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AEROSMITH London O2 Arena
15 June 2010

At the start of the year, you could have got long odds against the classic Aerosmith line-up touring the UK, with Steven Tyler in rehab for an addiction to painkillers and the band openly auditioning for replacements and in legal dispute with him. But within weeks bygones are bygones, and the legendary Bostonians are announcing a big European tour with headlines at Sweden Rock and Download and this headline show.

The promoters seemed to have misjudged the legends' popularity as, with ticket prices starting at £75 and most in three figures, the O2 was far from full with at least half of the upper tier unsold.

Frustratingly those who were there remained rooted to their seats (at all places, an Aerosmith gig!) even when the ‘Smith led off with two signature numbers in Love in an Elevator and Back in the Saddle, leaving me to decamp in search of a spot at the back of the crowd to stand up and rock out. However the atmosphere looked to be cooking in the standing floor area, especially with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry making liberal use of a walkway that jutted well out into the audience.

When I booked tickets it was in the knowledge this could be a train wreck, so it was a relief to see Steven Tyler back to his lithe, hyperactive best and in good voice. On the other hand, he made little direct communication with the audience and when he did, his between song raps were barely comprehensible.

The Aerosmith catalogue is amongst the greatest, if not the greatest, in American hard rock, but divides distinctly into two camps - the ragged sleaze of their drug-fuelled seventies peak, and the glossy hits of the post-rehab revival from the late eighties onwards. The same is true of the live set with most of the opening numbers from the latter era, including Eat the Rich, Falling in Love and Livin on the Edge with some great slide guitar from the ever masterful and cool Joe Perry.

Despite my weakness for a good power ballad, many of theirs, such as What it Takes and Cryin' felt a bit telegraphed and passionless, and it is the old material that comes over as being more authentic, particularly when they stretched out a bit.

Highlights included Train Kept a Rollin, the Stonesy Chip Away the Stone and Lord of the Thighs, with the band jamming out and a very old looking Brad Whitford sharing lead guitar work for once.

A lengthy intro from keyboardist Russ Irwin led into I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing, not my favourite but Steven sounded superb on it. Less pleasing was an excess of bluesy jams of covers - I could forgive Joe Perry for giving Mr Tyler a rest with a rendition of Stop Messin Round, but Baby Please Don't Go outstayed its welcome by several minutes. To play this at the expense of crowd pleasers such as Dude and Rag Doll seemed a wrong move to me. At least Sweet Emotion and Draw the Line reminded us of the lived in, sleazy sound what made them such a seminal act.

The first two encores were, inevitably, Dream On (the first ever power ballad?) with Steven on fine form, and Walk this Way, which finally got a few of the curmudgeons in the upper tier out of their seats, but a singalong was cut short, allowing them to surprisingly drop in Toys in the Attic as a set closer.

This was an entertaining ‘comeback' but for whatever reason felt a bit flat compared to the spark and sense of occasion of Bon Jovi's shows that sandwiched it at this venue. Nevertheless it was far better - and longer- than their perfunctory show at Hyde Park in 2007, and rumours of their demise are exaggerated - flights are back to normal from Aero Force One.

Love in an Elevator/Back in the Saddle/Falling in Love (is Hard on the Knees)/Eat the Rich/Pink/Livin' on the Edge/What It Takes/Chip Away the Stone/Train Kept A-Rollin'/Cryin'/Lord Of The Thighs/Stop Messin' Around/I Don't Want To Miss a Thing/Sweet Emotion/Baby, Please Don't Go/Draw the Line

Dream On/Walk This Way/Toys in the Attic

Review by Andy Nathan

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