Aerosmith/Cheap Trick: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA, 12/06/12

“Joe Perry is in the house,” announced wiry frontman Steven Tyler after Aerosmith’s guitar slinger finished up a lead vocal and riff-laden “Combination” from the band’s powerful 1976 classic album Rocks. Perry wasn’t the only one burning down the soon to be Pelicans’ house on a humid Thursday night. Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and the other half of the infamous Toxic Twins were all ready to rock & roll, bluesy-Boston style.

Aerosmith, being no stranger to gossip pages, has been not-so-quietly standing in the shadows while it’s scat-a-tat-tating vocal cord provided euphemisms to wanna-be Idols. It’s beating heart with the skunk trail hair let it be known that Tyler needed to be home and not punking himself out to a cheesy television show. The band needed oxygen while it’s esophagus was closing up from dehydration. Tyler heard the call and came back in to the studio to record Aerosmith’s 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension. “This album was not easy at all,” bass player Tom Hamilton told Glide recently. “It was really hard work.” With producer Jack Douglas’s guiding hand and contributions from all five band members, a new catalog of songs were fine-tuned, recorded and sealed onto one of their better albums of the new millennium.

That being said, the band showcased only two of the newer creations in front of a near sold out arena, “Lover Alot” and “Oh Yeah,” instead giving some 70’s classics a good kick in the pants, keeping fans up on their feet through almost the entire two hour performance. Only during “Lover Alot” was I surprised to see so many sitting despite the rev-up Tyler & Co gave to this new song live.

Joe Perry is still one of the coolest guitar players alive, slinking around stoop-shouldered over his arsenal of guitars, often in a slung-low hat and new fu Manchu mustache, killing notes without ever making an overly show-offy fool of himself. Spending most of his time hanging back with the rest of the band while Tyler twirled and kicked and flirted at the front of a long catwalk, he brought an overall bluesy essence undertone to every song, feeding off Whitford and Hamilton’s steady A+ rhythms. You couldn’t ask for a more solid rhythm section than these guys along with Kramer on drums.

“My hair is so dirty tonight,” pouted Tyler, running his long fingers through a mass of strangly brown locks before cracking a wide smile. “Looks kind of good dirty.” You can always count on Tyler to be sexy and silly in front of thousands of his fans. And after almost falling into a group of women below him while singing “Rag Doll,” he quipped “I think I fell for you.”
But the winks and slinks are only a smidgen of what endears him to so many. It is his way around a lyric that has helped bring Aerosmith to legendary status. From “What It Takes” to powerhouse renditions of “Last Child,” “Come Together,” “Dude Looks Like A Lady” and “Dream On,” he scatted and caterwauled like it was 1975.

The spotlight solos were humming, most notably Whitford’s nimble-fingered intro to “Last Child” and Kramer’s hedonistic drum solo featuring former drummer Tyler for a cameo appearance with the sticks beside him. Hamilton brought some space age sounds to his modern bass lines, leading into the finale “Sweet Emotion” with Perry on a voice box and smoking up his Marshalls as he hunkered in close like guitar players are prone to do in a rock & roll sexy ritual.

For his own turn, Perry gave a gnarly one-two punch. “Who wants to play a little blues tonight?” he asked as he commenced into an old Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac “Stop Messing Around” (with Tyler blowing up the harmonica), which was preceded by video footage of Perry wandering around the New Orleans French Quarter, much to the delight of locals who recognized every nook and cranny.

Opening for Aerosmith was the always fun Cheap Trick. There is a reason so many bands want to bring along these Illinois rockers with them on the road and that is because you can never go wrong with Cheap Trick on the bill. They will continually come through with a lively set of hits, great foreplay for a headliner to come in and capitalize on. Rick Nielsen will always buzz around throwing picks and six-string licks, making faces and reminding everyone that they are the one and only Cheap Trick. Robin Zander in his red and black bandleader jacket and hat, continues to hit the notes, high and low, while Tom Petersson, well, there are not many bass players better than him. And he is always smiling. “I’d be smiling too if I was getting that kind of bass sound,” former Slash guitar player Bobby Schneck once told Glide regarding Petersson.

The real surprise of the Cheap Trick set was Daxx Nielsen on drums. The son of Rick has really come into his own since taking over for Bun E. Carlos, who no longer tours, and has taken the rhythm reins with a confident pulsating beat. Each year he has grown better and better. Aerosmith’s keyboardist Russ Irwin joined Cheap Trick for an eye opening delightful menagerie of Abbey Road’s “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” trilogy and Brad Whitford came out to jam on their “Surrender” five-star finale. Add in “Dream Police,” “I Want You To Want Me” and “Sick Man Of Europe” and it’s an opening set you don’t want to miss.

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