been going strong for the past quarter-century, touring regularly, but lead singer Steven Tyler's offstage antics have raised questions about the band's future, as has speculation about his becoming a judge on Fox's "American Idol."
"Irregardless," as they say in Boston, it was clear that both bands brought their A games Saturday and came ready to rock.
With the sun going down behind home plate, the J. Geils Band took the stage in center field to cheers as lead singer Peter Wolf shimmied and danced around. "Fenway Park," he called out. "Are you ready to see some history?"
The band kicked things off with "First I Look at the Purse" and moved into "Hard Drivin' Man," with Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz wailing on harmonica. Namesake guitarist J. Geils brought what Wolf called "the blues you can use" as the band, backed by the Uptown Horns, got the crowd dancing to "Night Time." Things really lit up when keyboardist Seth Justman played the opening notes to "Freeze Frame," which later segued into the reggae-fied skank of "Give It to Me."
The ageless Wolf was the MVP, running into the crowd for "Must of Got Lost" and making his way back for "Love Stinks," tossing roses to the crowd. The band returned for an encore of its No. 1 smash, "Centerfold," setting a high bar for Aerosmith.
Both bands are about a party. J. Geils plays the blues, and some songs became hits; Aerosmith has hits for days, many of which are based on the blues. After a short video introduction by Boston comedian Denis Leary, Aerosmith brought the hard-rock blues of "Train Kept a-Rollin' " to kick off its set. The song usually is the band's closer but made for a perfect transformation between acts.
The "Bad Boys of Boston" would look like the badly dressed dads of Boston were they not true rock stars. With his skunk-striped hair and upturned purple collar, guitarist Joe Perry resembled a movie vampire, but it was singer Steven Tyler who looks like he's been drinking blood to stay young.
He sounded great, and his energy never flagged as the band moved through "Love in an Elevator," leading the crowd of 35,000 on the chorus of "whoa-ohs." But die-hards had to be disappointed as the band highlighted its Mach II era with "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)," "Living on the Edge," "What It Takes" and "Pink." Only a few 1970s classics, such as "Last Child," "Sweet Emotion" and "Draw the Line," dotted the set that showcased later hits ("Cryin,' " "Rag Doll," "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing") and covers ("Baby, Please Don't Go," "Come Together").
Drum, bass and guitar solos were filtered throughout the set, giving Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford their respective due, but it was the Tyler/Perry show all night. The signer and guitarist hammed it up, racing up and down the thrust stage. Perry's guitar attack against a screen likeness of himself from "Guitar Hero" was funny but halted the energy of the night.
Tyler brought it back with the encore of "Dream On." On a white grand piano perched atop Fenway's famed Green Monster, Tyler belted out the ballad, running back down to the stage to finish the song.
Closing with "Walk This Way" the band members took turns to thank Boston for rocking their world. For the crowd at Fenway, it was a favor returned.
Venue: Fenway Park, Boston (Saturday, Aug. 14)