Aerosmith gets back in the saddle in Bangor

Sep. 5—A sleeping lion was awakened in Bangor on Sunday night when rock band Aerosmith took to the stage for the first time in nearly three years.

The band from Boston ripped through a two-hour, 19-song set that included plenty of hits along with some deeper album cuts and a couple of covers.

Aerosmith's legendary lineup is singer Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer. Kramer, however, is on a temporary leave and John Douglas sat in behind the kit.

All were in fine form Sunday and there didn't seem to be much rust to shake off when the band started with "Back in the Saddle" from the 1976 "Rocks" album. After such a long pandemic absence, they could not have chosen a better song to fire up the crowd and prove they meant business.

Dressed in funky white pants adorned with black snakes and rhinestones and a striped black shirt, and with his signature scarf hanging from the microphone, Tyler's vocals were sturdy as he strutted around the stage and sometimes sat on a stool next to Perry. Gone are the days of acrobatic stage antics — the band members are all in their 70s — but that hardly mattered. Aerosmith came to do what they do best: play the rock music that has made them famous and sold millions of albums over the course of a 15-album discography.

Aerosmith delivered the hits, with "Rag Doll," "Cryin," "Love in an Elevator" and "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." When they played "Livin' on the Edge," a video montage rolled behind them showing world events like climate change and protest marches.

During the ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," lights from phones lit the space like a Christmas tree, many wanting a video souvenir of the evening. "Sweet Emotion" featured Perry using a talk box effect made famous by Peter Frampton (though dating back to the late 1930s).

Before the encores, a white baby grand piano was rolled onto the stage and a few minutes later, Tyler sat down for what is arguably the band's most famous song. During "Dream On," from Aerosmith's 1973 self-titled debut album, it sounded like every single person sang the refrain: "Sing with me, sing for a year, sing for the laughter and sing for the tear." It was a sight and sound to behold.

Barely catching their breath, the band launched into "Walk This Way" from 1975's "Toys in the Attic." No one's feet were flying up in the air, but the song sure blew a hole through the rainy night in Bangor.

Aerosmith ended with what Perry said was a song no one would know. It was "Big Ten Inch Record," a bluesy tune written by Fred Weismantel and recorded by late blues singer and horn player Bull Moose Jackson. The cover, from "Toys in the Attic," was certainly known by the hardcore fans.

Other covers included "Stop Messin' Around," a 1968 Fleetwood Mac song that Aerosmith recorded on their 2012 album "Honkin' on Bobo," and "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," a 1964 hit for the Shangri-Las that appeared on Aerosmith's 1979 album "Night in the Ruts."

It's worth mentioning that Maine Savings Amphitheater has undergone extensive renovations over the past year or so, and while the outdoor venue's luxury suites and a few other elements aren't quite done, the completed work is outstanding. Each tier of seating, including a large lawn area, is further up a hill, making for perfect sight lines from everywhere. The stage is also among the highest and biggest you'll see, and the gigantic video displays both behind and on either side meant no one missed a second of the performance. The sound was loud and clear.

Fellow Massachusetts natives Extreme opened the show. The 11-song set included the hits "Hole Hearted" and ballad "More Than Words," which had most of the nearly 16,000 fans at the sold-out show singing along. Singer Gary Cherone shared that way back in 1988, the band opened for Aerosmith at what was then called the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.

Aerosmith's next stop is Fenway Park on Friday and then it's off to Las Vegas, where they resume a pandemic curtailed residency with shows off and on into December.