MGM Grand Garden Arena, Dec. 1

Photo by Mikey McNulty

Photo by Mikey McNulty

When four well-dressed elderly ladies rolled into the arena—and I mean literally rolled in, on Rascals, not braking until they reached their floor seats five minutes before opening act Cheap Trick hit the stage—my first thought was: “Aww, how sweet. They heard Steven Tyler was performing and think this is going to be like American Idol!” My second thought, after scanning the arena and spotting many more sexagenarians: “Oh, shit—is this going to be like American Idol?”

After Cheap Trick’s heavy, fast-paced 60-minute set—followed by a 30-minute stage-change break—Tyler and career partner-in-crime Joe Perry emerged from underneath the long catwalk that extended from the stage, and I got my answer in the form of the opening bars of “Mama Kin,” the hard-rocking song that kicks off the “B” side of Aerosmith’s self-titled debut album. It wouldn’t be the only classic that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers would pull from that 1973 release—they performed half of the eight-song disc (including, of course, “Dream On”). The crowd was also treated to three songs off 1973’s Toys in the Attic (including “Walk This Way” and show-closer “Sweet Emotion”), two from 1976’s Rocks (including “Last Child,” on which co-lead guitarist Brad Whitford shared six-string duties with his son, Harrison) and later-career hits such as “Love in an Elevator,” “Rag Doll,” “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”

The most noteworthy (and refreshing) part of the two-hour show? The decision to leave such cheesy ballads as “Crazy” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” on the cutting-room floor. It was as if the band—speaking of sexagenarians—wanted to show that after nearly four decades they could still rock as hard as they once partied. And that they did, with the 64-year-old Tyler’s voice and the 62-year-old Perry’s fingers, in particular, belying their birth certificates. That’s not to say that age isn’t catching up to the band. For instance, a teleprompter scrolling lyrics at the edge of the catwalk was there for Tyler just in case, while a keyboardist barely visible at the back of the stage supplied most of the background vocals. But those were minor infractions on what was a night that proved to fans young and (very) old that Tyler’s popular—if inexcusable—two-year stint as an Idol judge didn’t kill one of America’s greatest rock bands. In fact, dare I say, it may have made them stronger. ★★★★☆

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