“Don’t forget I’m from f–king New York City!” Steven Tyler boasted while wearing his signature hippie couture at the mic stand covered in scarves. “I was born four blocks from here,” he told the packed crowd that included his daughter Liv Tyler and Brice Willis at New York City’s famed David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center Monday night.
The legend is on the brink of launching his country music career — and rumored to be entering the last phase of Aerosmith — and he came to New York touting music of each to host a benefit concert in support of Janie’s Fund, his initiative which aims to help female victims deal with the trauma of abuse and neglect through a partnership with Youth Villages.
The mission, of course, was heavy, but the show the 68-year-old put on, which he dubbed “Steven Tyler…Out On A Limb,” was absolutely not. Rather, with the help of his new backing band Love Mary and a stage-wide wall of gorgeous Brett Ratnor-directed visuals, the evening was celebratory, revelatory, and, above all, fun.
Tyler, nearly 45 minutes behind schedule, kicked off the 90-minute set with a one-three punch of “Sweet Emotion,” “Jaded,” and “Cryin’.” After, and as he has done before, he covered “Piece of My Heart,” first made famous by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1968, introducing it by paying homage to one of his great influences. “Her truth hit you like a nude beach in San Tropez,” he said of the late star. Later, classics like “Come Together,” “Dream On,” and the organization’s namesake song “Janie’s Got A Gun,” were each ripped through for a very grateful audience.
Tyler saved his new tunes for the middle of his set list, highlighting his 2014 move to Nashville and his new label, Scott Borchetta’s indie powerhouse Big Machine. It felt as “right as following the North Star to Bethlehem,” he said of the jump. Previously shared tracks “Love Is Your Name” and “Red, White & You” each got a turn before he debuted “Only Heaven,” which he perhaps hoped to keep off the internet a while longer. “We haven’t done this song yet so put your phones away,” he told the crowd. And while there’s been plenty speculation about what countrified-Tyler will sound like, truthfully, none of the above felt all that out of place here.
Every couple of songs, the frontman stopped to share stories with the enraptured 2,700 fans in front of him. He spoke about how his grandfather emigrated from Italy in the late 1800s playing under Tyler’s legal surname in the Tallarico Brothers Quartet upon arrival, how his father met his mother (at Julliard, lest you forget Tyler’s musical pedigree), and how he joined one band and then another and another until he met “the bad boys of Aerosmith” at Woodstock.
To deafening applause, he remembered how Joe Perry, “this skinny kid,” arrived upon his door for the very first time: Perry pulled up in an old MG as Tyler, then 23 years old, was about halfway finished mowing the lawn, to invite him to play with Aerosmith that night. The rest, as they say, is history.
He directed a spotlight to his sister early in the evening, remembering how they’d fight so vehemently as kids, and later, while introducing “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,” he turned to Liv. His band had been asked to do a handful of songs for Armageddon, he recalled. “Your daughter’s in the movie,” or so went their pitch. “The only problem is Bruce Willis is her father.” Willis, a row behind the actress got it next. “Bruce! What the f–k?” Tyler yelled, laughing. “Good to see you again, Daddy.” “Thing” is Aerosmith’s only No.1 song, ever — a fact even Tyler can’t believe. “Was ‘Sweet Emotion’ a No.1?'” he asked the crowd before answering his own question. “No! What the f–k, right?”
Before performing “Janie’s Got A Gun,” he spoke about the fund. The group’s 1989 hit was inspired by both a Newsweek story investigating the high number of hand guns in New York City and the time Tyler spent in rehab earlier that decade. Hearing the stories of his co-patients Tyer said he realized how many women were raised in abusive households or suffered at the hands of abusive partners. “I got to thinking it doesn’t have to be that way.” He launched Janie’s Fund in November 2015.
“I’m in awe of young women out there standing up against abuse,” he continued. He ended his three-song encore with “Walk This Way,” supported by four young abuse survivors. Together they danced with Tyler and took a deep bow, a fitting end to a night of celebration.
Piece of My Heart
Love Is Your Name
Red, White, and You
Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing
Janie’s Got a Gun
Walk This Way