Steven Tyler (left) and Joe Perry dig deep into the Aerosmith catalog for their Vegas residency. Photo: Katarina Benzova
Aerosmith isn't the only rock band taking a gamble in Las Vegas. Journey will visit the renovated Colosseum for a stretch in October and Def Leppard hunkered down at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2013 and returns for a dozen concerts at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino starting Aug. 14.
But Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton (augmented by a percussionist and keyboardist) are seizing Las Vegas with a mixture of grit and movie ballads, druggy ‘70s-era guitar slashing and MTV-dominating anthems.
They are rock pioneers triumphing in a new environment.
Even the pre-show, a countdown of 30-plus minutes (what, did you think a rock band was going to take a Vegas stage at the unholy early hour of 8 p.m.?) is a customized marvel created by Pixomondo: documentary-style interviews with the band—audio only—play as jagged screens blare vintage video (every THX Certified rumble on the L-ISA system fully experienced) and groovy animations, such as the Al Hirschfeld cartoon from the "Draw the Line" cover squiggling alive, attempt to captivate a restless audience.
There is a touch of Cirque oddity as characters, including the fembot from the “Just Push Play” album jacket and the large-headed “Nine Lives” cat, that playfully engage with fans as the clock ticks down.
Aerosmith has stocked it Las Vegas residency with lasers, pyro and other grandiose touches. Photo: Katarina Benzova
But once the Beantown Boys rise from behind the stage, shrouded by a Godzilla-sized Aerosmith logo, and Kramer rolls out the snare drum to their live classic, “Train Kept A-Rollin,’” the rush is relentless.
Tyler, who will usually bare his glistening, age-defying six-pack and be clad in some assortment of fedoras, floor-length coats, pajama pants and scarves, hits the V-shaped catwalk like an athlete. Performing is his catnip, and even at 71, he exudes sinewy sexiness as he gallops up ramps and skitters downstairs.
The stage is flanked by onstage seating—both Tyler and Perry pay ample attention to fans who spit out more than a grand for the privilege—and those in the standing-room-only pit are treated to handslaps and microphone dunks from the veteran frontman.
While the casual Aerosmith admirer might bristle at the exclusions of “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Rag Doll,” “Jaded,” “What it Takes” and other radio fare, understand that while fans crave hits (and there are plenty in the 16-song setlist), a residency is also an opportunity to go deep—and Aerosmith complies.
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler has a pensive moment onstage in Las Vegas. Photo: Katarina Benzova
The Toxic Twins perch at the edge of the catwalk with a harmonica and guitar primed for blues and roll through “Hangman Jury”—which they resurrected live in 2007—and “Seasons of Wither,” enjoying each other’s company and foot-stomping as casually as if chilling on a back porch. There is even a dive into Fleetwood Mac’s 1968 blues burner, “Stop Messin’ Round.”
But still, the fit Perry delivers an extended virtuoso solo on a lasers-packed “Sweet Emotion” and Tyler’s barely diminished voice tackles midtempo material (“Kings and Queens”) and his trademark shrieks (everything else) with equal potency.
The prescient “Livin’ on the Edge” is a highlight and the polarizing “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”—Aerosmith’s biggest pop hit—is accompanied by a string quartet, summoned from beneath the stage for a few minutes of crowd swooning.
But the show reaches its zenith with a pyro-infested “Toys in the Attic,” which also includes an airborne hodgepodge of inflatable bears and elephants, and the swampy Stax swagger of “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
Aerosmith gets close to fans during the encore of its "Deuces are Wild" show in Las Vegas. Photo: Katarina Benzova
Encores of “Dream On” and “Walk This Way” are the most indicative of Aerosmith’s surroundings, with ramps, balloons and piano-hopping injecting the show with an extra jolt of excess.
With “Deuces Are Wild,” Aerosmith has deftly balanced arena bombast—in a venue a quarter of the size of their usual environs—with their grimy roots.
There is impressive stagecraft— swirling lights, shifting video panels, Kiss-esque flames. But, as any Aerosmith devotee knows, the real show comes from the delivery, which the band unleashes with fiery gusto.
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LAS VEGAS RESIDENCIES
Park Theater at Park MGM (visit mgmresorts.com for specific dates and ticket prices)
Aerosmith: Deuces are Wild: June-December ($87+)
Janet Jackson: Metamorphosis: July-August ($72+)
Lady Gaga: Enigma: June-November and Lady Gaga: Jazz & Piano: June-November (both shows $78+, mostly only high-priced “platinum tickets” remain)
Bruno Mars: September ($171+)
Cher: August-September ($55+)
The Colosseum at Caesars Palace (visit mgmresorts.com for specific dates and ticket prices)
Celine Dion: June ($55+)
Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas: June-July and December ($55+)
Rod Stewart: The Hits: September-October ($49+)
Journey: October ($69+)
Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas is You: November; The Butterfly Returns: February (both shows $55+)
Sting: My Songs: May-June 2020 ($59+)
Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (visit caesars.com/planet-hollywood for specific dates and ticket prices)
Def Leppard Hits Vegas: The Sin City Residency: August-September ($79+)
Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl: July, October-November ($60+)
Christina Aguilera: The Xperience: June, September-October ($70+)
Donny & Marie Showroom at The Flamingo Las Vegas (visit caesars.com/flamingo-las-vegas for specific dates and ticket prices)
Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl: August-January ($59+)
Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort (visit palms.com for specific dates and ticket prices)
Lady Antebellum: Our Kind of Vegas: August ($73+)