Concert Review: Aerosmith

Aerosmith2

The first time I saw Aerosmith in concert was on July 23, 1978 at the Oakland Coliseum. They headlined a summer music festival known as Day on the Green, put on by legendary entertainment promoter Bill Graham. The other acts on the bill were, in descending order, Foreigner, Pat Travers, Van Halen, and AC/DC. That’s right: AC/DC opened the show. That’s because they were fairly unknown in the United States at that time. Don’t believe me? Here’s the poster.

Day on the Green 1978

I can still remember Angus Young running onto the stage in a bumble bee schoolboy uniform. As AC/DC rolled through their set the crowd had a collective, dawning realization that we were seeing something great for the first time. That set the stage for the next act, Van Halen. My best friend had just bought the first Van Halen album a few weeks before the concert, but most of the crowd was uninitiated. They came out and played Running With the Devil, then Eddie Van Halen launched into Eruption. It was like a nuclear bomb went off.

I mention this because Aerosmith was a complete disappointment that day. During that period the band was deep into hard drugs and their performance really suffered from it. When juxtaposed against seeing AC/DC and Van Halen for the first time, it made Aerosmith seem like a washed up mess.

Despite that disappointing first experience, I saw Aerosmith seven or eight times over the years, with mixed results. So it was with a bit of skepticism that I decided to start the road trip with an Aerosmith concert at Harvey’s amphitheater on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, July 3, 2015. There was a completely forgettable opening act. No, seriously. I can’t even remember their name, and it’s not even worth looking up.

So the opening band sucked. The good news is that thirty-seven years after seeing Aerosmith for the first time, I finally saw the show of my dreams. It’s not unusual for a band to keep it’s form as the members age. The Eagles come to mind in that regard. This was something different. Aerosmith was better than ever. And not just a little bit better. They completely blew the doors off every other Aerosmith show I’d seen, in person or otherwise.

The first surprise came with the opening song, Let the Music Do the Talking. If someone had asked me to bet a million dollars that they wouldn’t play that song, much less open with it, I would have taken the bet. It’s from the Night in the Ruts album, released in 1979 when the band was at a low point. I remember reading an article at that time and the band’s singer, Steve Tyler, was quoted as saying that even if the album didn’t sell it would someday be considered a classic. You have to give him credit for sticking to his guns.

There were many highlights, but for me the best part was when they played Last Child, the second cut from the Rocks album. That song encapsulates everything I love about Aerosmith: the heavy blues funk, bordering on metal; the clever, southern-fried lyrics; Tyler’s soulful, high pitched vocals; the dual guitar attack of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford on the solo break; the thundering bass and percussion of Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer; all of it synthesized into a potent, intoxicating brew that makes you want to throw your fist in the air and bob your head.

Perhaps the most impressive thing, overall, was that Steven Tyler hit every single note, not just with clarity and assurance, but with a playful, over-the-top expressiveness that you only get from the truly great vocalists. And not just on Last Child, but on every number, especially the explosive segue out of the rhythm breakdown on Draw the Line. At the end of the show, Tyler did a victory lap around the stage, then looked out at the audience and said, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” The man wasn’t lying.

So maybe you’re like me and are skeptical of seeing this band live, thinking that maybe their best days are behind them. I can tell you that the opposite may be true. If the show I saw is any indication, this is the best they’ve ever been and may ever get. See them if you have the chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Set List:

Let the Music Do the Talking
Love in an Elevator
Cryin’
Jaded
Last Child
Livin’ on the Edge
Toys in the Attic
Drum Solo
Rag Doll
Stop Messin’ Around
(Fleetwood Mac cover)
Mama Kin
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
Draw the Line
No More No More
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
Walk This Way
Encore:
Dream On
(snippet of “Home Tonight” as intro)
Sweet Emotion

Baseball 2015

IMG_2473

It’s a little hard to see in the twilight, but that’s a baseball on the seal’s nose. The statue is in the plaza at the rear of AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. I went there last week to see a pre-season game featuring my hometown team, the Oakland Athletics, who won handily. It was pre-season so it’s meaningless, except that the Giants are the reigning world champions, so it might say something about the A’s prospects for the regular season.

Then on Monday I went to opening night at the Oakland Coliseum. People complain about the Coliseum  for many reasons. For one thing, the Oakland Raiders also use it for football. But mostly they complain because it’s an old facility that lacks the glamour of AT&T Park, which is widely considered to be one of the premier facilities in the majors. Here are dueling photos from the seats at both parks.

Here’s AT&T. If the photo was enlarged you could see the splash counter, which shows the number of times players have hit a home run out of the park and into San Francisco Bay, or what the locals call McCovey Cove.

IMG_2474

Here’s the Coliseum. It’s earlier in the evening, so it’s not an apples-to-apples since you can see the beautiful sunset.

IMG_2477

OK. Let’s just acknowledge that the Giants have a nicer house. In defense of the Coliseum, it is a serviceable facility that has its charms. For example, true A’s fans know what is meant by the phrase “sun hit.” You see, during day games there is a fair probability that an outfielder on the opposing team will lose a lazy fly ball in the sun. During mid-season the sun goes down behind home plate, so the hapless opposing outfielder, who is not used to playing at the Coliseum, will have to battle the sun to try and catch a fly ball. I’ve seen a lot of sun hits.

Another advantage of the Coliseum is that it is in Oakland, which means that the ambient temperature at game time will be much more comfortable than at AT&T. Here’s a tip: if you go to a night game at AT&T, dress warmly; wear layers. It doesn’t matter the time of year, or what the daytime temperature is. Once I went to a night game at AT&T in the middle of July when the daytime temperature was in the mid-80s. I arrived at the game dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. In the third inning I had to go the team store to buy something; anything, to keep warm. $100 later I was swaddled in Giants gear (oh the humiliation) and still freezing.

But the best thing about the Coliseum is that it embodies the spirit of the team that plays there. It resides next to railroad tracks in what used to be an industrial corridor. It is the blue-collar counterpoint to everything that goes on at AT&T, with its damnable wine and crab cake concessions and clam chowder sourdough bread bowls. At the Coliseum no self-respecting A’s fan would be caught dead eating a crab cake while sipping on a fine Chardonnay. No, we prefer the very large corn dogs that are called “Actual Size.” I’m not a Giants hater, even though they have an irritating tendency to win championships when their regular season play suggests they should collapse in the playoffs.

Man, I love baseball. I love this time of year, when everything is fresh and new and you don’t have to worry about the playoffs because everyone has a shot.

Let’s Go Oakland!