Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - Aerosmith Lets Rock Rule in Dallas; and Joey Kramer Returns
Just a couple weeks before Aerosmith was set to play American Airlines Center in Dallas, fans were not only concerned about the health of drummer Joey Kramer, but also if the show would even be going on in the first place.
Whatever the minor procedure was that Kramer had to undergo had kept him away from the kit; and while the show had gone on in other cities (with his son filling in), he had yet to make a full return to the stage.
Whether he would be present in Dallas or not remained to be seen, as the masses filled the arena. By the time nine-o’clock rolled around, all three levels of the venue along with the floor were packed with fans that covered the age spectrum.
I’ll also point out that one of the many songs that played over the PA system to entertain the crowd happened to “Backslider” by The Toadies. Sure, they’re nowhere on the global level of fame that Aerosmith is, though I still found it neat that a track form that iconic Texas act would happen to get played.
The lights went out at 9:12, and the massive space was filled with nothing but screams.
“Please welcome, from Boston, Massachusetts, the world’s greatest rock band!” said the voice of an announcer, barely audible over all the excitement that was being expressed.
A runway led from the stage out deep into part of the crowd, to those who were lucky enough to have floor seats; and the stage of sorts at the end of it was suddenly blanketed in smoke. A panel in the floor opened up, and from it rose Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, still engulfed in the thick haze. Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford entered from the wings of the stage, as did Joey Kramer. It had been two weeks since he last played a full show with his band mates, and the Dallas fans would be fortunate enough to see his triumphant return.
So began 79-minutes of near non-stop action, as the legendary rock group kicked off their set with “Love In A Elevator”. Of course, the guitar solo belonged to Perry, who now stood alone at the end of the platform, shredding, though Whitford also shone brightly on it; and he and Tyler stood back to back for a bit during that time. Tyler was also getting in on the guitar action, using his mic stand (which was in tow almost constantly as he traversed the stage) as a faux axe, and he was owning it. Some fun was also had with the lyrics this night, like on this one, when Tyler shouted, “Kiss my fucking ass!” instead of “Kiss your sassafras”.
As the guitars and bass fell silent, a sample track kicked on. Kramer got no down time as he laid into the kit, delivering some powerful, steady beats. For that opening number, Tyler paraded around the stage draped in a sparkly robe. Even from up in the nosebleed section you could see all the lights reflecting off it, so it may well have been somewhat blinding to those on the floor.
Now, he took said robe off and looked at one of the cameramen, waving it in front of the camera. The impressive screen at the back of the stage showed all of it, while it quickly flashed between a host of colors, creating a psychedelic experience. The track took shape once the guitars and bass were added, and “Eat the Rich” was one of a few cuts they did from Get a Grip. Tyler was back out at the end of the runway, and he pointed the mic out towards the crowd on the first chorus, letting them shout each of the “Eat the rich!” parts. The coolest moment of the song came during the solo — again dominated by Perry — while Tyler crouched by the stacks of amps and pressed the microphone against them before they eventually brought things way down. Kramer then delivered some rapid succession beats as they picked back up; and Tyler ended it in true form to the recording. However, he first began to cough. A little violently at that, giving the impression he had gotten chocked. He stepped back from the mic for a second, then leaned back towards it, letting loose a belch, the likes of which would only come after a satisfying meal.
After two full-blown rock songs, they slowed things down slightly with “Jaded”, which came immediately after. Admittedly, I’m biased, since the Just Push Play Tour in 2001 was the first time I saw Aerosmith (or even attended a concert in general for that matter), but that’s a favorite of mine. It was a highlight of the night for me; and Tyler impressed the hell out of everyone when singing “…And ecstasy’s what you prefer,” holding that last word for several seconds. Even in his mid-sixties the man still has a voice that any singer should be envious of.
“Cryin’” kept up the slower, more emotional pace they were on; and Tyler wailed on “…makin’ love”, making a sharp transition to a high-pitched tone, before bringing it back down to his normal register. He even got face to face with Perry at the end, constantly yelling, “Baby!” at him, though Perry never broke focus on his guitar.
“Dallas, I need your help!” shouted Tyler, leading the entire area in chants of, “Yeah!” “Livin’ on the Edge” has been relevant for a few decades now, though with all the goings on all over the world, it seemed to be even more important this night. The first chorus was even changed slightly. “Every time you turn on the news, you’re living on the edge. When you catch your husband fucking around, he knows he’s living on the edge.” Later on, he bent down towards the fans, even letting a woman sing one of the lines, before pulling the mic back over to him. “…And everybody knows we’re fucked,” finished Tyler. Things tapered off, and the audience applauded, thinking it was done. Kramer then brought the song back to life, and Tyler ran around behind the kit and over to him, holding the mic by his head to let him sing the chorus. You could tell he was glad to have his friend and band mate back.
They had yet to show any sign of letting up; and once that one was done, Tyler mentioned a year. 1977 to be exact. “Come on, gentlemen. Take me back,” he said to Hamilton, Whitford, Kramer and Perry. A guy behind me was racking his brain trying to come up with all their songs from ’77, but one I did not hear him say aloud was “Kings And Queens”. Whitford became the focal point for a minute or two when he showed off his prowess on the guitar solo; and afterwards, they jumped even further back then ’77. The title track off Toys In The Attic made the spectators reach a fevered pitch. “Joe, help me out,” Tyler requested as they hit the first chorus, and both of them leaned towards the mic and sang. Tyler even had some fun at one point, holding an open water bottle down in front of his crotch and walking over to the edge of the stage. He squeezed it a couple of times, as a little bit of water shot out, and then the remainder of the contents were dumped on to people.
“Joey Kramer in the house tonight!” exclaimed Tyler, as he proceeded to lay down the beat for the next song. “He’s on fire! Watch it, he’ll get ya,” Tyler finished. Perry laid his guitar down, using it a little more like a pedal steel as they knocked out “Rag Doll”. “How are you doing up there?” Tyler asked, addressing all those in the middle section and the “cheap seats” up above. He was sincere with it, too, echoing how their performance had gone so far, because they weren’t putting on a show just for the ones who had paid for floor seats. “This place is fucking packed!” he said ecstatically, before handing the mic stand off to Perry. “… It feels like forever…” he said after welcoming Joey back, noting how good it was to have him back out there with them. “We’re going to play a little Boston blues for ya. It goes like this,” he then informed the crowd. They rolled out their cover of Fleetwood Macs’ “Stop Messin’ Around”, and Perry owned it for that time, encapsulating the frontman persona, even if he was stationed behind the microphone. Fans were also treated to one of Tyler’s harmonica solos, which was fiery and raw.
“What the fuck was that about that!?” yelled Tyler once he reclaimed the mic. “That was some original shit!” You know what else was original? “Same Old Song And Dance”. That classic was beloved by all; and making it all the more engaging was the clap along that commenced during it. “Show us some skin!” Tyler asked, referring to having people put their hands in the air. The end was ruled by Hamilton and his bass lines; while there was also a neat moment during the track when one of the crowd shots that wound up on the video screen included a young boy in the frame, and when he realized he was up there, you could tell it made his day.
“We’re gonna slow it down a bit. This is off the first album,” remarked Tyler. “I’ll give you a hint: I do not play guitar,” he joked. I don’t know how much “Mama Kin” slowed things down (if it even did at all); but even now, forty-one-years after that classic was released on their debut album, it still packs a serious punch. If anything, I’d imagine it’s only gotten better with age. As Perry launched into the guitar solo, Tyler, who had been “dancing” with his mic stand, left it out there on platform, and then raced up the runway back to the main stage. He danced about to the music his band mates were making, before having to make a return trip back down the runway when the next line came around.
“Do it! Do it!” he commanded, as they slowed things down with the gorgeous, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. (You can’t deny that is a beautiful love song, and that beauty was conveyed wonderfully this night.) “Do you like the old shit, or the new shit?” Tyler asked once they had finished. It easily could have been a rhetorical question, because he had to know what the answer would be. “OLD SHIT!” the audience boomed. “The old shit? Yeah, me too,” he responded. Perhaps that was why they were playing so much of it this night, totally neglecting 2012’s Music From Another Dimension!.
They returned to the “old shit” with “No More No More”; and then they served up the first Aerosmith song I ever heard, and the one that made me into a fan: “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)”. Considering this was the first time I had heard it live, it made my night. Right at the very end, Tyler grabbed the mic stand, picking it up from the middle of it, and effortlessly tossed it back and forth in his hands. Usually you see a frontman carry the stand around for part of one song at most, and think, “That’s cool.” Tyler takes that to a whole new level, though, making you realize that any vocalist who doesn’t drag the mic stand along with them for every step they take is simply half-assing it.
From there, they dove right into “Walk This Way”, continuing their trend of not allowing for any breaks. Somehow, a woman ended up on stage with them during that song. I missed if she was personally invited up there or somehow got past security, but the band didn’t mind it. She was harmless in the first place; and she and Tyler shook their hips to the music for a bit before he motioned for her leave so they could get back to work. The instrumental outro was a little longer, providing an epic finish.
“Thank you, and good night,” both Tyler and Perry said to the crowd, as all five of them waved to the fans, and then walked back into the darkness of the wings of the stage.
Some people left. Others shouted that they had paid money and they needed more, even yelling songs, demanding to hear them.
Five minutes passed, and then, from the same trapdoor he and Perry had made their entrance from earlier, Tyler again returned to the spotlight. This time seated behind a piano.
“Darkness, darkness…” he crooned while lightly plucking the keys. It sure sounded like he was beginning the final track off Done With Mirrors, which threw everyone for a loop. He suddenly switched gears, though; and the fans burst into cheers. The applause and cheers were deafening, but that’s just how much “Dream On” is loved. When the rest of the band appeared, Perry wound up leaping onto the grand piano, spending a few minutes up there. When he hopped off, Tyler — who was now back in frontman mode — pulled his mic stand up there to deliver the rest of the track. At the end, he swung it in the air like a sword, bringing it around to his back, where he let it rest against his neck and gripped it with both hands behind his back.
“Going down,” he spoke as the piano disappeared back into the floor. He jumped off it when it got more level with the stage; and as he walked back towards the main stage, Hamilton was strolling down the runway. His bass solo stretched on for a minute or so, before turning into the familiar intro of “Sweet Emotion”. When the video board switched to Tyler, he was suddenly decked out in some neon like colored face paint, more pastel based. “…‘Cause a month on the road and I’ll be coming in your hand,” he sang later on, again switching up the lyrics.
The pinnacle moment of the song came when everyone except Perry left the stage. The guitarist had wandered over to the amps, where he leaned in close, creating some feedback as he continued to pick away at it. He then dropped it to the floor and proceeded to bat out an imaginary fire, and then came the best part. With it still on the ground, he laid onto the whammy bar, and one by one broke nearly all six strings, still holding them in his other hand, making for an amazing effect. With that guitar being rendered useless, he was quickly handed a new one, while his band mates retook the stage, wrapping up this 15-minute long encore.
The five of them marched to the platform at the end. The money shot was delivered in a blizzard of confetti that covered that fell on everyone in the first several rows, and looked like it may never stop. All the while, the audience was giving them all the noise and applause they deserved.
“Dallas! Dallas! Thank you so much for coming and watching this band rock out,” Tyler stated. He meant it. These guys still care. Even after all these decades, they still aim to please everyone who attends, and they do it.
One by one, Tyler introduced the band, including Buck Johnson, who had been back there on the keys and some other instruments. “He’s the one making me sound so good,” said Tyler. They then bid their farewell to the city.
The house music came back on, but then, Perry returned to the mic. “Turn that down,” he ordered. He informed everyone they had been challenged to the “ice bucket thing”, and they would be doing it in Houston, saying if anyone wanted to see it, then hopefully they’d see them in Houston.
One of the last things Tyler said this night sums it all up perfectly: “Fuck, yeah! Rock n roll, baby!”
I could go on and on, but I won’t. It’d serve no point, because everyone knows (or at least should) how amazing Aerosmith is. Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a live show.
Bands aren’t made like this anymore. I doubt many bands who have found fame in the last decade or so will still be doing what they’re doing thirty to forty years from now. It’s even more remarkable when you think of all the turmoil they went through, and despite it all, they patched things up.
They still put their blood, sweat and tears into their shows; and even though there were parts of different songs that Tyler kind of mumbled though, no one cared. It would maybe just be a sentence or two when it did happen, and it was beside the point. Hell, I think he could have forgotten every word for every song and people still wouldn’t have cared, because he was so dynamic on stage. They all were, and it made for an extraordinary night where rock ruled.