Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Friday, August 22, 2014
When Aerosmith hit the stage at American Airlines Center on Friday night, Steven Tyler appeared dressed in a sparkly long coat and top hat. He was posed with guitarist Joe Perry in the middle platform as the band launced into opener “Love in an Elevator.” Right from the beginning, Tyler proved he has the kind of coveted energy that can’t be bought at any health store.
Each sprightly skip and posed move of his hands is exactly on beat, turning the most mundane detail into an excuse for entertainment, like exaggerating the urge to cough at the end of a song to the point of absurdity. And for the duration of the night, Tyler made the show his own.
Tyler’s weathered voice — raspy and lacking the boundless range it once had — still has character, and a pleasing antique finish. He smartly rationed his signature screams for moments that absolutely demanded them, and where he was silent, he compensated by turning up the drama. Freely twirling his mic stand with the grace of a ribbon dancer, clowning around on stage, or dropping to the floor, Tyler has mastered every trick in the book of rock, and references it consistently.
In contrast with Tyler’s restless unpredictability, the rest of the band are genteel statesmen. Drummer Joey Kramer, who just rejoined the band after recovering from a heart procedure, played, and did so whole-heartedly — yet his face couldn’t help but look pained. Bassist Tom Hamilton and second guitar player Brad Whitford kept coyly to themselves most of the night. Perry, though often center stage, avoided eye-contact with the audience, and focused on his lap steel number assiduously.
The whole group finally amalgamated fully for “Livin’ on the Edge,” while a quick montage of Aerosmith’s music videos played behind them. The dullest moment took place as Perry sang a blues song. They may have filled too many glittery stadiums to convey the tough blues life convincingly, despite Tyler’s killer harmonica.
More heavily accessorized than Ke$ha, with body paint and glitter in his hair, like an unraveling ball of fringe and scarves, it’s no wonder the show didn’t need much stage production, as Tyler alone can provide almost all the visuals for the evening. It’s impossible to look away from him, like the drunkest fool at his party of one, pulling his hair into ponytails for “Dude Looks Like a Lady” or kissing an audience member lustily on the face. He could have been completely mute and his performance would still have been worth paying for.
Time inevitably came for “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” the ridiculously emotive song off the Armageddon soundtrack, and their last Top 40 hit. The song rivaled Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” on the cheese meter, but the crowd seemed to love it.
For the encore, Tyler played “Dream On” with uncharacteristic somberness as Perry climbed atop his piano, reveling in the wind machine. Tyler pulled off the ending’s screamed falsetto perfectly as smoke shot up sensationally to the sky. The moment was classic, a flashbulb memory of true rock greatness.
For last song “Sweet Emotion,” Perry showed off his chest and his skills, which culminated in him playing his guitar pushed face first into his massive speaker cabinets, pulling off his guitar strings by hand, ceremoniously deconstructing it, and dangling the entire guitar by one string as a chorus of feedback filled the stadium. Of course, Tyler exited last, milking every last minute on the stage’s camera for your entertainment, singing Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” which sums him up precisely.
For opener Slash, meanwhile, his virtuosity made a phenomenal centerpiece without the aid of some needed theatricality. As the former lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, Slash achieved the order of Guitar God, and he’s a long ways down from Mount Olympus in the company of Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Peeping behind his well-parted veil of kinky hair, Slash played on without letting his guitar breathe for a second — in a wave of weightless riffs, the heaviest metal melted by his expert hand.
After conquering a double-necked guitar for Flamenco-inspired “Anastasia” with fingers moving faster than the speed of light, his greatest moment, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” had the entire stadium freaking out with reminiscence. The band closed to the same effect with “Paradise City.” Possibly weighed down by the lesser known band, Slash’s instrument screamed manically, but the group was subdued. Perhaps too well-adjusted, without enough anger-management potential or genuine debauchery for the genre, Axl Rose’s presence was actually missed. It seems about time to un-hock his “Gun,” as Slash’s gift ultimately lays in his songwriting collaborations, and not merely in his virtuosity.