Aerosmith and Cheap Trick have kicked Father Time in the gut.
The two rock bands gave 150 percent for a sold-out crowd July 28 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, with both groups changing up their set lists and displaying a youthful energy under multi-colored stage lights. Stretching well past the three-hour mark, the show let one Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group (Aerosmith) and one band that miraculously has been refused an induction by the hall (Cheap Trick) strut their high-decibel, swaggering stuff.
Cheap Trick opened the evening, as original members Rick Nielsen (guitar), Robin Zander (lead vocals, guitar) and Tom Peterssen (12-string bass) became a sonic flamethrower. The trio roamed the shadowed stage as Nielsen’s son, Daxx Nielsen impressively performed drum duties — Daxx has been Cheap Trick’s touring drummer for the last three years, while original drummer Bun E. Carlos remains a band member.
The machine gun-like “Clock Strikes Ten” arrived early in the set. Zander, dressed in a black “Dream Police” uniform, belted out the lyrics as the hands of Peterssen and Rick Nielsen raced across guitar necks. Dressed in black ball cap, sunglasses and black clothes, Nielsen, as usual, threw out countless guitar picks to fans while running across the stage. The six-stringer’s licks sounded fresh as ever, mixing melodic, Beatles-like guitar runs with moments of manic, Who-esque wailing.
“Surrender,” “Need Your Love,” “The Flame” and the surprise inclusion of the punkish “She’s Tight” all were accounted for during Cheap Trick’s too-short, 45-minute time spot. Despite the abbreviated set, the Rockford, Illinois-borne quartet surprised the multi-generational audience by slipping in the blistering “I Know What I Want,” letting a smiling Peterssen take lead vocals for the stomping rock track, while “Dream Police” and “I Want You To Want Me” comprising a most powerful, one-two punch of an encore.
Twenty minutes later, Boston’s bad boys of rock and roll commandeered the stage with a surprising, wonderful take of the underrated “Draw the Line.” Lead singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry emerged at the front of the stage’s center-aisle catwalk, while guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer staked their space on the main-stage.
The final chords of “Draw the Line” bled into a spirited version of “Love in an Elevator” before “Same Old Song and Dance” arrived. The tracks from Aerosmith’s comeback, post-1986 years sounded solid — “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Rag Doll,” “Jaded” and “Oh Yeah” contained much-needed grit — but it was the 1970s tracks that harbored the most venom.
“Rats in the Cellar” came out swinging and “Last Child” proved even funkier than its original studio incarnation. When Aerosmith dove head-first into The Beatles’ “Come Together,” most of the fans seemed shocked before cheering their approval.
Aerosmith’s sole new song of the night, “Legendary Child,” was strong, with 10-story guitar hooks and edgy drums and bass. Hamilton sounded great on bass and got several back slaps and shoulder rubs from Tyler during Aerosmith’s first three songs. Hamilton underwent cancer treatment back in mid-2009 and temporarily was replaced by Perry’s solo bassist, David Hull, for part of that ‘09 tour. In Dallas, it was obvious that Hamilton was glad to be healthy and back on the road — his broad grin was seen all night.
“What It Takes” and “Dream On,” technically, were the only ballads in Aerosmith’s set. “Dream On” started moments after a large, white piano raised from below the stage and into several spotlights. Tyler sat down at the piano to play the song’s opening, haunting chords as Perry, a few moments later, climbed a portable staircase to stand on top of the piano while playing guitar.
Tyler, symbolically thumbing his nose at authority, bragged that the band was going to play past curfew as the crowd roared for 30 seconds. The way Perry and Whitford played with some of the songs’ arrangements and stretched their solos led to a set that was longer and even more satisfying than their still-excellent gigs in Little Rock in 2004 and Tulsa in 2009.
Aerosmith’s 130-minute set included the Perry-sung “Combination” and lively readings of “Boogie Man” and the “Peter Gunn” theme before climaxing with a perfect version of “Train Kept a Rollin’” as yellow-white lights and lengthy sprays of confetti showered the adoring, concert-shirt wearing crowd. Like Cheap Trick, Aerosmith showed zero interest in slowing down touring or recordings schedules.
Paul Rodgers, The Joint/Hard Rock in Tulsa, OK...
Paul Rodgers’ home must stand adjacent to the Fountain of Youth.
The 62-year-old frontman for Bad Company and ex-Free singer looked and sounded downright youthful during his solo gig July 10 at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Okla. Rodgers’ vocal pipes haven’t aged at all since Bad Company’s (so far) final U.S. gig at the venue almost two years ago.
Dressed in a white T-shirt, black vest, black pants and black shoes, Rodgers belted out the Bad Company staples "Can’t Get Enough," "Bad Company," "Ready for Love," "Burnin’ Sky," "Shooting Star," "Movin’ On," "Honey Child" and "Run with the Pack" with ease, his voice sounding almost identical to his recorded studio output.
Standing to Rodgers’ left was six-stringer Howard Leese, former Heart guitarist and long-time Rodgers collaborator. Leese put his own small spins on the Bad Company guitar solos created by Mick Ralphs, and he strapped on a mandolin for the delicate introduction to Bad Company’s Grammy Award-nominated hit from 1975, "Feel Like Makin’ Love."
Like Bad Company did on their 2001 and 2002 U.S. tours, Rodgers tacked a small piece of The Beatles’ "Ticket to Ride" onto the tail end of "Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy," and new song "With Our Love" stood respectfully next to the stack of classics.
"Seagull," to the audience’s appreciation, took a hard, unexpected left turn near song’s end. Usually, Rodgers plays the acoustic guitar and sings the song in a one-man performance, but at The Joint, the track’s last minute or two featured Rodgers’ entire band adding an electric grit.
Second guitarist Marcus Wolfe, drummer Rick Fedyk and bassist Todd Ronning stood on their toes throughout the well-paced set, keeping the band sounding like a lean, mean, fighting machine.
When Rodgers launched into Free’s criminally overlooked "Mr. Big," Ronning dug deep into his bass strings, summoning frantic notes with his long, dexterous fingers. The grinding, stop-and-start nature of the unique song gave ample room for Rodgers to unleash his blues-man wail.
Rodgers also tipped his musical hat to his mid-1980s time with Jimmy Page in The Firm, offering a grooving, almost-spooky-sounding take of "Satisfaction Guaranteed," before another ode to Free appeared. A brilliant run-through of "Walk in My Shadow" was praised loudly by hard-core Free fans, and when the sweaty, driving encore of "All Right Now" commenced at the set’s 90-minute mark, Rodgers’ voice, the band’s instruments and the audience’s singing swayed perfectly in tune and in time together.
Like Deep Purple, Rush, Kiss, Jethro Tull and The Jam, Rodgers has idiotically been ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s insanely ironic that Rodgers, the man who created so many great rock songs and still possesses rock’s greatest voice, has yet to be inducted into the hall as a member. It seems that the Hall of Fame voters would rather worship the likes of Donna Summer and Madonna than give Bad Company and Free the time of day.
Heart’s Strange Euphoria Box Set...
Heart’s brand-new box set, Strange Euphoria is a journey that takes fans four decades back through the group’s evolution with a lot of emphasis on their early work and featuring previously unreleased demo recordings and other gems that give this release an almost “new album” feel. Twenty of the fifty-one tracks on the set’s three CDs were previously unreleased.
As I put the first CD into the player, I was struck by the presence of Ann Wilson’s voice. Unlike a lot of other recordings where the vocals tend to get a bit lost among the other instruments at times, Ann’s voice with acoustic accompaniment came through as clear as I can ever recall hearing on any Heart album. Say what you want to about recording technology from the 1970’s, but these early recordings sound great.
Perhaps it had more to do with youthful ambition and ability than it did with the recording equipment. That first song, “Through Eyes & Glass,” was the first recording Ann and Nancy had ever completed in an actual recording studio and was possible only because the group they had been working with had some studio time left over after finishing their own tracks that day and allowed the sisters to use up the remaining time.
Although there are a number of songs that fans have never heard, there’s no mistaking who you’re listening to. Although I wish to take nothing away from Ann Wilson’s current ability as a singer, not one of us can escape the slow decline that accompanies us into our later years. Hearing her singing “new” material when she was 19 years old is like hearing Ann Wilson reborn.
There’s no denying that years of experience has allowed her to perfect her vocal technique and take her talent to its amazing limits, but there’s a raw element that reveals itself in some of these early recordings that makes clear the fact that these recordings were made at a certain time and at a certain place and that those moments can never be replicated. Those of us that have drifted into middle age realize now, more than ever, that we shall never be 19 again. Perhaps that realization becomes even more vivid as time goes on. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see.
The accompanying booklet sheds a little light on each recording with commentary from both Ann and Nancy which reveal bits and pieces that help provide answers to questions that might have been lingering in the minds of many fans, although I don’t doubt that there are a number of dedicated fans who may have figured many of these things out on their own. There are those of us that just want to rock with the music and there are those of us that want to dig deeper and try to understand the story the song is telling. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle although I probably lean a bit towards the former.
The DVD that’s included with this box set is another rare treat. Recorded during February and March of 1976, it showcases the group as they perform live at Washington State University. This is indeed early Heart and the somewhat awkward nature of Ann Wilson’s stage presence when she addresses the audience makes it clear that this is not the seasoned group of rockers that they ultimately evolved into. Indeed, although some of the dialog is a little awkward and tentative, it’s got an endearing quality to it as well.
Although the group likely faced a hard road ahead of them, it’s so refreshing to see the purity of a young and perhaps idealistic group who wanted to make great music for people. It’s quite easy to see for those of us not blinded by greed or the desire to be otherwise “rewarded” for offering contracts or other incentives to a new band trying to break onto the scene. I’m not privy to any specifics regarding the barriers that stood between the Wilson Sisters and success, but there are numerous clues that they have provided through their music – the medium described as “intimate, small conversations between Ann and Nancy and their audience.” Sometimes it ain’t hard to read between the lines.
If it is not abundantly clear by now, I’m pretty enamored with this box set. As a fan since the release of Dreamboat Annie in 1976, listening to the music, seeing the photos and reading the comments takes me back and spawns memories of various experiences in my own life that were being played out at the time. You can’t help but feel that Ann and Nancy Wilson are like old friends in some sense. They’ve always been as close as a turntable, CD player or MP3 file for all those years. They’ve been through a lot since those early day and so have their fans.
It’s pretty much a no-brainer at this point. If you’re a Heart fan – and particularly if you have been a Heart fan from the beginning – the $35 or so dollars you’ll drop for this box set is well worth it. I suppose it might be wise to include a disclaimer during troubled economic times like these and say something like: If you can afford it, it’s well worth grabbing a copy. At any rate, Amazon has it, along with just about everything else.