Steven Tyler stood behind a mic in David Geffen Hall on Monday wearing a dark vest, patterned shirt and tight jeans in front of a crowd that reflected his decades of music-making — an older man in a vintage tour t-shirt, an Aerosmith purist; a middle-aged blonde woman waving an American flag blanket, pulled in by the band’s magnetic run in the ‘90s; and a boy barely in his 20s who learned about Tyler through his parents, or his judging turn on “American Idol,” or both, and has followed him right up until his most recent foray into country rock.
The performance benefited Tyler’s philanthropic interest, Janie’s Fund, which raises awareness for girls who are victims of abuse. Tyler’s Nashville-based band Loving Mary rattled the hall, and Brett Ratner joined in to direct the show titled “Steven Tyler… Out On a Limb.” The stage, home to the New York Philharmonic was transformed into a multi-tiered setup, littered with cowboy kitsch, set against the backdrop of projections, partially masked by a white fringe scrim.
Some of the evening best moments stemmed from Tyler departing from the classics, and singing some his newer, fresher tracks. At times his ego showed, like saying “I think you heard this on the radio” before “Red, White & You” which debuted at number 64 on the iTunes charts and peaked at number 47. Other times, his rare off-script moments made him seem more aware, like before a song called “Only Heaven”: “I haven’t done this song yet, so put your phones away.”
But most of the performance gave the audience what it wanted: the hits. “Was ‘Sweet Emotion a number one hit?” Tyler asked to cheering audience (the song peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100). “What the f***, right?” The rest of the set list included “Cryin’,” “Come Together,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Dream On” and, of course the inspiration for the philanthropy’s name, “Janie’s Got a Gun.”
Although most of Hollywood’s gaze was directed toward the Met Gala, happening at the same time on the other side of Central Park, Bruce Willis, Melissa Joan Hart and several of Tyler’s family moments were among the other stars to attend.
As the band played the last chords of the final encore, “Walk This Way,” four young women, representatives from Janie’s Fund, walked onstage to take a final bow with the band. “We’re told that one in five girls are sexually abused before they’re 18 years old. But because the subject is so taboo… clearly that number is much greater,” Tyler said earlier in the evening about his involvement with Janie’s Fund, adding what the charity means to him. “I am in awe of young women out there who are standing up against abuse,” he said. “They are the rock stars.”