It wasn’t the reunion he’d hope (and sued) for, but Aerosmith reunited with estranged drummer Joey Kramer onstage at the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year ceremony award on Friday night at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Kramer did not perform with the group for its four-song set, but joined his longtime bandmates at the podium after singer Steven Tyler called him up onstage. In one of many dramas taking place over Grammy Week, Kramer sued the band after they determined that his playing was not up to par. The drummer, who is a founding member of the legendary Boston band but has not performed with them since he suffered an injury last year, auditioned for his old job via video, playing along with pre-recorded tracks.
Tyler gently cradled Kramer’s shoulder as he made a brief statement. “Remember, people only really get interesting when they start to rattle the bars on their cages. And the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
Kramer then took the microphone to thank MusiCares — the Recording Academy’s charitable wing, which over the years has provided more than $60 million in medical and emergency assistance to people in the music world, with another $6 million raised on this night.
“A shout out for love and gratitude to MusiCares, to all our fans, to my partners, to my forever supportive wife, Linda, and to you guys out there in the music industry,” he said.
Tyler interjected some humor into the moment, giving a special thankyou to Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl for making him “not feel so bad… my hair is longer than yours.”
Foo Fighters had rocked the Convention Center moments earlier with two Aerosmith songs, “Let the Music Do the Talking” and the 1975 classic “Toys in the Attic,” with Grohl marveling at Tyler’s ability to scream over the length of an entire show. Other performers included Cheap Trick, the Jonas Brothers, Yola, Gary Clark Jr., Jessie J, Kesha, Sammy Hagar, Orianthi, Gavin DeGraw, John Legend, Louis Fonsi and Emily King, LeAnn Rimes, Melissa Etheridge, Nuno Bettencourt, and Ashley McBryde.
The group’s longtime attorney Dina LaPolt introduced the band. “For 50 years these guys have been together, she said before referencing the week’s drama. “They refer to each other as brothers, and they even fight like brothers.”
LaPolt focused on the band’s charity work for which they were honored, including, United to Face Addiction, Aspire (which benefits autistic children) and Tyler’s Janie’s Fund, a charity dedicated to abused and neglected women.
“They always do the right thing, raising millions of dollars for numerous charities and nonprofits,” she said. “They show up.”
By the time the bandmembers finally strapped on their instruments for a four song set, Tyler was in rapturous spirits, inviting H.E.R. to the stage for “Dream On” and Hollywood Vampires Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp front and center for “The Train Kept A Rollin’.” In a humorous moment, Tyler cleared up the confusion on the lyrics for the song “Big Ten Inch” (for the record, he sang “‘cept for my big ten inch, record”). He also invited everyone n the audience up to the front of the stage before the group broke out into “Sweet Emotion.”
Tyler shouted to his absent bandmate, “Joey Kramer, where are you? We love you, man!”
Cheap Trick, who’d opened for Aerosmith during the 1970s, kicked off the show with a spirited version of “Rats in the Cellar,” from the band’s classic 1976 album, “Rocks.” It set the tone for an evening of what host Russell Brand jokingly called “karaoke” in a speech filled with his characteristic multisyllabic Briticisms.
“They’re going to knock your sexy little socks off,” Brand said. “They’re going to blow your mind. They’re going to make you go bandy weak in the knees. The Dionysian spirit of rock will be unleashed, but without the self-destruction. Now, it’s all about love. A lot of these guys are nervous about performing before the band — going through Aerosmith songs in front of Aerosmith. That’s a nerve-wracking experience, to do karaoke in front of the people who wrote that sh–.”
The evening was paced with selections from every decade, with The Jonas Brothers offering a 1950’s style interpretation of “Crazy,” with Nick and Joe Jonas (Nick in a white tuxedo jacket and Joe in a checked jacket) trading verses as Kevin strummed along on acoustic guitar. King and Fonsi teamed up for a lovely duet on 1987’s ballad “Angel,” while Ashley McBryde donned a leather jacket styled in homage to Tyler’s famed scarf microphones for a raucous version of “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”
Seated at a piano, DeGraw asked the crowd if they were “ready to hear this song in a lower key and not quite as good?”
With that, he not only owned his version of “What it Takes,” but went out into the crowd while singing, eventually ending up at Tyler’s table, where the two traded verses.
“I sang every lick I know in the first verse,” said DeGraw.
The evening took a more serious tone when Kesha — who has been embroiled for years in a high-profile alleged sexual assault lawsuit against her former producer, Dr. Luke — sang the group’s hit, “Janie’s Got a Gun.” The groundbreaking 1989 video for the song depicted incest and sexual abuse in a way that had not previously been done in a music video, and inspired the name of one of the group’s charities. Kesha received prolonged applause before bringing the song to a quiet finish.
At other points during the show, LeeAnn Rimes started off “Livin’ on the Edge” a capella before the band and orchestra kicked in, and John Legend warmed the crowd with a rousing version of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” The next performer, Jessie J, quipped, “There’s pressure going on after John Legend — seriously” before performing “Home Tonight” on a revolving stage.
Melissa Etheridge donned a leather jacket and shades for “Walk This Way,” accompanied by ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt for the track; Sammy Hagar and guitarist Orianthi (filling in for previously announced performer John Mayer) melded together for a hot performance of “Back in the Saddle.”