Sixty five-year-old Steven Tyler was a limber, manic dancing machine as he performed with Aerosmith mate Joe Perry at the opening night of the Hollywood Bowl on such songs as “Dream On” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
“You think we got some promise?” Tyler asked the audience early in their five-song set with a wink, after a conspicuously loopy and halting Peter Fonda officially welcomed them to the Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame.
The Bowl, filled almost to its 18,000-strong capacity on its 92nd opening night, Saturday, June 22, started off its festivities by inducting first honoree, R&B and pop singer Patti Austin — known for her gold single duet with James Ingram, “Baby, Come to Me” — into the Hall of Fame, followed by nouveau soul singer John Legend. Austin was introduced by Arsenio Hall, who called her “a singer’s singer” and who recalled first hearing her when Quincy Jones invited him to hear a track by Michael Jackson called “Rock With You”. But after Jones played him an Austin song, “I forgot about Michael Jackson.” Among the songs Austin performed were her 1983 hit “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” and a jazzy rendition of “Lean on Me.”
The follow-up was Stevie Wonder coming out to introduce his friend Legend, who he admitted is a new writing buddy. “We’re gonna write some stuff together,” Wonder said. Legend’s natural sweetness shone through on such songs as “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Where Did My Baby Go?” and his new single “All of Me.” Legend, who grew up in Ohio, “immersed in the gospel music scene” as he put it — and later said of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, “I’m truly humbled because I feel like I don’t belong here.”
Since the night’s ticket sales benefited both the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which manages the Hollywood Bowl, and its education programs, there was also a youth theme to the evening with YOLA, the Youth Orchestra LA, performing the finale to Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” and Glee’s Darren Criss singing “Hall of Fame” backed by the Powerhouse Show Choir. All four Hall of Fame inductees were singled out for their charitable work. Austin is the co-founder of the Over the Shoulder Foundation, which mentors youth through music and design, Legend created the anti-poverty Show Me Campaign and the Aerosmith duo rocked the crowd this spring at the annual L.A. benefit for Stuart House, which aids sexually abused children.
The end of the night was capped by the raucous performance of Tyler and Perry — both in sequins, Perry in a green jacket, Tyler in black pants — who seemed to be having a ball, strutting the half-circle slice of stage that extends through the box seats, singing together at times into the microphone and hugging Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conductor Thomas Wilkins when they came back for their encore number of “Walk This Way.” Legend and Austin joined them at the end — the jazz singer dueting with Tyler on a few lines of the song — as fireworks blasted from behind the enormous band shell. Given the Aerosmith’s duo’s performance, one of Tyler’s last lines was an easy sell: “Don’t forget the best is yet to come.”