Last night, two of America’s greatest and most enduring rock bands held court at New Jersey’s Izod Center. Aerosmith and Cheap Trick, both decades into their career, unleashed some of the greatest rock songs from the ’70s through the modern era. Both bands played their biggest hits, but eschewed some obvious songs to dig deeper into their considerable catalogs.
Aerosmith’s 17-song set included their “big three” — “Walk This Way,” “Sweet Emotion” and “Dream On” (but not their sole #1 hit, 1998’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”). “Walk This Way” had a jolt of extra energy, as it featured Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels from Run-D.M.C., who received a warm response from the audience. The band drew heavily from their ’70s classics (“Draw The Line” “Last Child”) as well as their treasure trove of ’80s and ’90s MTV-era hits (“Love In An Elevator,” “Livin’ On The Edge,” “Cryin’,” “Rag Doll,” “What It Takes”). Upon hearing all of these songs together, it strikes the listener that no other band, save The Rolling Stones, remained commercially relevant for as long as Boston’s “Bad Boys.”
Hits aside, some of the most powerful moments of the show came when the group dug a bit deeper, playing deeper cuts: “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” from 1974’s Get Your Wings, “No More No More” from 1975’s Toys In The Attic, and especially an extended “Rats In The Cellar” and “Combination” (the latter featuring guitarist Joe Perry on vocals), both from 1976’s Rocks. They also looked towards their future, playing “Oh Yeah” and “Legendary Child,” from their forthcoming album Music From Another Dimension, which is due in November. And they wrapped up with a nod to their past: their cover of “Train Kept A’ Rollin'” (originally done by Tiny Bradshaw, later covered by The Yardbirds, a key influence on Aerosmith).
Fans were likely paying as much attention to the rapport between the band (especially singer Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) as they were to the song selection. It wasn’t that long ago that the singer announced his plans to focus on what he called “Brand Tyler,” joining American Idol as a judge, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band (which also includes guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer) who openly discussed the possibility of replacing him. But with his recent announcement that he’s leaving Idol, and with a new album mere months away, all seemed well within the Aerosmith camp. Any tension from the past few years was undetectable onstage. The band still have an undeniable chemistry, four decades into their career. That said, the extra touring members — keyboardist/backing singer Russ Irwin, percussionist Jesse Kramer (son of drummer Joey Kramer) and two female backing singers — augmented the sound.
Like Aerosmith, Cheap Trick played some of their biggest hits, including “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me” and their cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” (the latter being the highlight of their set, it featured Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford joining them for some extended six string soloing). And like Aerosmith, they skipped over some later-day ballads (“The Flame” “If You Want My Love” and “Tonight It’s You” didn’t make the cut). They played one newer song (“Sick Man Of Europe” from 2009’s The Latest). And similar to the headliner, one of Cheap Trick’s sons — Rick Nielsen’s boy Daxx — performs with the band, on drums. Which means that unlike Aerosmith, the entire original band isn’t onstage together: Bun E. Carlos is no longer touring with the group. But one hopes that, like their Bostonian peers, Cheap Trick get the original lineup together: Daxx was great, but as Aerosmith demonstrated, nothing beats the chemistry created by decades of performing together.
Brian Ives, CBS Local / all photos by Maria Ives