Willingly taking a break from your main band and exploring new musical genres is a risky line to try and cross, when ultimately; you’re the face and voice of one of the world’s biggest rock bands. But, Steven Tyler, who has been experimenting with a solo career away from Aerosmith for a few years, finally made it official with the release of his first, the Nashville-influenced, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere. Fans and critics were skeptical alike, but Tyler, who does not have to prove anything, followed his heart to Nashville, wrote and recorded an album and found a stellar band, including members from Loving Mary, to support him on stage for his Out On A Limb Tour. Tyler recently came “home” to Boston and took advantage of every minute to shine on stage at the city’s beloved Wang Theater.
Fans of Steven Tyler, including many donning cowboy hat and boots, filled the cushy-seats of the Wang moments before the house lights dimmed and a spoken word video was illuminated behind the band’s drum kit. More or less, it was a trip down memory lane of Tyler’s road to stardom with Tyler himself as its narrator. Clips from vintage interviews and shots of career-spanning photographs accompanied Tyler’s voice as he spoke about his journey from Sunapee, New Hampshire to Boston, Maui and ultimately to Nashville. It was an interesting piece and a good preface for what was to unfurl over the next two hours.
While the lights were still down, the band walked out on stage and took their marks moments before the long haired rocker sauntered out to the center of the stage to find his bandana-covered mic stand. And, with which was most likely the biggest grin in Boston, Tyler and his touring band released the hounds with the Aerosmith juggernaut “Sweet Emotion”. “Emotion” could have easily been saved for an encore, though it was a surprisingly raucous song to start with and it had everyone immediately standing up, dancing and singing along.
Then, without missing a beat, Tyler and Co. jumped right into the 90’s hit “Cryin'”, which did not disappoint. A rockin’ double-shot of Lennon and McCartney turned the thermostat up with “I’m Down” and “Come Together”, two songs that Aerosmith have been known to include in their early sets. Tyler caught his breath and reached out to the audience with, “Thank you so much! We’re gonna get loud in here. And, now you know where our influences come from.”
“It Ain’t Easy”, a song from Tyler’s new album, followed with its glorious harmonies, displaying just one facet of the band’s many strengths. Tyler then took the role of storyteller and shared, “Somewhere between listening to the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks I found this hippie chick with beads on her hands, around her neck and on her nose. She drank Southern Comfort, smoked J’s and I just had to copy it. You know what I’m sayin’?”
Tyler laughed it off as he lovingly started a duet with the bass guitarist. The crowd found her and Tyler impressively trading lines from “Mercedes Benz”, which must have sent chills down the spines of many before having the full band, join in for the ultimate Joplin classic, “Piece of My Heart“. Tyler put the stamp on the song with, “Janis Joplin in the house!”
Tyler continued, “You know, we grew up here at 1325 Comm. Ave.” and further reminisced about seeing the Joe Perry Band perform for the first time. One song that left a lasting impression from that cosmic meeting, was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake”, to which Tyler decided to perform as a “thank you” to Joe. Plenty of fans were singing along, shaking their hips and waving their hands in the air as Tyler and gave yet another nod to one of his early influences and gratitude towards his Toxic Twin, Perry.
Tyler was clearly loose and quite comfortable on stage and one could tell that he was having a lot of fun. They then decided to take a trip back down to Nashville with their country-fied take on Aerosmith’s “Jaded” and “What It Takes” along with Tyler’s new songs “Love Is Your Name”, “Sunshine”, title track “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” and “Enemy”. At the end of “Enemy”, Tyler slinked up to the white baby grand piano and helped wrap the song up. And, if one was privy to the set list, or if one was paying attention close enough – it was pretty clear as to what was coming next.
Without a formal break between songs, Tyler found the tricky key of C# and began to caress the ivories into the iconic Aerosmith classic, “Dream On”. For a song that never loses its luster, tonight was no exception. Tyler and the band performed “Dream”, true to its original version, and brought the house down. And, just when it may have seemed as though that was the end of the set, a hand drum was curiously brought out to center stage.
Tyler, who was seen to lick each of his fingers in order to remove his cluster of rings before placing them on top of the piano, then walked down and stood behind the hand drum and began hammering away with his hands and elbows, playfully engaging with both the band and audience. Listening closely, the beat sounded oddly familiar and once again, another jovial variation of a classic hit was bestowed upon the masses. After a split second break from the Polynesian-influenced drum beat, the band’s lead guitarist stood on a short riser with his black Les Paul and tore into the opening riff of “Walk This Way”.
Tyler pranced around the stage, just as he always has and hammed it up with his signature moves all while basking in the spotlight. As the song progressed, the band began to jam out a bit and Tyler, with a fan blowing his hair back and out of his face, grabbed his mic and slowly crooned out, “Way down inside/you need it” just before the band tightened things up and jammed through the Zep classic “Whole Lotta Love”, giving one last nod to an obviously influential band during Tyler’s seminal years.
Some fans began leaving the theater immediately following the band’s departure, but those who stayed and waited for the band to return were pleasantly treated to a four song encore that included a slightly more melodramatic version of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got A Gun”, a couple more offerings from the new album and a ‘smith staple of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rollin'”.
Though a risk to jump from rock and roll to country music, Tyler played it smart, keeping the classics that he and Aerosmith are known for, true to the vest. He and the band wisely added only complimentary mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and slide guitar along with masterful vocal harmonies to the hits. The cuts from the new album were significantly more laden with today’s commercial twang. But Tyler, who claimed, “I got this Country thing in my blood.” has been given the outlet he has seemingly been looking for.