"It's cool, because we're out with a band that we've known, and they're not afraid to have us out with them," Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander says, laughing. "We're old friends."
Guitarist Rick Nielsen agrees. "We don't sit around and tell war stories, but there is a camaraderie. We've all had these ups and downs and downs and ups and left and right, and we're still all here because we love it."
The two bands, who've both been going strong since the early Seventies, showed their mutual admiration repeatedly on the summer leg of the tour, with Aerosmith members joining Cheap Trick onstage. Brad Whitford was a regular on "Ain't That a Shame," and Steven Tyler jammed with Cheap Trick on "I Want You to Want Me."
While Cheap Trick bassist Tom Peterson would love to play on "Back in the Saddle" or "Draw the Line," don't expect him to jump onstage with the headliners. "The people are already sick of looking at us – they want to see Aerosmith," he says with a laugh.
For Zander, touring with one of rock's great frontmen is a welcome challenge. "It's like having a big brother, where you're always trying to kick his ass," he says. "I'm pretty confident, but it's fun to watch him," he says diplomatically.
Cheap Trick will be celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2014 – four decades during which they've shared the stage with a Who's Who of rock legends. A few tours in particular stand out.
"Opening for Queen, opening for KISS, doing shows with AC/DC for almost a whole year in 1978," Nielsen says. "We opened one night and they opened the next night – we'd do flip-flop shows every night. They were the only band I stood on the side of the stage and watched every night from start to finish."
For Zander, touring with Robert Plant – arguably rock's greatest frontman – was particularly meaningful, because it came at a time when Cheap Trick was returning to the forefront. Riding a Number One hit ("The Flame"), the band was selling a lot of tickets as Plant's opening act.
"It gave us a pretty good feeling," Zander recalls. "I remember Robert Plant coming backstage after the first show saying, 'Hey, boys, I should be opening for you.' That felt pretty good."
Cheap Trick are well aware that fans want to hear the songs that are still staples on classic rock radio. "I think we've got three that we have to play, and that would be 'Surrender,' 'Dream Police' and 'I Want You to Want Me,'" says Zander.
Besides those, they've enjoyed digging out some rarities, ranging from "Borderline" to "House Is Rockin'." The band revisited several songs from the late Seventies when they began playing Dream Police from start to finish, an album they ultimately performed with an orchestra. Nielsen says there is a chance that recordings of those shows will be released: "Those [shows] are in the can."
And Zander says the bandmates are working on new material, which would be their first album since 2009's The Latest. "Hopefully early next year we'll have something out for everybody," he says.
Approaching their anniversary, Zander takes a moment to reflect. "We didn't think we'd last more than one or two years. Yeah, 40 years, hell, that's a long time to be around anyone, whether it be your family or anybody else," he says. "So it is a good feeling to know it's lasted this long and the music has kept us together this long."
11/8 Oklahoma City, OK - Chesapeake Energy Arena
11/11 Wichita, KS - INTRUST Bank Arena
11/14 Kansas City, MO - Spring Center
11/16 Austin, TX - Frank Erwin Center
11/20 New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
11/23 Atlantic City, NJ - Reveal Resorts, Ovation Hall
11/25 Columbus, OH - Nationwide Arena
11/27 Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
12/1 Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
12/3 Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
12/6 New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Arena
12/9 Fort Lauderdale, FL - BB&T Center
12/11 Tampa, FL - Tampa Bay Times Forum
12/13 Nashville, TN - Bridgestone Arena