Aerosmith pulled off one of rock’s biggest-ever commercial and artistic comebacks as this decade began — rising unlikely from the ashes of years of debauchery and excess — and now the indefatigable Boston bad boys are ending the century as one of country’s most reliable and powerful live bands.
Still swaggering after all these years, Aerosmith — which formed in New England in 1970 and debuted on Columbia Records three years later — rocked a packed and rowdy Hollywood Bowl with an energized 105-minute performance that spanned the quintet’s storied career, and which laid bare the raw talents of all five members.
Following the first of what would be many fireworks explosions, the bluesy hard-rock group launched their exciting 105-minute production with a knock-out, three-punch combo featuring an outstanding version of “Back In the Saddle,” their traditional opener taken from the 1976 album “Rocks,” followed by 1974’s “Same Old Song and Dance” and “Love In an Elevator,” the band’s 1989 hit for Geffen Records that proved their resurrection was no fluke.
Even the handful of tracks that were lifted from Aerosmith’s latest studio album (1997’s fittingly titled “Nine Lives”) like “Kiss Your Past Good-Bye,” during which bassist Tom Hamilton plucked his strings with a percussion mallet, and “Full Circle,” which borrowed from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone,” were stripped here of their recorded gloss and slipped discreetly into a solid program otherwise dominated by the superior older material.
Guitarists Joe Perry (on lead) and Brad Whitford (on rhythm) were especially impressive, firing off a succession of biting solos, exceptional riffs and fat distorted chords that helped give each of the 23 songs their own distinct flavor.
Strangest moment of the evening — which included an earlier opening turn from blues guitar prodigy Jonny Lang — came toward the end of Aerosmith’s regular set, when the band (which was backed by a sixth musician on keyboards and samples) started playing “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” their chart-topping smash from “Armageddon”: the older audience members sat down for the first time all night, while the youngest fans on hand stood and screamed and sang the words, louder than ever.
Frontman Steven Tyler, decked out in an eye-catching purple and red outfit, was a continual source of energy, racing about the large Bowl stage despite a recent leg injury.
He led the loud crowd through an assured show (the band’s first at the Bowl) that also included such notable songs as a sizzling “Draw the Line,” highlighted by drummer Joey Kramer’s sped-up Charlie Watts portrayal; a terrific “Mother Popcorn”/”Walk This Way” medley; and, during the encore, the classic “Sweet Emotion” and a strong, surprise take on Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” that ended the perf on a triumphant note.