It’s been a long time coming for Aerosmith to play at a Harley-Davidson Anniversary event, but man, the show they put on Friday night in front of a sea of denim and leather-clad bikers was absolutely worth the wait.
Aerosmith was one of the rumored "secret" headliners at the Harley 100th (most memorable for the visceral negative reaction to Elton John as the actual headliner) but they didn’t make it to Milwaukee for that. For Harley’s 105th, they were confirmed as a headliner for the H.O.G. Rally, but had to cancel the show due to "health issues" with band members.
So it’s no surprise that Friday’s show was one of the most highly-anticipated of the entire 110th weekend - and there were few empty seats anywhere in the house.
After selling out the Marcus Amp at last year’s Summerfest, Aerosmith was back, looking and sounding as tight as ever. But although this is technically part of the same "Global Warming" tour, this was not just a rehash of last year’s show.
That concert leaned heavily towards early Aerosmith – at the expense of many of their more recent hits. Frankly, a real treat for long-time fans, but not quite as popular with recent converts.
Last night, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members tore through a much more balanced, 19-song set that spanned the band’s 43-year career – from "Same Old Song and Dance" off of 1974’s "Get Your Wings" to "Oh Yeah" from their 2012 release "Music From Another Dimension!" They also tossed in a handful of amazing cover tunes, including Willie Dixon’s "I’m Ready" and their classic rock radio hit "Come Together" from the "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club" soundtrack.
After years of uneven live performances due to well-documented substance abuse issues, Steven Tyler is downright remarkable in terms of his energy level as well as the strength of his voice - which belie the fact that he’s freakin’ 65 years old. He’s clearly one of rock’s most talented and riveting front men.
Joe Perry stands as American rock’s answers to the British guitar gods (Page, Clapton and Beck). His chiseled chin, chiseled abs and blistering lead guitar work were all on vivid display on Friday night. Joe even took the chance to sing lead vocals on Fleetwood Mac‘s "Stop Messin’ Around."
But the rock solid rhythm section - Tom Hamilton on bass, Joey Kramer on drums and the wildly underrated rhythm guitar of Brad Whitford - is what continues to make Aerosmith the finely tuned rock and roll weapon that they are.
After four decades, a focused and healthy Aerosmith are clearly one of the best live bands on the face of the planet and the geographically diverse audience (I sat next to people from Maryland, Louisiana and Perth, Australia) enjoyed every minute of it.
Milwaukee favorite, Cheap Trick, opened the show with another of their always solid sets – including their cover of Fats Domino’s "Ain’t That a Shame" with Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford joining in.
Setlists – Marcus Amphitheater Harley 110th Anniversary – Friday, Aug. 30, 2013
On Top of the World
Stop This Game
Ain’t That a Shame (with Brad Whitford)
I Want You To Want Me
Let The Music Do The Talking
Love In An Elevator
Same Old Song and Dance
Toys in the Attic
Stop Messin’ Around (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Livin’ On The Edge
What It Takes
I’m Ready (Willie Dixon cover)
I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing
No More No More
Come Together (Beatles cover)
Mother Popcorn (James Brown cover)
Walk This Way