It was an image that less than a year ago would have seemed implausible: Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, or the “toxic twins,” as Tyler had dubbed himself and the longtime guitarist with whom he has had a notoriously rocky relationship, standing side-by-side on Saturday atop a white baby grand piano, belting out the chorus to “Dream On” during the first night’s encore of a brand-new Aerosmith tour. That the two musicians and their bandmates – guitarist Brad Whitford, drummer Joey Kramer and bassist Tom Hamilton – had made it back to the stage, together, all differences aside, for the Global Warming Tour’s kickoff show at Minneapolis’ sold-out Target Center, was half the battle. But the fact that the Boston band also brought a palpable, kick-you-in-the-gut energy to their tour’s supercharged first-night set was a true treat for those onhand.
The last few years for Aerosmith have resembled something of a warped telenovela: the Tyler stage-falling injuries; the eccentric singer’s stint in rehab; Perry mocking his longtime partner’s decision to join the cast of American Idol; Kramer even going so far as to tell Rolling Stone that the band was “talking to some famous singers” about replacing Tyler. Reconciliation, never mind a reunion, seemed dead in the water. Yet miraculously, the tide turned this past year; Perry twice appeared on Idol – first to wish Tyler a happy birthday, and then later to join him onstage for a performance during the season finale – and the band announced that they were returning to the road in celebration of their 40th anniversary and recording their fifteenth studio album, Music From Another Dimension, due this August.
Whether or not they were actually pleased to be back together on stage, they surely acted the part. “You reminded us tonight what we got into this business for,” Tyler told the adoring crowd during the evening’s encore. “You!” If the 14,000-large audience was particularly rowdy throughout the night, it was because the band delivered the goods: the roughly 100-minute set mixed classics (“Cryin’,” “Last Child”) with deep cuts (“Walkin’ the Dog” and “Mama Kin,” both from their self-titled debut), as well as a pair of new tunes – one of which, “Oh Yeah,” a bluesy-rocker that found Tyler unleashing his trademark banshee howl, was played live for the first time. (Tyler and Perry have previously performed “Legendary Child,” the first single from Another Dimension, on select occasions.) With their new album, Aerosmith are looking ahead. But they made sure to honor their divine past by closing out the show with a string of their mid-Seventies hits: “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk This Way,” “Dream On,” and “Train Kept A’ Rollin’.”
Tyler and Perry made a grand entrance to jumpstart the evening, emerging from a trap door at the end of a catwalk. The large-lipped singer wore a long black shawl with a matching Kentucky-Derby-sized hat – which he sprayed into the crowd moments later during “Love in an Elevator” – while the guitarist donned a Tom-Jones-glittery jacket with a white cutoff underneath. Both were in top form throughout the gig: Perry nailed his grimy outro solo during “Sweet Emotion,” played a mesmerizing lap steel during “Rag Doll,” and even took vocal duties on “Combination.” And Tyler, at 64, is every bit the maniacal frontman he was during his heyday: when he wasn’t shuffling across the stage or group-hugging the audience sidestage, he was lifting his shirt and stroking his belly, seductively thrusting his pelvis, playing an adept harmonica during “Cryin’,” and spewing bizarrely intriguing one-liners. (“Why I don’t drink water?” he said after refusing a drink. “Fish fucking.”)
But what Saturday proved, above all, is that, minor issues aside – the mix sputtered at the start with Tyler’s voice drowned in heavy guitar feedback, and a pesky photographer seemed omnipresent throughout the show – Aerosmith remain a powerful and cohesive unit.
“I fucking love you!” Tyler yelled out into the blinding stage lights mid-set, grinning like a young schoolboy. He was addressing the crowd, not his bandmates. But it didn’t matter. Because as long as Aerosmith keep treating fans to momentous gigs like Saturday’s triumph, they need not be best friends – or even like each other, for that matter. They just need to keep doing what they do best: rocking hard.
“Draw the Line”
“Love in an Elevator”
“Walkin’ the Dog” (Rufus Thomas cover)
“Livin’ on the Edge”
“S.O.S. (Too Bad)”
“What It Takes”
“I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”
“Walk This Way”
“Train Kept A-Rollin”