Aerosmith

December 3, 2012
Staples Center
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Charles Epting

They came, they saw, they rocked the house!

And I was pleasantly surprised…for good reason. In my eyes, Aerosmith is one of the great conundrums in rock and roll — able to slam down raunch n’ ready badass hard rock on one hand; equally adept at churning out vacuous, syrupy swill for the masses. Maybe that’s why they were able to pack ‘em in at the Staples Center, a mere two months after doing the same at the Hollywood Bowl. They are unquestionably one of America’s greatest bands, a long-running bullet train that’s nearly derailed from too much merriment and unfounded narcissism. Tonight, they redeemed themselves by playing the best Aerosmith show I have probably seen.

Not that I’ve seen many. There was that bill at Anaheim Stadium in 1976 with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Jeff Beck. I only made it as far as the parking lot, I think. Supposedly Beck and Aerosmith jammed on “Train Kept A Rollin’” and I truly regret not remembering it or not even being there — I can’t honestly remember either. I’ll dispense with the details.

I do remember seeing them at the Pacific Amphitheatre in 1982 when neither guitarists Joe Perry or Brad Whitford were in the band. Unfortunately, I remember nothing about the performance aside from it being unremarkable, probably because it wasn’t really Aerosmith to me.

Then there was the show I saw in 1993 in San Diego. That was on the Get A Grip tour and Aerosmith were riding high with a Number 1 album and two Top 40 singles with “Livin’ On the Edge” and “Amazing.” Once again, my memory fails to register much else about the show, except I left without the usual concert buzz one experiences after a particularly good night.

Maybe this is why tonight stands out – I was actually paying attention! And how could you not? A roving backstage cam capturing the boys (hardly) in various forms of preparation is a great way to build anticipation. A short hop through the Twilight Zone and there they were: Aerosmith opening with “Toys In The Attic.” So vast is the cross-appeal of this band, thanks in no small part to singer Steven Tyler’s colorful stint as an American Idol judge, that half those in the crowd were little more than specks of forethought when this song hit the airwaves in 1975.

And it might as well have been. Tyler, all in white, scarves draped from his mic stand, traipsing up and down the catwalk, epitomizes everything that’s right about being a rock star, even at 64. The fawners in the front were enraptured by his every move, reaching upward for a high five or some other sort of acknowledgment that the man really was all flesh and bone. As unchanged as he and Perry look in their full rock n’ roll regalia, you have to wonder.

Perry was right up there, his sleight frame shielded by the custom Gibson BB King Lucille “Billie Perry” axe he wields without fear of reprisal. Actually, the whole band — Tyler, Perry, Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer — were as synchronized as a pit crew. Joined for most of the night by keyboardist Russ Irvin, they kept it hot and heavy, with some unbearable lightness, for two hours.

Now into their fifth decade, some say it’s a miracle Aerosmith were able to make Music From Another Dimension!, their first studio album of all new material in over 11 years, with all the turbulence that erupted within the ranks in recent years. Somehow, with Tyler almost “fired” at one point, they’ve come out more energized and down-to-business than ever. Tonight’s concert confirmed that Aerosmith still has plenty of fire in the tank, able to align the battle scars of savagery with the tenderness of mercy.

Yeah, they kept loose for most of the night, serving up those slippery hits like “Love In An Elevator” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” and rolling out news ones like “Oh Yeah” and "Lover Alot." Best of all, they went deep into the 70s with “Last Child,” “Combination” and ”No More No More.“ At another turn, Johnny Depp, fresh from the previous week's appearance with Alice Cooper, showed up looking like the lost “sixth” member of Aerosmith without an AARP card and joined in for a pair of sloppy covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin' Around” and the Beatles’ “Come Together.” He's actually a pretty decent rhythm guitarist.

After an epic “Dream On” to begin the encore, former Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin came up for a swing through another smoldering oldie, “Mama Kin.” Ending the night with “Sweet Emotion,” I couldn't have imagined a better night with Aerosmith, even though a run-through of “Train Kept A Rollin’ (with or without Jeff Beck) would have been the pièce de résistance to me and many others.

To make the night even spicier, Cheap Trick opened the show with a nifty set to get the place hoppin’. The whole Beatles‘ medley of “Golden Slumbers,” Carry That Weight” and “The End” sort of fell flat while the latecomers were still scrambling for their seats. But when Brad Whitford joined in on “Surrender,” everyone began to tune in, realizing the night was going to be filled with surprises. Pleasantly so, I should add.

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