Few bands possess the sheer rock presence that Aerosmith does. Of all the classic rock bands that remain, perhaps only the Rolling Stones can outduel Aerosmith hit for hit.
That was certainly the case Saturday night as Caesars Atlantic City presented the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers to a near-capacity Boardwalk Hall crowd.
Anyone who has seen Aerosmith in the past 10 years knows that the band seems to have lost some of its passion. After 40 years, several breakups, drug issues and more drama than “All My Children,” it’s easy to understand why some of the fervor has diminished.
Astoundingly, Aerosmith’s long-lasting quintet remains, less than a year after frontman Steven Tyler quit the band, which in turn announced it was looking for a new singer, as ludicrous as that may have been.
But there they stood, the Boston bad boys in all their legendary glory, sounding tight, fist-pumpingly strong and downright entertaining. In fact, the band seemed more juiced than it has in a long time as its members actually looked at each other — and smiled, hugged and even kissed — and Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry interacted with each other throughout the night, suggesting that two of the most recognizable faces in rock can at least be civil to each other again.
Previous tours, including the band’s last and only other Atlantic City appearance in 2004, offered a setlist of songs that would make the casual fan pull his hair out, but their latest “Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock” tour certainly lives up to its name.
The 18-song, two-hour hitfest was a mix of the raunchy, in-your-face rock that propelled the band to stardom and the bubblegum pop-rock ballads that helped them stay there and find a younger audience.
Appropriately opening with the classic “Back in the Saddle,” Aerosmith’s set offered a nice tour of the band’s career.
While most of band’s later-era tunes, such as “Pink,” “What It Takes” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (complete with accompanying cheesy “Armageddon” video), don’t measure up to early smashes such as “Rag Doll,” “Sweet Emotion” and the encores “Dream On” and “Walk This Way,” ’80s and ’90s chart-toppers including “Love in an Elevator” and “Livin’ on the Edge” showed why the band has managed to do this for so long, so successfully.
The night was filled with songs that most people would know, but the veterans were wise enough to throw in some tracks for the diehards, including 1975’s “No More, No More” featuring some great guitar work by Perry, and 1976’s “Last Child,” which sounded as raw as ever and featured a Brad Whitford solo that proved Perry isn’t the only one in the band that lays down mean licks.
There were some nice treats, as well. Aside from its cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s rockabilly “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” a longtime Aerosmith staple, the band also offered memorable covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin’ Around,” which the band covered on its bomb of a blues album, “Honkin’ on Bobo,” and The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
The night could have done without the corny “Falling in Love (is Hard on the Knees”) and “Cryin’” in favor of classics such as “Same Old Song and Dance,” “Toys in the Attic” and “Mama Kin,” but no one seemed to mind.
Tyler, who announced earlier this month that he will be the next “American Idol” judge, sounds and looks amazingly good for his 62 years despite the abuse he doled out on his body.
With his trademark long, streaked locks, dark sunglasses and scarves dangling from his microphone stand, the always-moving, Tyler can still hit most of the high notes that he reached 40 years ago, and he remains one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock. When he sings the anthem “Dream On,” he can still bring chills.
The crowd stood throughout the entire show — even Joey’s Kramer’s drum solo — and the stage show was nothing less than fantastic, featuring moving light rigs and screens to give everyone a good look at the band.
Aerosmith may not possess the frenzy and hype that accompanied Lady Gaga when she performed in Atlantic in July, but a night of good ol’ fashioned rock ’n’ roll by Aerosmith may go down in the books as the show of the summer.
Meanwhile, fellow Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar proved that it pays to arrive early to hear the opener. Although a 45-minute set would have sufficed, his 60-minute routine wisely mixed solo, Montrose and Van Halen tunes for the appreciative crowd.
Highlights included the openers “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and “I Can’t Drive 55,” both solo hits from earlier in his career. Equally crowd-pleasing was “Mas Tequila,” a party song that generously borrows from Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll (Part 2).”
Hagar, with his trademark yellow curls, said he was so drunk Friday night that he deserved a standing ovation “for just being here.” He added that he enjoyed three days in Atlantic City “drinking margaritas on the beach in my own joint. It don’t get better than that,” referring to Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s Atlantic City, which is named after him.
While the Red Rocker’s back-to-back Montrose songs (“Rock Candy, “Bad Motor Scooter”) fell flat, he had the crowd in his hands when he unleashed five Van Halen songs, especially “Right Now,” “Finish Whatcha Started” and the encore, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”
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