By Melinda Newman
After five decades of high-energy rock and roll, the band brings an experience unlike any other to Park MGM.
AEROSMITH celebrates turning 50 next year and, as the AEROSMITH: DEUCES ARE WILD concerts at Park MGM’s Park Theater show, five decades in America’s greatest rock and roll band is as exciting as ever. The group – made up of lead singer Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer – kicked off its first Las Vegas residency to rave reviews in early April at the 5,200-seat theater.
The run was so successful, it was quickly extended through the end of 2019 to accommodate the demand; limited shows on the East Coast were also added, including The Theater at MGM National Harbor in National Harbor, MD, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ and MGM Springfield in Springfield, MA. Known as one of the most innovative acts in rock history, Aerosmith brings to Park MGM an unparalleled marriage of music and technology never before witnessed by concertgoers, matching the spectacle of Las Vegas with the muscle of rock and roll.
“For the amount of time a residency is, we felt we had to bring a production that would be on the same level as other long term gigs,” Perry told M life. “To do this many gigs is a real commitment – that’s not just going in there for one month or two weeks – so we figured we’d really try and bring the production to the next level. The question is how do we retain the rock and roll energy that we’re famous for while putting up a production that’s as entertaining and equal to that energy?”
With the help of show director Amy Tinkham and producer Steve Dixon, Aerosmith found the perfect balance, but it took some trial and error and some patience.
“We walked a fine line right up until the last day,” admitted Perry. “There were things we tried that just didn’t work and there were other things that blended into the music that helped in this incredible way to make the shows more exciting. That’s where the live music and production met and worked. The production is amazing. I could sit in the place with no music and no band and it would be incredible, and then if you take a band like ours – a live band who can play with two flashlights and a candle and give you a great rock and roll show – and you put those two things together, without losing on either end, you have something no one has done before. I think it’s the first time any rock band has gone in and put a show like this together. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see how it evolves further.”
And the positive feedback from the group’s fans – the critics they care about the most – has made the Las Vegas experience even more exhilarating. “Yes, reviews still matter very much to me,” said Kramer. “But the reviews that matter the most are from our fans. Without our fans, we wouldn’t be where we are today for which I personally feel very blessed and grateful.”
From the minute fans enter the theater for DEUCES ARE WILD (named after a 1994 No. 1 Mainstream Rock Song chart hit from the band), they are enmeshed in Aerosmith’s orbit. A 20-minute retrospective by GRAMMY Award-winning producer Giles Martin, and featuring graphics by Pixomondo, showcases the band’s illustrious history, with never-before-seen images of the band members as youth and even snippets from a 1991 appearance on The Simpsons, flooding fans with memories and setting them up for the hits-filled set to come. The film unspools on 12 screens – including a 140 ft. x 40 ft. HD-screen – throughout the venue with the music remixed by Martin at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios.
As fans of the work Martin – and his legendary father George – did remixing The Beatles music for Cirque du Soleil’s production LOVE, working with Martin was a dream come true for the band.
“When we saw LOVE it was beyond anything we’d ever seen,” said Perry. “Of course, being Beatles fans, the whole show was incredible, but it was the sound that we were most impressed by. I’m sure there are shows that have 360-degree sound, but this was a true 360-degree experience. The thing that made us want to talk to Giles was the way he’d taken the songs, deconstructed them and then juxtaposed them in different ways, while still maintaining the integrity of the melodies and the structures of the songs.”
The visual and audio fireworks continue once the concert begins and fans are surrounded by more than 230 high-performance L-Acoustic loudspeakers for a 360-degree experience in the world’s first THX-Certified live performance space.
For fans wanting the ultimate Aerosmith experience, the THX Onstage VIP section offers concertgoers the ability to hear the exquisite, studio-quality sound direct from the Aerosmith mixing board via MIXhalo’s audio technology through their own pair of in-ear headphones, tuned by GRAMMY Award-winning sound engineer Luca Bignardi. For a band that has logged millions of miles on the road, having the audience come to them has been a pleasant change.
“In our early days of playing Las Vegas – when we played at the Thomas and Mack Center over at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas – most of the people there were probably from Las Vegas, where now there are also a lot of people at the shows who are from out of town,” said Hamilton. “It’s a great feeling to know that people travel from all over the world to check us out. Just recently I met a couple who flew in from Stockholm just to be there. They came in a couple of days before the show and flew home the day after. During the show, I saw them in the audience singing along and having a great time. Very inspiring!”
Whitford added, “Vegas is a destination town more than ever now. The venues are state of the art and much more up close and personal, due to the smaller size, so the impact is greater. We get to connect more to our fans, and our fans to us. Because of how well this incredible theater is set up, we get to offer our fans great shows, multiple days of the week. We are still getting to our large fan base, just in smaller groups, for more nights.”
Winning over fans is nothing new for Aerosmith; they’ve been doing so ever since the band formed in 1970 in Boston, after Perry and Hamilton joined forces with Tyler and Kramer. One year later, Whitford joined and this line up is about to celebrate Aerosmith’s 50th year.
Through remarkable highs and devastating lows, the band has always been united in its passion to move forward together. “I think we all have the same desire to be part of whatever’s next,” said Hamilton. “Years ago it was MTV. Then came digital recording and the amazing way you could have a musical idea in your head and the same day have a complete recording of it. Then came the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. Now here we are doing our residency at Park Theater where we can have an incredible state-of-the-art production to go with all the songs we’ve created over the years. We’ve all learned that there are amazing new things that’ll come along if we keep going.”
In the early days, the band honed its chops in clubs, fine-tuning its blues-based rock, influenced by British acts such as the Yardbirds, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Signed to Columbia Records, success came quickly for Aerosmith with its 1973 self-titled debut, which included its enduring classic, “Dream On,” a song that Tyler began as a teenager and the band then finished in a house in Foxboro, MA. In the book Walk This Way, Tyler said, “People ask me all the time what ‘Dream On’ is about. It’s simple. It’s about dreaming until your dreams come true. It’s about the hunger and desire and ambition to be somebody that Aerosmith felt in those days. You can hear it in the grooves because it’s there.” Other hits such as “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” from the band’s third studio album, Toys in the Attic, followed.
But the good times didn’t last. By the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, infighting and addiction threatened to blow the band apart. Things were so contentious, Perry and Tyler were given the nickname the Toxic Twins, both for their substance abuse and destructive relationship. Both Perry and Whitford left the band temporarily. In one of the most spectacular second acts in music history, the reunited band signed to Geffen Records in 1984. While Done With Mirrors, its first album under the new deal underperformed, the band – propelled by a Rick Rubin-produced remake of “Walk This Way” by rap titans Run-D.M.C. featuring Perry and Tyler – found themselves introduced to a new generation of fans. Aerosmith began an unstoppable streak of hits that elevated them to superstar status from the mid-‘80s through late ‘90s. Hits such as “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Angel,” “Love in an Elevator, “ “Janie’s Got a Gun” (the first of four GRAMMY-winning songs by the band), “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Cryin’” not only climbed the pop and rock charts, the videos became ubiquitous on MTV, memorable for their often cheeky sense of humor.
The band scored its first No. 1 album with 1993’s Get a Grip, and in 1998 landed its one and only Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 with the Academy Award-nominated romantic ballad, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the movie Armageddon.
Through the decades, the band, which has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, has become synonymous with great rock and roll that eschews fads or trends. As Kid Rock proclaimed when he inducted Aerosmith into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, “Aerosmith are to rock and roll what Fonzie was to Happy Days.”
Though the band underwent some fractious times during the late aughts, they came together for their most recent studio album, 2012’s Music from Another Dimension, which debuted at No. 5. Just as that groove bolstered them in the beginning, Tyler and Perry, who were inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame in 2013, still find a way to connect musically.
After experiencing so much through their careers, all members of Aerosmith have found ways to give back. For Tyler, it is through Janie’s Fund, which provides aid and housing for young girls who have survived abuse and neglect. He works in partnership with non-profit Youth Villages, a leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. “I want to be able to take care of as many girls as I can, but really, when you think about it, if you can help one of them, then it’s worth it,” Tyler told Parade. He founded the organization in 2015 and it has subsequently raised more than $4.5 million to help fund two Janie’s House facilities to support girls in need.
In February, Tyler presented the second GRAMMY Awards Viewing Party to benefit Janie’s Fund with Jane Lynch serving as host and Aerosmith providing the entertainment.
Half a century in, there’s still no place Aerosmith would rather be than on stage – Kramer’s enthusiasm is infectious when he reveals which songs he never tires of playing. “‘Love in an Elevator’ because it leaves me the most room to improvise,” he said. “And ‘Lord of The Thighs’ because the groove is deadly and I Love IT!”
Whitford’s favorite part is the multigenerational aspect of their concerts. “Now we see our life-long fans bringing their kids to our shows and it’s just such a great feeling to see that,” he said. “Vegas is a place the whole family is coming to rock out!”
That unbridled desire for the music and their fans remains undiminished. “We want our fans to feel they’ve been part of a spectacle when they leave our shows,” said Hamilton. “When we first got together as a band, we talked about energy being one of the main components of our style. It pretty much describes what we liked about the bands we loved to listen to when we were growing up and learning how to play. It feels great to look out into the audience during the show and see people connecting with the song we’re playing. When we’re on stage, our hearts are pounding and hopefully the fans are experiencing the same feeling even as they leave the venue.”
“Music can change your outlook and mood. I want people to say, ‘Damn that was great, I’m going back to Vegas to see them again,’” said Whitford. I want them to leave with the hair on their arms standing up!”