Aerosmith, one of the greatest rock bands ever, certainly has had its share of questionable pop songs — the kind that may have prolonged the band’s recording career but hurt their rock credibility along the way: “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Falling in Love (is Hard on the Knees”), “Cryin’” and “Pink” … just to name a few.
On Friday night in its “Global Warming Tour,” the band played none of those. Instead, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers stayed mostly true to their hard rock roots, offering a sold-out Revel crowd the tour fans have been waiting for in Ovation Hall.
With a nearly two-hour setlist rooted in its ‘70s classics, Aerosmith reaffirmed it remains the most relevant classic rock band that still tours today, rivaled only by The Who and The Rolling Stones.
Aerosmith may have had its share of break-ups and make-ups, drug issues and group therapy sessions, but the band’s renewed passion was evident once again as it returned to Atlantic City for the first time since headlining a stellar show at Boardwalk Hall in 2010. That was sorely missing on tours in the 2000s.
The band was content to kick fans in the face Friday with rock hit after rock hit. That showed a band more than 40 years old, with members in their 60s, can bring it better than many rockers in their 20s.
The Boston Bad Boys’ longtime lineup of lead singer and former “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler, lead guitarist Joe Perry, bassist Tom Hamilton, guitarist Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer are astoundingly still together, and the group — whether they love each other or hate each other — still know how to put on entertaining, tight, rocking concerts that add to their legendary status.
The show started with the raunchy, familiar opener “Mama Kin” from the band’s 1973 eponymous debut, setting the stage for a night that would be full of ‘70s gems that also included the funky 1976 classic “Last Child,” the fan favorite “Walk This Way” and encores “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion.” The latter may be the best one-two punch any band can offer in its encores today.
But Aerosmith also dug deep for some fans, offering more obscure ditties such as “Movin’ Out,” the first song Tyler and Perry wrote together, that was actually recorded on a waterbed; their cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog,” which also appeared on their debut album; tour staple “No More, No More”; and “Combination,” a deep cut from 1976’s “Rocks” album with Perry taking over lead vocals. They even offered their usually strong version of The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
That doesn’t mean Aerosmith forgot about the rest of its 30 years in existence. Standouts included “Love in an Elevator,” “Rag Doll,” “What It Takes” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” as well as the surprise of the tour: “Boogie Man,” an obscure track from 1993’s “Get a Grip.”
Touring behind its latest album, “Music From Another Dimension!” — the band’s first studio album of original material since 2001 — Aerosmith surprisingly only played two new songs, the mediocre single “Lover Alot” and the bluesy “Oh Yeah,” leaving the album’s other singles “Legendary Child” and “What Could Have Been Love” off the setlist. Fans didn’t seem disappointed with the choice.
One of the highlights of the night was what the band didn’t play, thankfully not visiting a single song from the ill-fated, badly named blues album “Honkin’ On Bobo.”
That said, the setlist wasn’t perfect, although a difficult task for any band with this much material.
While the crowd seemed to enjoy the cheesy “Jaded” and the overrated “Livin’ on the Edge,” it would have been way cooler to hear “Same Old Song and Dance,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Draw the Line” and “Janie ‘s Got a Gun.” But sometimes leaving fans wanting more is part of the game, too.
Fellow classic rockers Cheap Trick offered a solid opening act. The Illinois-based band packed its set with most of its best material, including “Dream Police,” “Surrender,” “The Flame,” “If You Want My Love,” “I Want You to Want Me” and a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.”
Better setlist organization would certainly have kept things more lively by scattering hits throughout the set, instead of playing most of them at the end of the show. But lead singer Robin Zander can still bring it vocally, and guitarist Rick Nielsen makes up for his lack of finesse with an energetic presence that’s hard not to admire.
Aerosmith, often billed as “America’s Greatest Rock Band,” is as talented individually as it as a group. The 64-year-old Tyler, dressed in a fur coat, purple pimp hat and sunglasses, is the epitome of what a rock frontman should be: showy, charismatic, engaging, entertaining — and most importantly — a great, unique singer.
Perry’s guitar licks remain bluesy, raw and creative. Hamilton and Kramer remain one of the best classic rock rhythm duos. And Whitford is like the Rolling Stone’s Ron Wood of Aerosmith: underappreciated but supertalented.
Any time you see Aerosmith might be the last time. But the onstage hugs and close interaction with each other on this tour are good signs Aerosmith will be rocking for a long time to come.