Having performed brief sets everywhere from the Super Bowl to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the past few months, Aerosmith finally kicked off their much-anticipated Just Push Play tour Wednesday night.
The band seemed under-rehearsed at times – frontman Steven Tyler missed a cue and flubbed a few lines during “Cryin’ ” – but overall, the band hit a groove, and stuck in it. During the best parts of the show at the ctnow.com Meadows Music Center, they demonstrated why, at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kid Rock called them “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.”
Fuel opened the show, and suffered the same problem that many support acts face when playing huge summer sheds: many of their fans have the cheap seats, i.e. general admission, and are therefore separated from the band by hundreds of feet of mostly empty chairs. When the band hit the stage, frontman Brett Scallions acted as if it were a packed house – and a few songs later, it nearly was. A half hour into their 50 minutes, when they played “Bad Day” and “Shimmer,” the crowd’s younger segment was singing along with every word, while the higher-tax bracketers were beginning to take notice. As the band finished up with “Hemorrhage (In My Hands),” those who weren’t familiar with Fuel were asking those in the know about this “new” band (who, to date, have two platinum albums).
Aerosmith hit the stage at 9:30, following a brief montage of the band’s TV moments on giant video screens around the stage. Opening with “Beyond Beautiful,” the first track from Just Push Play, the band seemed a little stiff and a little nervous. The fans were familiar with the song, and the band followed it with their 1976 anthem “Back in the Saddle,” to somewhat better response, and a confident version of Just Push Play’s lead single, “Jaded,” a song they’re well used to performing by now.
After playing faithful versions of two of their more immaculate studio productions – 1989’s “Love in an Elevator” and the new “Just Push Play” – they kicked into high gear with their cover of the jump blues song “Big Ten Inch Record” (from their 1975 album, Toys in the Attic), at which point Tyler went into charismatic hyperactive ringmaster mode. In an odd bit of pacing, they then slowed things down just as the audience was getting worked into a frenzy, playing their latest single, the ballad “Fly Away From Here.”
After that came 1997’s “Pink” and “Mama Kin,” from their 1973 self-titled debut, and with the crowd once again worked up, they left the stage… only to appear on a small stage located between the last row of seats and the lawn. It was there that things really got heated: for four songs, the concert became a general admission club gig, which happened to be four of their biggest crowd pleasers: “Same Old Song and Dance,” a cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” “Dream On” and “Toys in the Attic.”
The band showed its sense of humor while returning to the main stage – during the brief break, the screens showed a parody commercial for a non-existent Aerosmith Greatest Hits 1990-1994 album, featuring “Cryin’,” “Crazy” and “Amazing,” as well as “Amazing Cryin’,” “Crazy Amazing,” etc. Not that they shied away from ballads &$151; when they got back on stage, they performed their only #1 hit, the Diane Warren-penned “Armageddon” soundtrack cut “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” as scenes from the movie flashed on the screens.
They closed the main set in a jukebox-like manner, with “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Cryin’,” “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” During “Cryin’,” Tyler seemed to miss his harmonica cue, but the other band members – guitarists Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer – salvaged the song.
Their exit from the stage was, unsurprisingly, met with deafening applause and a demand for an encore, and Aerosmith didn’t let the crowd down, returning with “Livin’ on the Edge” and their cover of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio’s “Train Kept a Rollin’.” Their final encore was a second Beatles cover, “I’m Down,” their only selection from their 1987 comeback album, Permanent Vacation.
While Aerosmith’s set wasn’t flawless, the band wasn’t shooting for perfection in the first place. But they were aiming to satisfy their fans – no easy task when the audience is comprised of 40-something Hell’s Angels, 20-somethings raised on “Beavis and Butt-head” and younger kids who like “Jaded.” The show was truly an all-ages affair, and as one guy said to his son after the show, “Not bad for a bunch of 50-year-olds, huh?”