You know things are gonna rule when a bottle of booze of unknown origin mysteriously arrives just in time to pre-game an arena show — The Spin was drinking booze, booze, booze in the office. It was certainly the most professional way we could think of to prepare for Aerosmith Thursday night at Bridgestone. Then again, we didn't really put much thought into it. The Spin was of two minds about attending the show — one more pumped than you can imagine, the other not so much — and liquor was key to getting our wigdomes right for an evening at the Enormodome. One mind was definitely making a convincing case that this could be the biggest shit show of the year, and the other mind was willing to concede the possibility that this could be a monster embarrassment — basically the shadowing of Idol was looming over us, and it was terrifying. Thank God for booze, booze, booze in the office.
The Spin arrived just in time to see Cheap Trick: 7:30 p.m. on the dot in a very un-Spinlike display of punctuality. So of course there was a foul-up at will call, forcing us to miss the first few songs. Which is fine, because the same thing happened to italicized-Nashville's own Charles Esten — you know, the dude who used to play guitar for Rayna Jaymes — which seemed like a super-zeitgeist way to close out our year. It was all very unitalicized-Nashville, though Deacon didn't shoot lasers from his eyes, which was a little disappointing. We totally thought he would do that, but we guess he only uses his powers in more-or-less life-threatening situations like staring contests with Teddy and Greco-Roman wrestling with Lamar. We really wanted to see him use his laser eyes. But wait, what were we talking about?
Oh yeah, Cheap Trick. Luckily, we made our way inside the near-capacity hockey cavern in time to hear the band bust out a stellar “Southern Girls.” … Or at least we kind of heard it. Unfortunately for Rockford, Ill.’s finest, they rock so fucking hard that Boston’s “finest” could only compete by giving the openers partial use of the PA, or so it seemed. The mix was so quiet and muffled it sounded as if we’d stuffed our ears with marshmallows, then stuffed the marshmallows with ear buds plugged into an iPod playing at a low volume. That’s no way to hear power-pop classics like “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender” — a timeless, hook-replete trifecta for the ages that closed the band’s all-too-short set.
Given the Cheap Trick set’s brevity, we could’ve done without a cover of The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.” But consummate singer Robin Zander — who was garbed head to toe in cream-colored Dream Policeman regalia — sounded so phenomenal that he could’ve crooned Aerosmith’s “Angel” and we wouldn’t have minded. On the flip side, famed Cheap Trick time-keeper Bun E. Carlos is not currently touring with the band, but sub drummer Daxx Nielson (son of Rick) did a swell enough job filling Bun’s big shoes.
So by this point, our good buddy Gerst had pretty much annihilated The Spin's apprehension. Sure, the last, um, 15 years of Aerosmith's career have been a continuing string of embarrassing shenanigans, but our buzz was strong, and those sorts of things are easy to forget when motherfuckin' Aerosmith kicks their set off with “Toys in the Attic.” It was a fitting opener to what could be (albeit unlikely) be the band’s last show ever. The new record flopped, rumors of inner-band tension are abounding (as always), and Nashville was the final date of the Toxic Twins & Co.’s tragically titled Global Warming Tour — which ironically, at least at press time, only traversed North America. Perhaps that explains why, to The Spin’s delight, the band mercifully went light on the power ballads, eschewing mega-hits like “Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” “Angel,” “Amazing” and “Janie’s Got a Gun.”
Aerosmith has never been a subtle band: They are performers with an out-sized shtick, who are crass on an amazing number of levels, garish in so many regards. It's music made for the arena. It's the lowest common denominator on the biggest possible scale, a spectacle so essentially American and overblown that you can't help but be awed. And then they played “Love in an Elevator,” which snapped us back to reality pretty quickly — this wasn't going to be a show for '70s-era die-hards.
That said, the set list was pretty well balanced between stone-cold classics and monster pop hits, but mercifully light on the treacly late-century ballads and new songs. Not that we'd necessarily be uninterested in hearing the new songs — Music From Another Dimension is one of Aerosmith's best records in almost two decades — but based on the sales numbers we've seen, we're part of a tiny group of who actually listened to the thing. Anyway, a set that keeps the crowd excited and standing for the whole night — a rarity in the heritage-rock scene around here lately (cough, The Who, cough) — is a better plan than indulging a handful of goons who probably need to get a hobby and just enjoy music like everyone else. They also played a viscous, pummeling version of “Rats in the Cellar” from Rocks, which was enough to fulfill our nerdly jones.
While nuggets like “Movin' Out” and Aerosmith's cover of Rufus Thomas' “Walking the Dog” were great, bristling with the sort of energy we'd been hoping against hope for, “Cryin'” and “Living on the Edge” are just as groan-worthy now as they were during our grunge days. But people loved 'em! And The Spin will concede that while we might not really need to hear “Love in an Elevator” ever again, it's a much more enjoyable song when thousands of people are freaking out. Not so much the case with the cover of “Come Together” — we will never recover from that one time we watched the beyond-awful Sgt. Pepper's movie, and there is no way we will ever enjoy anything that reminds us of it. God, that movie sucks so fucking bad.
Like the consummate professionals they are, Aerosmith saved the real heaters for the end: “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” which still makes us giggle like when we were in grade school; “Walk This Way,” which we can and will argue is one of the most important songs in the history of American music; and the band's definitive cover of “Train Keeps a Rollin'” from Get Your Wings. It was a triple K.O. that had us riled up and left us exhausted. And then they started playing “Dream On” — complete with a ridiculously dressed Tyler seated at a white piano that rose out of the catwalk amid a large plume of neon smoke — for an encore, and we may or may not have shed a tear or two (billion), because it's been a long, crazy, wonderful year, and this was pretty much the pinnacle of it on a weird personal/professional level. And we were drunk, that should be noted. Drunk Spin is allowed to have feelings too, and we totally got our shit together in time for a fist-pumping sing-along to “Sweet Emotion.”
The band members appeared enraptured in their own bittersweet emotions as they took their bows, and Joe Perry (who we must note was rocking a GG Allin ‘stache) told the crowd the breakup rumors are bogus. But he also ominously stated that this would be the band's last show ... at least for a while.