On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry rose from a stage elevator and slid right into “Mama Kin”, their original hard rock bitch-slap to fat cat record executives in New York City. “It ain’t easy livin’ like a gypsy,” Tyler sang, a lyric he penned as a struggling musician during the last U.S. financial crisis in the early 70s. Things aren’t any easier for artists today.
The heart of the night was Aerosmith, their 1973 debut album, which record executives told them “didn’t have a single” (i.e. “Mama Kin”, “Dream On”). They peppered the set with deep cuts from that album like “Movin’ Out” followed by a rousing “Walkin’ the Dog”. Tyler staggered around the stage with his walk-like-an-Egyptian moves, as Perry and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford ricocheted blues riffs right behind him.
Aerosmith has long promised to return to their blooze roots, and they finally lived up to their word, delivering a set heavy on their earlier hits, like the funky gem “Last Child” and forgoing most of the typical 90s gloop. They did include the excellent single, “Jaded”, “Livin’ on the Edge” (“we fuckin’ are!” Tyler aspirated), and the hardly known “Boogie Man”. Tyler fumbled the words on “Jaded”, but we’ll take that over another half-baked round of “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” any day.
There was a lot of love in that tiny stage elevator they repeatedly used (cue: “Love In An Elevator”) – in fact, Tyler and Perry’s heads were so close on that shared mic, from a distance it looked as though they were singing out of each other’s mouths. According to a recent report, Perry claims the band is getting along better than ever before. But maybe that’s because it must feel good to play at the helm of New York City, their sometimes-hometown that has always treated them like an annoying stepchild next to Bruce Springsteen and the New York Dolls, who were some of their original contemporaries.
It figures that the first time in 11 years this band has new original material – over an hour of it – they barely used any of it. Two new songs, “Lover Alot” and the Joe Perry-led “Oh Yeah”, held up like bonus tracks to gutter rock anthems, Rocks and Toys, their staple albums which got plenty of homage throughout the night. Perry led an up-tempo rendition of “Combination” and Tyler squeezed in his beloved, on-the-road diary dump “No More No More”, respectively.
Julian Lennon joined on “Come Together” (he chimed in on: “you can feel his disease”). The late Beatle’s son worked with Aerosmith on their recent album, adding vocals after a chance meeting in Los Angeles. It was a poignant moment on stage, but must’ve been a little awkward backstage for Cheap Trick, which performed not one, but three Beatles covers (“Golden Slumbers, “Carry That Weight,” “The End”) during the opening set. However, Lennon quickly bid namaste and got the hell off the stage before “Dude Looks Like A Lady”.
Tyler has said that he always thought of Aerosmith as a “great funk band.” Schooled in funk and soul, Joey Kramer offered up an impressive 10-minute drum solo (half-assisted by Tyler, who just can’t help himself). It sounded like it was going to segue into James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn”, which Aerosmith used to do as a warm-up tune in the early days. Instead, it was an extended intro to “Walk This Way”, their crossover hit that famously grounded two musical genres, rock and hip-hop, in each genre’s mutual obsession with, well, James Brown.
After the brief respite, Tyler emerged from the cat-walk elevator once again, this time seated at his pearly white piano for what everyone knew was “Dream On”, the third song on their first record, which miraculously turned out to be their greatest hit. Tyler got the lyrics right, but whenever he sings the song in New York, the only thing coming through those lurid lips is a well-deserved sense of conviction.
Photography and gallery by Dana (distortion) Yavin
Love in an Elevator
Livin’ on the Edge
Walkin’ the Dog
What It Takes
No More No More
Come Together (with Sean Lennon)
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
Walk This Way