Friendly warning for anyone with seats near the stage for Aerosmith‘s new Deuces Are Wild residency at the MGM Park Theater in Las Vegas: If 71-year-old Steven Tyler can gallivant around for 90 minutes skipping, side-stepping, mic-swinging, yelping, and singing, he is not going to let you just sit there.
Saturday night at the opening of the new show, Tyler only half-jokingly harangued some folks up front: “Get the f— up! This is Vegas!”
It was not a difficult request to oblige as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-ensconced Boston rockers began their stay in Sin City in high style on a customized stage with flaming wings, state of the art video and audio production and an energy that belies the number of miles in the rearview mirror of their nearly 50-year career.
Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bass player Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer kicked things off with their appropriately locomotive cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin'” and powered through 90 minutes that skillfully weaved through their repertoire. While there were a couple of opening night bumps along the way– some tempo issues and one minor instance of lyrical malfunction on “Dream On”– the band is as lively and fit as ever ripping off solos, fill, and vocal runs with élan. (After a collapse backstage last fall at a Billy Joel concert in New York, Perry looked and sounded in great shape.)
A group with as many hits and as much history as Aerosmith can’t please everyone when it comes to the setlist — and with tightly choreographed shows like this, it seems unlikely to evolve– but there were a few choice songs that it would’ve been fun to hear in this format, including”Same Old Song and Dance” and “Janie’s Got a Gun.” But the train runs smoothly enough that both diehard fans and the “greatest hits only” crowd should be satisfied. The crowd in the 5200-seat Park Theater certainly seemed pumped.
The 16-song setlist (see below) was weighted towards the band’s early days with nine tunes coming from their trailblazing ’70s run, 6 from their late ’80s-and-beyond resurrection and a cover of the Fleetwood Mac blues jam “Stop Messin’ Around” that they’ve been playing for years, but finally committed to tape in 2004.
Early highs came with the Draw the Line gem “Kings and Queens,” with Whitford whipping off one of his sterling solos in typically unassuming style and Tyler leaning into the “screams of no reply” refrain with throat-shredding gusto. (Ditto for his righteous caterwaul on “Back in the Saddle” that made you think he was going to be downing lozenges by the handful later on.) Tyler and Perry took a seat at the front of the A-shaped part of the stage– which corralled fans in the middle of the action– for the night’s best one-two punch of front-porch-blues-meets-heavy-pop jam “Hangman Jury” and the keening “Seasons of Wither,” two songs that neatly bridge the gap between the shiny, hard candy charm of Aerosmith version 2.0. and the sleazy, slithery glory of Aerosmith Original Flavor.
Bells and whistles– from gigantic bears and baby dolls descending from the rafters for “Toys in the Attic” to a stage-to-balcony staircase that brought Tyler and Perry to the upper deck for “Walk This Way”– were plentiful but rarely cartoonish or a detraction from the rocking at hand.
Each member got their chance to shine with Perry taking the lead for “Stop Messin’ Around,” Hamilton assuming the spotlight for the percolating menace that is the bass-riff open of “Sweet Emotion.” The core band was intermittently augmented by an auxiliary percussionist, a string quartet, a saxophone player and keyboardist-backing vocalists Suzie McNeil (of Tyler’s solo backing band Loving Mary), and Buck Johnson.
The night’s biggest singalongs came with the onetime fan-polarizing Armageddon ballad “I Don’t Want a Miss a Thing” and the encore twofer of “Dream On”– with Tyler and Perry playing atop a grand piano– and the “Walk This Way.”
The quintet’s 90-minute set was preceded by a 30-plus minute video segment that was both inventive– vintage photos arrayed to tell stories, the Al Hirschfeld cartoon from the cover of Draw the Line came to fun animated life– and informative, as it tracked the band’s history individually and collectively. (The most Vegas aspect of the whole show came while the video was playing as characters from various Aerosmith album covers and videos, including the cat from Nine Lives and the fembot from Just Push Play, roamed the audience.)
Deuces are Wild Setlist
“Train Kept A-Rollin'”
“Back in the Saddle”
“Kings and Queens”
“Seasons of Wither”
“Stop Messin’ Around”
“Livin’ on the Edge”
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
“Love in an Elevator”
“Toys in the Attic”
“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”
“Walk This Way”