Almost 50 years after forming in Boston, Aerosmith launched their “Deuces Are Wild” residency at the Park Theater in Las Vegas Saturday amid floating toys, pyrotechnics, immersive sound experiences and 230 booming speakers.
The rock’n’roll icons (vocalist Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, drummer Joey Kramer and bassist Tom Hamilton) debuted their 35-date residency with their Tiny Bradshaw cover “Train Kept a Rollin.” Before the train got rollin’ an introductory video chronicled the group’s history, from Tyler and Perry’s first meeting at the Anchorage in New England to Perry’s love of Jimi Hendrix, plus memorable media appearances like a cameo on “The Simpsons” and a cooking segment with Jay Leno.
While the photos and clips played, circus-style performers roamed the theater on stilts, rolled onto the stage on giant spinning wheels and posed for selfies in bear costumes. But at 40 minutes long, the introduction had some audience members getting antsy, and with eyes torn between the screens, the stage and what whimsical creature was creeping down the aisle next, at times it was hard to know where to look when you don’t want to miss a thing.
When the screens finally gave way, the band didn’t disappoint, rising onto the stage with 71-year-old Tyler sporting a white hat which would soon make its way onto a fangirl’s head, a flowing white jacket which would be ripped off by the second song and a scarf-adorned microphone he reclaimed from the group’s “Aerosmith Vault” museum earlier in the day.
By the time the band launched into the 1975 smash, “Sweet Emotion,” from “Toys in the Attic,” Tyler had demanded, “Get the f— up, this is Vegas! We’re all getting laid tonight, so stand the f— up!” while a fight had broken out between two men.
Back on stage it was all love between the smiling bandmates with Tyler and Perry taking seats at the tip of an A-shaped stage, with a pit in the middle for diehard fans to enjoy the show from the center of the action. From here, they performed songs like “Hangman Jury” from 1987’s “Permanent Vacation,” “Seasons of Wither” from 1974’s “Get Your Wings”and the Perry-led “Stop Messin’ Around.”
Those patiently awaiting more from the group’s extensive greatest hits catalogue were rewarded with memorable renditions of “Crying” and 1993 anthem “Living on the Edge,” with Tyler belting out the opening line, “There’s something wrong with the world today,” as screens showed children sitting on their phones disengaged from each other, a young boy learning to use a gun and protesters holding anti-racism signs.
Of course, it was “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” from the 1998 blockbuster “Armageddon” (starring Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler) which many in the venue had their cameras on standby for and Tyler naturally came through, kicking off the No. 1 smash before prompting the crowd to serenade him back.
Laser lights then had the theater feeling like a giant club during “Love in an Elevator,” before giant blow up-style toys floated down from the ceiling as the group launched into “Toys in the Attic.” With that, Tyler ripped off his top, baring ripped abs like one might find on men half his age down the road at “Magic Mike Live,” and declared goodnight, but returned minutes later, taking his place on a rising piano for “Dream On,” alongside Perry, the two perfectly displaying their powerful musical chemistry.
The pair co-wrote the ’70s smash “Walk This Way,” which also made its way into the encore, along with a bridge descending into the theater allowing Tyler and Perry to rock their way up towards the rear section of the venue, whose other musical residents include Lady Gaga, Cher, Bruno Mars and Janet Jackson. It was just the type of show-stopping moment which had members of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses singing Aerosmith’s praises and actor Mark Wahlberg declaring them the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in history in the show’s opening video. “It’s not just because they’re from Boston. It’s a fact!” Wahlberg enthused.
Presented by MGM Resorts International and Live Nation Las Vegas, the show was produced by Steve Dixon and the creative team included Grammy winner Giles Martin, who also worked on Las Vegas’ “The Beatles LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil. Setting out to create an immersive visual experience, THX and L-Acoustics helped create the world’s first THX-certified live performance presented in L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound. Fans who shelled out more than $500 for seats on stage were handed THX-certified in-ear headphones feeding them the audio mix straight from Aerosmith’s sound board.
Several female fans on stage were also treated to hugs and embraces with Tyler during tracks like “Crying” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” with their gobsmacked reactions played out to the crowd on the screens. Being seated on stage is one of several chances that fans have to get up close to the band at “Deuces Are Wild,” which now has a Spotify playlist based on the set list. For $2,500, guests can meet the whole band and get a backstage tour, which includes the Aerosmith Vault, where lie handwritten lyrics to “Walk This Way,” giant paintings of each member created in around 30 minutes by speed painter, Denny Dent, in 1999, an Aerosmith pinball machine and one of Kramer’s drum sets.
While the museum (which can be visited without a meet-and-greet for $275) was intended as a unique experience to offer fans, the memorabilia has proved just as special to the band, with Tyler walking in and reclaiming all five old scarfed microphones which were hanging on display ready for opening day (replacing them with newer ones), while Perry reconnected with a bunch of his old gear, “touching every single one like it was an old friend, literally piece-by-piece.”
The exhibit is backstage at the Park Theater, where an Aerosmith residency was on the cards since 2016 when the band’s manager, Larry Rudolph, did a walk-through of the then-unopened venue to evaluate whether it might suit Aerosmith or Britney Spears, another of his clients.
Spears ended her “Piece of Me” residency at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater in 2017 and announced a move to the Park Theater for “Britney: Domination” in October. While the show was called off as the singer deals with her father Jamie’s illness, Rudolph said she was ready for a “change of scenery.” However, the appeal of a new theater in a newly-branded and renovated property is what he says helped lead both acts to sign on with the venue.
The idea of adapting the epic nature of Aerosmith’s stadium and arena concerts into an intimate residency show for a 5,200-capacity theater was a challenge, with Rudolph noting how production value was a factor he stressed the importance of in his early discussions with the four-time Grammy winning band, who have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I said to the band, ‘Look guys, doing a show for Vegas means you’ve got to do it different than you’ve been doing it in the past. You’ve got to structure a show that’s more production-heavy than you’re used to,’” Rudolph says. “Aerosmith is the ultimate American rock band. They are the biggest American rock band of all time and the most exciting American rock band of all time — you put Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on a stage together and it’s explosive no matter what’s going on.”
“For many years they’ve just put on a really solid rock show with an amazing performance, but there hasn’t been a lot of production,” Rudolph continues. “And you’ve got to be careful with a band like Aerosmith because they’re so authentic in what they do, so you can’t make it like a Disney show. You have to take what they do and add some really cool, edgy visual production elements and put them together with a band like that. Every show needs to be organic to the artist that’s doing it.”
With the residency presenting the group in a way they’ve never been seen before in their 49-year history, Rudolph believes even hardcore fans who have been to 50 Aerosmith shows won’t hesitate to head to Las Vegas, where the band will perform 35 shows in total, with dates through April, June, July, September, October and November.
“Fans who have seen two, 10 or 50 Aerosmith shows over the years will still want to see this one because they’re seeing the band in a new and exciting way.”