REVIEW: Aerosmith, with Extreme, at Fenway Park, Thursday night.
BOSTON – They may look a little the worse for wear, but Aerosmith proved Thursday night they still have the chops, the catalog and most importantly, the go-for-it-all attitude to remain at the pinnacle of hard driving rock 'n' roll. The vintage quintet roared through two hours of their biggest hits and some sizzling surprises before a crowd that was said to set a new attendance record for concerts at Boston’s Fenway Park, presumably breaking the 37,200 mark set by Lady Gaga on Aug. 25.
This was Aerosmith’s twice-delayed 50th Anniversary celebration, with the added suspense of singer Steven Tyler’s springtime return to rehab, and also their first return to the storied ballpark since their legendary 2010 show there, when Beantown friends The J.Geils Band opened. This time, North Shore rockers Extreme opened with a brisk one-hour set, and if vocalist Gary Cherone and guitarist Nuno Bettancourt’s crowd-pleasing charge through “More Than Words” and a booming “Sweet Caroline” were certainly fun, they were clearly only an appetizer.
If his recent troubles led to doubts, Tyler dispelled them quite early Thursday night, as the 74-year-old frontman prowled the lengthy stage with unflagging energy, hit some inhuman falsetto notes when needed, and generally lifted the band’s performance in the few places when it seemed to drag. Perry, 71, was also in prime form, as we’d noted a few weeks ago when his Joe Perry Project did a short tour with ZZ Top. The remainder of Aerosmith – guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and, in place of Joey Kramer, former drum tech John Douglas doing yeoman work on drums – were not as physically active as they may have been in past years, but Tyler and Perry have usually supplied most of the visual and electrifying energy anyway.
Canton native Bill Burr, himself a recent Fenway Park showman, introduced Aerosmith with a brief recap of his own history as a fan, from a 1987 show when their music helped lift an aimless young Burr, to the present when the comic still derives obvious glee from pitching them as “the greatest rock band Boston ever produced from 1325 Commonwealth Ave.!”
'Steven Tyler made everyone's night': Rocker drops into Alba on 53 in Hanover
The 20-song setlist Thursday included songs from eight different Aerosmith albums, and a couple covers. Who would have guessed the Shangri Las’ “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” would make a fantastic Aerosmith vehicle? Yet adding some metallic thump while Tyler channeled his love for classic girl groups in an impassioned vocal made for some unforgettable thrills. Similarly, Perry’s lead vocal on the old Fleetwood Mac (the original, bluesy Mac) cover “Stop Messin’ Around,” as Tyler played harmonica and Whitford took the main solo, evoked Aerosmith’s blues-rock roots.
The show had started with a can’t miss four-beat of “Back in the Saddle” (amid red pyrotechnic rockets), “The Same Old Song and Dance,” “Rag Doll” and “Mama Kin.” Tyler was resplendent in black sparkly pants and vest over a gold shirt, while Perry was a bit more gritty in ripped jeans, slouched Western hat and sparkly black waistcoat. Whitford was suitably inscrutable in a red jacket and big Tyrolean hat, while Hamilton was mysterious in all black. Douglas, with a big baseball cover over the bass drum, was such a vision of constant pounding motion, nobody could see, or care, what he was wearing.
Aerosmith appreciation: At 50, the train keeps a rollin'
If the opening number seemed to be just a bit forced, by the time Tyler hit those ungodly falsetto notes during the second tune, it was obvious the band was in fine form. More intriguing, the idea seemed to be to subtly salute all the members, as “Same Old Song and Dance” concluded with a Hamilton bass solo that was unavoidably visceral. A nice detail that some fans may have missed was the center stage video screen showed a red-tinged image of 1325 Commonwealth Ave. during the potent run through “Mama Kin.”
The middle section of the show featured the power ballad “Cryin’,” always a showcase for Tyler’s emotive vocals, and the bluesy nugget “Hangman Jury,” which started as a Tyler-Perry acoustic duo with the latter on National Steel guitar. The spooky “Seasons of Wither” suggested Aerosmith dipped into prog-rock at one point in their past, but the furious pace of “Toys in the Attic,” with Tyler romping to the far ends of the stage amid pell-mell rhythms seemed designed to prove how physically vital the quintet still is. “Livin’ On the Edge” seemed to be a bit plodding, just a bit tired and formulaic coming after that glorious “Toys in the Attic,” but Tyler almost singlehandedly redeemed it with the sincerity of his vocal.
Naturally, when it comes to power ballads, few can top “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” and Tyler and the band wrung every ounce of emotion out of it in a sweeping arrangement that seemed to stop just short of self-parody. It was twice as enjoyable once the notion registered that the Bad Boys of Boston know just how aberrant that song is for the rest of their songbook. The homestretch got back to basics with the crunch of “Love In An Elevator” and a “Draw the Line” that was just as frenetic as “Toys in the Attic.” The regular set finale, “Dude Looks Like A Lady” included more gutsy bass vamp from Hamilton and a jammed-out ending that pushed the tempo to a fiery conclusion after 95 minutes of music.
The encore section echoed that 2010 concert with Tyler and Perry emerging on top of the left field wall for “Dream On,” with Tyler playing a white grand piano. It didn’t seem the band on the main stage, and Tyler and Perry on the Green Monster, had totally synched up, but it was a heartfelt effort that ended with Tyler standing on top of the piano (on top of the wall). Hamilton and Douglas crafted a psychedelic bass-and-drums interlude while the other duo was deployed down from the left field wall, merging into an enticing “Sweet Emotion” when everyone was back together. That song ended in a hard-rocking guitar duel with Perry and Whitford trading licks, before the galvanizing “Walk This Way” ended the night in a blaze of glory. A literal blaze, as it turned out, as Aerosmith left their fans a real five-minute fireworks show over the ballpark as they exited the stage.
Thanks to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. Please consider supporting quality local journalism with a Patriot Ledger subscription. Here is our latest offer.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Aerosmith delivers 'frenetic,' 'fiery' concert at Fenway Park