Aerosmith's Las Vegas Residency Opens With Inventive Use of Immersive Sound

Aerosmith at the Forum - H 2014
Courtesy of Steve Appleford

Aerosmith at the Forum - H 2014

Aerosmith on Saturday night kicked off its sold-out Las Vegas residency, Aerosmith: Deuces Are Wild, at the Park MGM Hotel's Park Theater. And with the inventive use of THX-certified immersive sound for the performance, the legendary rock band — which was formed nearly 50 years ago — might have just given the entertainment industry a look at what its future might hold.

The Hollywood Reporter took a tour of the venue in advance of the performance, and show producer Steve Dixon related that its creative aural experience — which represents one year and five months of planning and prep — was conceived to bring the cinema's immersive sound to a live concert. “I was looking at [how to advance] the guest experience and how other industries [particularly high-end movie theaters] were meeting those demands. But our industry was falling behind. We were advancing lighting and video, but sound was being largely ignored,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who has also worked with Guns N’ Roses and Justin Timberlake, then got an important call from Aerosmith manager Larry Rudolph, who was planning the residency as the Park Theater was getting ready to open. Dixon sat down with the band’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Rudolph and others involved in the show, and said, “We can give the world and fans a way to hear you and see you like never before," he recalls.

The show is presented with live THX certified L-Acoustics’ L-ISA immersive sound, thanks to a partnership with THX and L-Acoustics. The object-based sound is mixed live during the performance and can support up to 96 individual objects (sound or musical elements) that can be played in 64 different directions. The 5,400-seat theater uses 230 speakers (for comparison, Dixon added that a typical stadium tour might use 40 to 50) positioned 360-degrees around the venue and across the ceiling, as with immersive sound in a cinema. It uses up to 300,000 watts of power.

The show, directed by Amy Tinkham, opens with a roughly 30-minute retrospective of the band's career with previously unreleased audio and visuals from Aerosmith's archive. For this segment, Grammy-winning producer Giles Martin, who created the soundscape for The Beatles' Love by Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas, took some of the band’s classic music and material from recording sessions and remixed it for immersive sound at London’s Abbey Road Studios. (THX's Deep Note trailer, the recognizable sound that plays before THX-certified cinema presentations, also got an immersive sound remix for this venue.) The visual portion of the retrospective is a 12-screen presentation that includes a 140 ft. x 40 ft. HD screen and was produced by VFX house Pixomondo (whose work earned an Oscar for Hugo and was also behind the Game of Thrones dragons). Archival elements included everything from old photos to the animated Aerosmith appearance on The Simpsons.

The show also features a 100-seat THX-certified onstage VIP section, where each guest will have access to "studio-quality" (the monitor mix) audio direct from the Aerosmith mixing board using audio technology from MIXhalo (a young company co-founded by Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger) and a pair of THX-certified 1More triple driver in-ear headphones.

“Concerts are a beautiful journey, and this experience is from the heart," Dixon said. "This is America’s most recognizable band. You find ways to make a connection between the artists and then fans.”

The live performance included classics such as "Dream On," "Walk This Way," and "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from the movie Armageddon — the latter of which was no doubt a special moment for VIP guest and the song's writer Diane Warren, who earned one of her 10 Oscar nominations for the ballad.

Deuces Are Wild VIPs and other select guests also had access to an on-site Aerosmith memorabilia exhibit, which includes photos, awards and costumes, as well as guitars and amps used in past live performances.

Asked if the performance might at some point be recorded for theatrical release as alternative content, or even for the home, Dixon responded that he "can’t imagine at some time we wouldn't try to capture this.”