Aerosmith Share Hollywood Bowl Stage With Pals Johnny Depp, Stan Lee: Concert Review
With a focused Steven Tyler out front, the veteran rock band brings its raucous swagger to Los Angeles and mixes old with new as it preps its first all-original album since 2001.
Aerosmith immediately set the bar high for its show Monday at the Hollywood Bowl. As the band sauntered onstage, comics icon Stan Lee's face appeared on the video screen in a spacey taped bit saying, "You are about to enter a great adventure." Fair enough. But then, to the sold-out crowd's delight, Lee strolled out in the flesh and introduced the headliner as "the greatest rock 'n' roll band on this planet -- or any planet."
Ballsy? Not really. The all-sexagenarian Boston quintet has been thumbing its collective nose at decorum since the Nixon administration. So the hyperbolic intro was merely an excuse to rock and rock hard, which Aerosmith did. The focus was on raucous songs and a showy performance; only "What It Takes" made the set list from among the video-fueled power ballads that pretty much defined the band's late-'80s and '90s renaissance. And a mighty enjoyable night it was.
(For the record: Steven Tyler didn't mention American Idol or J.Lo or Ryan Seacrest or Phillip Phillips or William Hung. Not once. Nada. Moving on...)
With the band's classic lineup intact, Aerosmith attacked the oldest songs and previewed a pair from its first album of originals in nearly a dozen years. Not everything worked -- an early dispensing of "Livin' on the Edge" rather plodded -- but most did, and the veteran crowd stood for most of the (exactly) two-hour show.
The players all got some solo time in the spotlight. Brad Whitford -- who had joined opener Cheap Trick onstage for "Ain't That a Shame" -- fired off a few extended runs. Tom Hamilton added an elongated bass intro to "Sweet Emotion" as a talkbox growled in the background. And Joey Kramer delivered a long drum solo, joined for a while by Tyler, who banged away on the kit while ducked over his bandmate's shoulder.
And Joe Perry -- clad in a glittery jacket and sporting the same skunk-shock of white hair as Tyler -- hasn't lost his substantial chops, though his guitar often sunk into the mix rather than dominating it. He punctuated the songs with biting licks and solos, shared a few microphones and took a couple of lead vocals. But, as it was for decades before Tyler's Idol stint, there's no doubt who the star of the show is.
The 64-year-old frontman's voice held up well, even if some of the old screams and high notes went unduplicated. And his attention-demanding showmanship was on high; he deployed his trademark slinky, swaggering moves and was playful and profane, sassy and cocky, the quintessential rock 'n' roll frontman. The "kiss your sassafras" line in "Love in an Elevator" became "kick your f---ing ass." After a polite audience response to the nonclassic new straight-ahead rocker "Oh Yeah," he said, "You will learn to love that shit!" And during a brief lull as applause died down after one song, he admonished the crowd: "Oh, you're gonna be quiet on me, huh? Is this some kind of therapy? Are you f---ing sitting?" They weren't for long and didn't after that.
There was no shortage of highlights: the chugging "Last Child," which featured some of Tyler's best screams of the night; Perry's slide work on a lap steel driving "Rag Doll," a well-preserved gem from the 1987 comeback album Permanent Vacation; even "What It Takes," the opening verse of which Tyler delivered in uninhibited a cappella.
The night's other new song was "Legendary Child," lead single from the upcoming album Music From Another Dimension, due on Election Day, Nov. 6. The live delivery added a needed punch that's missing from the studio version, and it was well received. Look for the song to become a staple of the band's shows.
It was followed by "Come Together," the Beatles cover that was -- with a wink and nod to Dr. Steve Martin -- a rare ray of hope amid the mess that was the 1978 movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Aerosmith killed it live, drawing a cheer generally reserved for the band's biggest radio classics.
"So you like the old shit, huh?" Tyler asked, rhetorically. And as if to say, "Well then, take this!" the band dove into "Rats in the Cellar," during which all five members reached back and made it a show-stopper. The closing run of six ’70s songs was on.
Tyler was shrouded in fog as he played the intro to "Dream On” and later stood atop the piano for the Big Finish. But that wasn’t the evening's final surprise: Tyler brought one Johnny Depp onstage to play guitar on the show-closing "Train Kept A-Rollin'." Amid the unsurprising cheers, the actor held his own, even taking a brief solo.
It was, yes, a Hollywood ending to a rollicking night of rock 'n' roll. Summary: This band ain't dead -- not by a longshot. With Tyler (apparently) fully committed, Aerosmith should be able to continue to cement its legacy as one of rock's true greats. It did this night.
Draw the Line
Love in an Elevator
Same Old Song and Dance
Livin' on the Edge
Stop Messin' Around
What It Takes
Rats in the Cellar
Walk This Way
Train Kept A-Rollin'
Watch video of Depp's performance with Aerosmith below.
Photos by Chris Godley; With Depp by Ross Halfin