When I was 10 years old in the summer of 1988, I have the distinct recollection of watching Aerosmith’s video for the song “Rag Doll” on MTV. There was one scene where the band was onstage playing to a packed house, the entire audience throwing their fists in the air in time with the beat of the song.
I remember thinking to myself, “This concert looks like the most fun place anyone could be.” Thirty-one years later, I was finally blessed with the opportunity to find out whether the perception of my 10-year-old self was correct.
Turns out 10-year-old me was spot on.
Not only did Aerosmith’s sold-out show Friday night at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa live up to the hype in my head, it surpassed it.
When you go to see a band that has been around for 50 years, one tends to expect a slowed-down version of what they would have seen in the band’s heyday.
Not that older acts aren’t talented or that they can’t put on a good show, but most humans can’t maintain the same type of physical energy as a senior citizen that they had in their 20s.
All that logic goes right out the window with Aerosmith. From the first note of the opener “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” the energy level of the band was stunning. For two full hours, singer Steven Tyler paced the stage with his trademark strut, maintaining complete command of the crowd throughout the night like a border collie would a flock of sheep. Guitarist Joe Perry oozed cool from every sweat-soaked pore as he laid into solo after solo, his purple hat tilted just enough to create the perfect rock ’n’ roll look.
Aerosmith is one of the few bands to have had hits in multiple decades, which gives it quite the large bag of tricks to choose from when it comes to the setlist. Highlights included “Eat the Rich,” “Love in an Elevator,” “Dude Looks Like a Lady” and “Toys in the Attic.”
If there was one downside, it was the obvious use of backing tracks. At times there were multiple vocals going, each of which suspiciously sounded like Steven Tyler harmonizing with himself. It’s always a letdown when bands do this. Yeah, I know their goal is to make the show sound like the record, but we all know this isn’t a studio, it’s a stage. It doesn’t have to sound just like the record, nor should it.
Tyler clearly didn’t need the help of those backing tracks either, as his voice on its own was as powerful as you would hope, his trademark screeches hitting their marks every time, despite having some sort of issues hearing himself — throughout the show both Tyler and Perry gestured at an offstage sound man, apparently unhappy with whatever mix they were hearing onstage.
Despite whatever sound issues were occurring, Tyler stayed on his game, being playful but not overly chatty with the crowd right up until the end of the evening, which was capped by a two-song encore of “Dream On” and “Walk This Way,” the former featuring Tyler behind a grand piano that rose up on a hydraulic lift as Perry took his spot atop it with full rock-god posturing.
As the house lights came up, the crowd seemed stuck in a daze of high fives and ear-to-ear grins. Whatever money anybody in that room spent on their tickets (and they were NOT cheap) was well spent. The night was exactly what a rock concert should be, from one of the purest rock ’n’ roll bands the world has ever produced.
They are coming back for another show Sunday night. The show is sold out, but if you can find a way to go, it will be the best money you spend all summer.