TAMPA — There's something to be said for a 64-year-old man who can still fit into an 18-year-old's red skinny jeans. If that sounds either ridiculous or lascivious, well, we are talking about Steven Tyler here. The Aerosmith frontman defies boundaries of age, taste and fashion, and don't you know we admire the randy ol' ham for that.
Tight-trousered Tyler and his Boston band of white-boy blues rockers tongue-wagged into the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday, charging into their Golden Years like a runaway train. Man, are they fun to watch. Cocky and hammy, sweaty and loud, they are also brutally honest: I've never seen such a brilliantly clear, absolutely enormous digital-screen backdrop, which is remarkable for a band that has more wrinkles than the cast of Cocoon.
But hey, like such peers as the Stones and the Who, Aerosmith has nothing to hide; it's allll out there. Plus they still have gas in their well-worn tank, so why not drive that sucker until they quit, right? After a likable if solemnly received opening set by Cheap Trick, it was time to crank it up well past healthy levels for the decent-sized crowd of 11,493. (By comparison, Justin Bieber and Ke$ha pulled about 14,000 a couple of nights earlier.)
With the rest of the band onstage, Tyler and partner-in-crime Joe Perry, one of the great gunslingers in rockdom, first appeared in the middle of the venue, enveloped in smoke and enough scarves to last Stevie Nicks for a year.
The kickoff of the 2-hour show was Mama Kin, one of their crusty old stomps, and Perry, dressed like a Wild West bandit with an evil 'stache, crawled all over the song like a fiend. After that, Love in an Elevator (one of the naughty hits) then Jaded (one of the power ballads) then Oh Yeah (one of the forgettable ones from new album Music From Another Dimension!). Tyler, who kept his stage banter to a minimum but his yelps and yeeows plentiful, has a voice that's always sounded broken. If his delivery is raspier now, it still works with what the crew is trying to do.
Aerosmith has been around for a lot of phases, robust and creatively bankrupt, sober and otherwise. But after Tyler's recent American Idol experiment — which apparently rejuiced his appeal as a sex symbol for women both young and old — the band seems to realize that they might as well stop screwing around and deliver the goods while they can. That's why a fabulously greasy take on Movin' Out, from their 1973 self-titled debut, was so special; one more time they were a band of brothers stomping the boards.
Tyler's too much of a shameless crowd pleaser to only work the deep album cuts, so (Dude) Looks Like a Lady was cued up, as was a vocally acrobatic take on the Beatles' Come Together. Perry and fellow guitarist Brad Whitford never stopped, their sneaky licks intertwined like snakes out for a bite. And bless those guys for still loving to unload Walk This Way with gusto, ratcheting up the riffs to match Tyler's banshee howl.
For encore cuts, the boys did exactly what you thought they'd do: a mondo-sized Dream On (with Tyler at a fog-enshrouded baby grand) then a chummy Sweet Emotion. Lighters were ignited, cell phones, too. Tyler put on a zebra-and-pink Santa hat — and like everything else, that crazy son of a gun made it work.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife at Twitter.